Why Hollywood is Whitewashing Characters of Minority Aug02

Why Hollywood is Whitewashing Characters of Minority...

Two movies that came out fairly recently—Doctor Strange and Ghost in the Shell—did so amid allegations of whitewashing after both cast a white actor in the role of an Asian character: Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One and Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi. One response to whitewashing I’ve seen goes something like this: “Well, if you’re upset about [white actor] being cast as [person of colour character], then you should be equally upset about [person of colour actor] being cast as [white character].” And they bring up Heimdall, played by Idris Elba in the Thor movies, as an example. But this isn’t a tit-for-tat issue. Whitewashing is more than just a matter of choosing an actor for a role; money and politics often influence casting decisions. And, when we look at the complexities around whitewashing, we have to keep privilege and cultural context in mind. It’s all about the money Take, for example, Tilda Swinton’s casting as the Ancient One, a traditionally Tibetan character. Currently, the second largest movie market in the world is China, which also has volatile relations with Tibet; the Chinese Communist party and its army occupied Tibet in 1951 and, since 2009, there have been 148 confirmed self-immolations by Tibetans in protest of China’s occupancy. Acknowledging the Ancient One’s Tibetan ancestry would have caused China to reject the movie, which means Doctor Strange would have lost out on that audience and, therefore, the money. The “safe” move for Doctor Strange‘s producers, both politically and monetarily, was to change the Ancient One’s ancestry from Tibetan to Celtic to ensure that the movie was picked up in China. It’s important that those of us who have white skin remember that we have a certain amount of privilege. An actor’s monetary-drawing power can...

Rage Against the Humanity May01

Rage Against the Humanity...

Mira is the combination of the best parts of humanity and robot. That’s what the live action film Ghost in the Shell opens by saying, anyway. She combines the mind of a human with its ability to think for itself, respond to changing environments and reason out solutions with the strength and durability of a robotic frame. But is the mind the best part of what it means to be human? The human mind can do some extraordinary things. It has the ability to take in and sort stimuli from multiple sources in a near instant. It can decide on its own what to pay various levels of attention to, and even how to interpret that attention from the gentle touch that tickles to the sharp pain of a cut. It can also use that information to formulate plans that can be changed on the fly. The brain can set out to accomplish a task and as information comes in, alter, change, or completely rewrite the plan to accomplish a goal. Memory and humanity are linked. This is the ability that Cutter is after when he implants Mira’s brain into a robotic shell. He’s looking for a robot that adapts to meet a changing battlefield. He wants a weapon that has instinct, a machine that can serve him not based on logarithms and if/then statements, but with the natural ability of a human being. The problem with his plan, though, is that the human brain is not just an adaptive algorithm computer. It contains something else, something strange and beautiful that makes a human a person: a soul. In the movie, this phenomenon is referred to as a “ghost.” Whether you call it spirit, soul, ruach adoni, or ghost, it is the thing that...

Who Is Mira Killian? Apr17

Who Is Mira Killian?

In the live action version of Ghost in the Shell, Mira Killian believes she understands her purpose. She and her parents drowned when their refugee boat was sunk by techno terrorists. Her parents’ deaths were final, but Mira is granted a second life through the miracle of robotic technology. Her brain—the only salvageable part of her original being—was implanted in a new robot body. Motivated by her own tragedy and a desire to stop future attacks, Mira works tirelessly for the anti-terrorist bureau called Section 9. Within a year, she’s promoted to the rank of major and responds more readily to her rank than her name. Her job is her identity. Her world starts to shift when a terrorist hacker beings killing high-level employees of Hanka Robotics, the company that built her body. While working the case, she begins experiencing glitches—brief visual hallucinations—that leave her feeling uneasy. Her creator, Dr. Ouelet, erases the glitches and assures Major that they are nothing to worry about. She also encourages Major to keep taking the medication that keeps her flesh brain from rejecting her robot body. In a reflective moment in Dr. Ouelet’s lab, Major says, “Everyone around me, they feel connected to something… connected to something I’m not.” It’s the first time that Major gives voice to the idea that she might be on the wrong path—that she might not be fulfilling her proper role. She might have benefitted from the insight of theologian and author Parker Palmer: Today I understand vocation quite differently—not as a goal to be achieved, but as a gift to be received. Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. So long as she doesn’t really...