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Asian American Media Group Says Scarlett Johansson Lied About Ghost In The Shell

Contains spoilers for Ghost in the Shell

Was the casting of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell a case of Hollywood whitewashing? The Media Action Network for Asian Americans officially believes it was.

Just before the film's opening weekend, MANAA released a statement that condemns the casting of Johansson as Motoku Kusanagi, a character that first appeared in the Japanese manga of the same name (via Variety). The organization also had strong words about Johansson's recent interview on Good Morning America, in which she said she "would never attempt to play a person of a different race, obviously."

MANAA said "she was lying."

The group also criticized the casting of Michael Pitt as Kuze, a character that MANAA points out "is revealed to have originally been named Hideo, meaning he too was Japanese."

MANAA President Robert Chan said: "Apparently, in Hollywood, Japanese people can't play Japanese people anymore. There's no reason why either Motoku or Hideo could not have been portrayed by Japanese or Asian actors instead of Scarlett Johansson and Michael Pitt. We don't even get to see what they looked like in their original human identities–a further white-wash."

Last year, MANAA also expressed outrage over the casting of Tilda Swinton as "The Ancient One" in Doctor Strange. In the comics, the character is a Tibetan man.

"Hollywood continues to make the same excuses, that there aren't big enough Asian [and] Asian-American names to open a blockbuster film," said MANAA founding president Guy Aoki. "Yet it has not developed a farm system where such actors get even third-billing in most pictures. Without a conscientious effort, how will anyone ever break through and become familiar enough with audiences so producers will confidently allow them to topline a film?  When will we ever break that glass ceiling?"

Aoki concluded by noting that Ghost in the Shell is only expected to be a moderate success compared to its budget, and should fall behind Beauty and the Beast and possibly Boss Baby.

Ghost in the Shell will be in theaters this weekend, so you can decide for yourself if Johansson's casting did the film a disservice. Meanwhile, find out what the characters should really look like according to the manga.