Dear Hollywood: Asian actresses exist.
Of course, you wouldn't know it just from watching our movies. Of the top films in 2014, only 5.3% of the characters were Asian, and only about 2-4% of main characters on television are Asian (via). Even on shows like Orange is the New Black, which has been lauded for its progressive representations of race, gender, and sexuality, only featured Asian characters as central to the story in season three. Representations of Asian people in our media is sparse as it is. Which brings me to Ghost in the Shell.
Polish actress Scarlett Johansson has been cast to play the Japanese character Motoko Kusinagi.
And to add insult to injury, there's a rumor that the studio was experimenting with CGI to make the white actors they cast appear more Asian (via). Instead of actually CASTING an Asian person in the role. The idea has reportedly been rejected, but why on earth was it even considered in the first place? When Asian actors absolutely were never on the table???
Ghost in the Shell is NOT a universal story.
The story was originally released in the 90s, during a period when Japan was dominating in the field of technology. Every major innovation, from cars to video games, was coming from Japan or relied on Japanese technology. They were a world leader in a way that no one expected them to be. In the aftermath of World War II, this was a huge source of pride for the Japanese people (via). Ghost in the Shell is a story about Japan's relationship with technology. It's something that an American audience can understand and relate to, but it's not one that we specifically experienced. It is literally not our story.
Does it feel like a big deal?
Representation might feel insignificant if it's something you already have. After all, it's just tv, just movies (just books, just our political system, just our lives...) but representation is how we shape our identities. Exposure to television can actually lead to a decrease in self-esteem for white and black girls, as well as black boys, but an increase in self-esteem for white boys. What kind of message are we sending when we prioritize white faces over others? We're saying: You don't matter. You are less important. And when that is the prevailing- if not the ONLY message- it's impossible not to hear it. It's deafening.