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Ghost in the Shell meme maker backfires spectacularly

The Hollywood remake of Ghost in the Shell is set to release this month, and Paramount Pictures is stepping up its marketing efforts.

Techly previously looked at how the movie had found itself at the centre of a “whitewashing” controversy for casting a white American actor in a Japanese role.

In a recent interview, Scarlett Johansson defended the choice to cast her in the movie. She seems to claim that she is playing the role of The Major, not the clearly Japanese Motoko Kusanagi.

I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive.

For the record, Motoko Kusagni is also known as The Major in the manga on which the movie is based. That’s because “major” was presumably her rank. So does this mean the movie won’t use the name Motoko Kusanagi at all? Isn’t changing a once-Japanese character to a white person the same thing anyway? It seems like Johansson is splitting hairs.

At any rate, Johansson is asserting that she is playing a white person. So put your pitchforks away, all is forgiven and forgotten. Right?

Except the internet rarely forgives and never forgets.

Paramount is learning this the hard way after releasing a new clip that urges fans to visit IAmMajor.me, where people can upload an image of themselves, along with meme-style captions.

The poor naïve fools in marketing probably thought that people would use the meme-maker to upload empowering, positive and perhaps funny messages.

How wrong they were. Instead, people began been tweeting messages critical of the movie’s apparent whitewashing.

Using the #IAmMajor hashtag, people have begun to criticize other movies and TV shows guilty of whitewashing.

For example, Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange:

Emma Stone in Aloha:

Justin Chatwin in Dragonball Z:

And Finn Jones in Iron Fist:

At this point, it’s pretty hard to feel sorry for Paramount. It seems like they could have avoided all of this misery if they had just cast a Japanese actor in the role. Would that have been so difficult?

Marketers beware. Just like Coopers in Australia have recently learned, attempts to “go viral” might not always go the way you planned.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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