Tag Archives: Orientalism

REVIEW: I Watched ‘Ghost in the Shell’ So You Don’t Have To

April 2, 2017

This weekend, Hollywood’s live-action remake of the classic Ghost in the Shell anime opened in theatres nationwide. The film has been the subject of intense scrutiny including charges of White-washing related to the filmmakers’ highly-questionable decision to cast Scarlett Johansson in the leading role of Major Motoko Kusanagi. (In the Hollywood remake, the character is renamed Major Mira Killian to suit Johansson’s clearly non-Japanese appearance.)

Ghost in the Shell (2017) deserves all the harsh criticism it has received from movie critics and the Asian American community. Supporters of the film object, saying that the White-washing debate is a distraction. In fact, the White-washing controversy is totally relevant; moreover, it is symptomatic of the film’s essential problem: Ghost in the Shell (2017) fundamentally misunderstands its source material.

Whether due to ignorance or apathy, Ghost in the Shell (2017) fails to recognize the key thematic elements of the 1995 anime — Ghost in the Shell (1995) — from which it derives its inspiration. While Ghost in the Shell (2017) faithfully recreates many of Ghost in the Shell (1995)‘s most iconic scenes in breathtaking live-action CGI, Ghost in the Shell (2017) lacks any of Ghost in the Shell (1995)’s philosophical or theological essence. What results is an awful, wooden, lacklustre, and overtly racist live-action remake: a stilted, soulless artifice wrapped in the visually stunning iconography of the Ghost in the Shell  anime franchise.

In other words, Ghost in the Shell (2017) is a shell without a ghost.  All the good things about Ghost in the Shell (2017) come from the original anime, and all the terrible things are both uninspired and racist.

This review contains spoilers of both Ghost in the Shell (2017) and Ghost in the Shell (1995), as well as a brief spoiler of Ex Machina (2014). Please read on with care.

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Karlie Kloss Apologizes for Appearing in Yellowface for “Vogue’s” Diversity Fashion Shoot

February 15, 2017
Model Karlie Kloss appears as a geisha in a recent Vogue photoshoot.

Model Karlie Kloss has apologized for appearing in yellowface for a photoshoot for Vogue magazine.

In the most recent issue of Vogue magazine, Kloss appears styled in full-out geisha drag — complete with kimonos, black wig, and winged dark black eye liner — and poses alongside pagodas, waterfalls, and even a sumo wrestler. And of course, irony of ironies: this putrid revelry in offensive Orientalism appeared in Vogue‘s “diversity” issue. That issue has already been slammed for the lack of body or skin colour diversity in the seven models chosen to grace its cover; and that’s even before anyone opened the magazine up to the photoshoot featuring Karlie Kloss (pictures after the jump)

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Matt Damon is Not the Hero China Needs, But He’s The One Hollywood Will Give Us

July 30, 2016
Matt Damon, in a screen capture from the newly released trailer for "The Great Wall".
Matt Damon, in a screen capture from the newly released trailer for “The Great Wall”.

I can’t even right now.

The basic concept of the upcoming The Great Wall seems like a Hollywood studio wet dream: the Great Wall of China is reimagined as the frontlines for a fantasy thriller that pits mankind against an army of invading mythical monsters. If one were going down a checklist for making a big-budget fantasy movie guaranteed to make money, this would be it. Fast-paced action scenes? Check. Breath-taking CGI? Check. An opportunity to film in 3D? Check. A stupid movie plot? Check. People armed with a bows and arrows? Check. Check. Check.

In an alternate universe, The Great Wall might have been kind of cool. I’ve long waited for Hollywood to start earnestly exploring movie concepts outside of the Western cultural, historical, and sociopolitical framework. Non-Western and non-White history is flush with great stories just waiting to be told. The Great Wall could have been such an opportunity. In so doing, it could have recentered the camera’s gaze on non-White people, offered a tale of non-White humanity, and told a silly fantasy story about a pretty interesting era of ancient Chinese history.

Indeed, I’m a fan of Chinese blockbuster films, perhaps because films that emerge out of Asian movie houses are refreshingly unbound by American cinema’s racial stereotypes. As a consequence, Chinese cinema accomplishes naturally that which American Hollywood still struggles to do: in Chinese cinema, (East) Asian characters occupy the full range of the human condition. In American cinema, we are always the oddball, the outcast, or the supporting character. In Asian cinema, we are treated by the camera as if we are fully, messily, complicatedly human.

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#AStrangeWhitewashing Continues with New Images from Upcoming Ghost in the Shell & Dr. Strange

April 18, 2016
scarjo-ghost-in-the-shell
Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming “Ghost in the Shell” film adaptation.

I know I’m about a week late on this news, but I’ve got something really important to say: ScarJo, you look absolutely ridiculous in yellowface.

When the news first broke that Scarlett Johansson had been inexplicably cast in Paramount’s film adaptation of blockbuster anime/manga series Ghost in the Shell, I wrote a scathing post declaring that ScarJo is #NotMyMotoko. Last week, that debate was rekindled when studios released a teaser image of Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi. I think we can all agree: sporting a black wig styled into an asymmetric bob, Johansson looks unbelievably absurd in the role of a Japanese cyborg woman who has long stood as an icon of Asian and Asian American feminism, queer identity, and gender fluidity.

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Minorities Trapped in Tropes: The Conservative Right’s Cognitive Dissonance on POC Humanity

December 4, 2014

birdcage

Earlier this year, unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson; earlier this month, a grand jury refused to indict Wilson of a crime in Brown’s death.

This above sentence is not partisan. It is not fantastic. It is not subjective. It is a factual description of the events in Ferguson over the last year.

Yet, this description — which reflects the general coverage of the Michael Brown shooting and its aftermath — seems to bother some within mainstream America. That’s because Michael Brown simply doesn’t fit neatly into one of the several pre-defined tropes available to Black men, or to people of colour, in general.

This description chafes because, to them, there’s no such thing as Black humanity.

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