The controversy surrounding Ghost In a Shell has been making the rounds as people and geeks around the web-sphere weigh in on what appears to be another incident of Hollywood whitewashing.
Actually, scratch that.
It doesn’t “appear” to be Hollywood whitewashing. It IS Hollywood whitewashing. It is Hollywood whitewashing at its most ignorant and bold. Two words that unfortunately have become very much jointly associated with Hollywood since…well… ever.
I believe I’d be preaching to the choir if I went through the layers of “screwed up” there are to a very white Scarlett Johansson playing a Japanese female protagonist, so I won’t do that.
What I will do is take on the MYTHS associated with WHY a very white Scarlett Johansson is being allowed to take on this role of a Japanese female protagonist.
That MYTH is the idea that white actors in the lead is the main way for Hollywood to make it’s bottom line.
Whitewashing has nothing to do with the bottom Hollywood line.
It has nothing to do with how much money this movie could gross with a white actor as the lead.
You know why?
Because it’s been proven in plenty of studies that the “bottom line” excuse is a myth, and it is high time that we stop making apologies for Hollywood along the lines of “they’re just trying to make money” when we address the very real exclusion of people of color in significant representation.
Hollywood doesn’t cut you checks for spinning the truth for them, people.
You can stop now.
Like much of the rest of the system we live under, wealth and power seem to be in the hands of a few in Hollywood, with most large film and television companies in the same few hands. Those in power seem to still have very backwards views on race and diversity, in an ever-changing society which grows more racially diverse every year.
Although skeptics (and apologists) might argue that Hollywood is simply a money machine looking at the bottom line, and that their business practices are just exploiting the already racist sentiments to be found in society, various studies have actually shown that lack of diversity is NOT actually better for Hollywood business.
In a recent study titled “2014 Hollywood Diversity Report: Making Sense of the Disconnect” from the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, it is suggested that movies and television shows with more diverse casts actually earn MORE at the box office, and score higher ratings, than productions with homogenous, predominantly WHITE, casts (imagine that… ).The study goes on to show that African Americans, Latinos, and Asians are greatly underrepresented in movies and television. Yet, when diversity of films and television shows moved towards up to 25 percent representation for those groups, profits were very high for those films globally, along with very high ratings for those television programs.
So what does that mean for Hollywood big bosses who like to claim that diversity doesn’t sell?
In an interview with NPR News, the study’s lead author, Daniel Hunt, said, “It seems that people who have been in the industry for a long time, in high-risk situations, tend to surround themselves with people who make them feel comfortable, who are a lot like them.” Hunt went on to say, “It’s a vicious cycle. The industry likes to present itself as this bastion of liberal thought. But when it comes to diversity, it’s one of the worst industries in the country. The idea that the underrepresentation of minorities and women is all about economics has been taken off the table.”
Well there you have it. It isn’t about economics because recent studies have shown that movies and television with more diversity actually perform BETTER than white dominated ones. It also isn’t about the system, because these same studies prove that the human population actually responds well to diversity.
Score 1 for humanity, score minus 3,000 for Hollywood racism.
Scarlett Johansson being given the lead in this film is nothing but Hollywood wanting to stay in its very white cocoon of ignorance. Hiring Japanese actors, and more Asian representation both on and off screen would force those in power to work with others outside of their circle of comfort. They don’t want to do that. They’d rather actually go against the bottom line than allow people of color to climb the ranks and perhaps replace some of them in power.
No amount of spin can get you away from those facts.
So Ghost in a Shell, can go to hell, because it won’t be getting my money. And shame on Scarlett “my feminism seems to only include white women” Johansson for agreeing to take on a role clearly meant for a woman of color. She’s part of the problem, she is NOT an innocent bystander. We all have choices. She made hers, and I’m making mine in not supporting this film.
May it flop as Gods of Egypt did.