So the first image of Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell was released the other day, and a large portion of the internet responded with a collective "OH HELL NO." As most of us have been saying for a very long time, a whitewashed live-action remake of the manga/anime classic is a fantastically bad idea. Is it hard to believe that producers were considering using yellowface? Nope.
It's amazing what those darn computers can do these days. Paramount and DreamWorks apparently foresaw the pesky issue of casting white actors in an inherently Japanese story. The solution: computer-enhanced yellowface. Screencrush reports that the studio commissioned screen tests for several of the movie's non-Asian actors to try using CGI effects to "shift [their] ethnicity" and make them appear more "Asian."
According to multiple independent sources close to the project, these Asian-izing visual effects would have been used to alter Johansson's appearance in post-production. Sort of like a Benjamin Button effect, but instead of old age -- boom! -- instant Caucasian to Asian. Movie magic. However, once the tests were developed and reviewed, the idea was rejected "immediately."
Paramount acknowledged there were tests, but insisted they didn't involve Johansson's character:
A test was done related to a specific scene for a background actor which was ultimately discarded. Absolutely no visual effects tests were conducted on Scarlett’s character and we have no future plans to do so.
Turns out digital yellowface looks just as awful as good old-fashioned practical yellowface.
But I'm sure they'll keep trying.
Just how far will Hollywood go to avoid casting Asian actors? People, we actually have movie studios paying good money to develop new visual effects in an attempt to make white actors look more Asian.
Digital yellowface. It's the future.
More here: Exclusive: 'Ghost in the Shell' Producers Reportedly Tested Visual Effects That Would Make White Actors Appear Asian