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The subject of inclusion, diversity, and visibility on TV and film has been one of the entertainment world's biggest hot button issues. After being put in the spotlight during the #OscarsSoWhite controversy from two Oscars ago, cases of whitewashing often go viral, and backlash begins. And in the case of Scarlett Johansson's anime adaption Ghost in the Shell, it may have all but sunken the blockbuster. Because in addition to the mixed reviews the film received, it failed to recoup its investment by accruing 60.1 million on a $110 million budget. And now Paramount has responded to Ghost in the Shell's failure.
We had hopes for better results domestically. I think the conversation regarding casting impacted the reviews. You've got a movie that is very important to the fanboys since it's based on a Japanese anime movie. So you're always trying to thread that needle between honoring the source material and make a movie for a mass audience. That's challenging, but clearly the reviews didn't help.
Look like it's all ScarJo's fault.
All kidding aside, the announcement of Scarlett Johansson's casting as The Major put Ghost in the Shell in hot water before it even began. Comic book purists were unhappy with changing the character's race, and advocates for Asian inclusion in Hollywood saw this as yet another case of whitewashing. With so few meaty leading roles available for Asian actors, many believe that changes like this shouldn't be made any longer.
Marvel's Doctor Strange faced similar backlash with the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. In the comics, The Ancient One is an Tibetan man, so fans were gobsmacked to see the role was changed to a Celtic woman. And while folks seemed to find the same issues with this casting, Doctor Strange wasn't DOA the way that Ghost in the Shell seemed to be. This could be due to the MCU's millions of fans who were willing to shell out cash to see the latest installment. But Doctor Strange also fared better with critics, although Paramount's Kyle Davies seems to imply that Ghost's reviews were poor due to the controversy, rather than the film itself.
It should be interesting to see if Ghost in the Shell's failure affects other projects moving forward. If the controversy surrounding Scarlett Johansson's casting essentially sunk the film, it may give future films pause before they change a character's race in order to facilitate a white actor. While both Johansson and Tilda Swinton are impressive actresses, perhaps these types of casting decisions are a thing of the past.