I have to congratulate the political correctness bullies and hypocritical casting ethics scolds, I really do. I thought that their absurd caterwauling over the casting of Scarlett Johansson to star in “Ghost in the Machine” was as ridiculous and contrived as casting ethics complaining could get. Not only have they topped themselves with their attacks on “Rub & Tug,” they are unfairly targeting Johansson again. Impressive.
You may recall that the previous casting controversy involving Johansson occurred last year when she was cast as the lead in “Ghost in the Shell,” an adaptation of a Japanese anime tale. Then, her crime was supposedly “white-washing”: since the character was originally Japanese, it was somehow wrong to cast the white actress to play her. This, of course, is an outrageous double standard, because minority actors have been calling for Hollywood to be open to casting them in roles traditionally played by whites for decades. As I wrote in the post about “Ghost in the Shell,”
“…movie makers can’t win. If a black actor isn’t cast to play a white character in the source material, Hollywood is engaging in bias by eschewing “non-traditional casting,” which is necessary to remedy de facto segregation and prejudice in movies. If Charlton Heston is cast as a Mexican, as in “Touch of Evil,” it’s “whitewashing”—prejudicial and racist casting of whites to play non-whites. Of course, when Morgan Freeman, an African American, is cast to play a dark-skinned Semitic character in “Ben Hur,” nobody calls that “blackwashing,” for there is no such thing as blackwashing. Casting Denzel Washington as a white character from “The Pelican Brief”: great! Who doesn’t like Denzel? Casting Denzel as the white hero of “The Magnificent Seven” in the remake, when the white hero was non-traditionally cast with the sort-of Eurasian Yul Brenner in the original, was also great, because—who doesn’t like Denzel? Casting Andy Garcia, a Cuban-American, as member of the Italian Corleone family in “Godfather III” was also fine and dandy, but not the casting of sort-of Eurasian Brenner as the King of Siam in “The King and I,” (even though he won the Tony and the Academy Award for an iconic performance)—, especially with all those great Thai musical comedy stars available. So that was–what, “sort-of-whitewashing”?
All right: how about a musical conceived with the novel conceit of having the Founding Fathers played by young black and Hispanic performers? Is that non-traditional casting? Minority-washing? Is it racist to stay with the original (brilliant) concept and tell white actors they can’t audition to be Hamilton, Jefferson, and Aaron Burr? Of course it’s not racist. After all, those actors are white. Screw ’em.
Are you seeing a theme here? Neither am I. What matters in casting a play, film or writing an adaptation is whether the final result works: How well do the actors play their roles? Is it entertaining? Does it make money?
Now the casting of Johansson as an originally Japanese character in a Japanese manga comic and animated film is being attacked as racist. Whitewashing, you know. No, in fact the words applicable here are “adaptations,” “movies,” “cultural cross-pollination” and “commerce.”
Do you sense a bit of pique on my part? Correctomundo, and that was a year ago. I’m far more disgusted now, perhaps because I just spoke at the Smithsonian about the manufactured controversy over the supposedly “racist” Gilbert & Sullivan masterpiece, “The Mikado.” The latest attack on a Johansson role, however, takes the cake. Continue reading