It looks like “Ghost in the Shell” is a box office bomb and will cost Paramount a huge amount of money. What a surprise, right? I guess all of the backlash and controversy over the casting, not to mention the complete and utter failure of the whitewashed movies that came before it, didn’t clue anyone involved in the movie into the disaster it would become.
After a disappointing (to Paramount, certainly not to me) opening weekend of less than $19 million, “Ghost in the Shell” has still only managed to make about $30 million domestically and $90 million abroad, against an estimated $250 million total budget. The movie is expected to lose at least $60 million.
Isn’t the argument for whitewashing that it’s an economic imperative? No one would be willing to go see a movie with an unknown Asian actor, right? Well it turns out that no one was willing to pay for 106 minutes of ScarJo pretending to be a Japanese woman.
It also seems the movie isn’t doing well on the critical front. Not only is no one buying Scarlett Johansson’s lame excuse for taking the role (she “certainly would never presume to play another race of a person”), but they are also criticizing the movie for being just a “shell” of the original, lacking the deep philosophical musings of the source material.
Though I’m beyond proud that Asian Americans used this insult as a way to speak out against whitewashing, and that the people in this country recognized that we should not support whitewashed movies, this is not a success for the Asian American community. Success would be if this kind of thing didn’t happen anymore.
The erasure of Asian Americans in media has happened again and again: “The Last Airbender,” “Dragonball Z,” “Gods of Egypt,” “The Great Wall.” Hollywood has tried so many times to whitewash movies and people are not having it. All of the above movies and more were both critical and commercial failures, and faced significant controversy that grew with each new whitewashed film. Still, Hollywood never learns.
Will “Ghost in the Shell” be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Who knows? I’m hopeful, but practical enough to know that I’ll be fighting for Asian American representation for a long time. All I can say is, good luck, Netflix, on making back the losses you’ll surely incur on “Death Note.”