“Ghost in the Shell” roundup: First negative review, meme-gate & Aoki remix flop

Paramount

There are several Ghost in the Shell things to catch up on, so let’s get into it.

Last thing to discuss: Paramount has invested in some viral marketing to make Ghost in the Shell a hit with the social media crowd. Their meme website allows anyone to create memes of themselves illustrating why they’re unique. Folks who are upset with this film, like writer Valerie Complex, have used it to showcase their frustration with this film, as well as other pieces of media that use Asian themes without Asian faces, like Iron Fist, Doctor Strange, and others.

She inspired many more to make memes of their own:

Ghost in the Shell’s first 12 minutes premiered for critics, and while several critics are giving the film the thumbs-up, Valerie Complex wrote a different tune for Nerds of Color.

First, here’s what some of the reviewers said about the first 12 minutes:

“It’s hard to tell from these twelve minutes how faithful (or not) this new live-action Ghost in the Shell will be to the manga, anime or animated feature(s). But it does appear to be exploring the same themes of individuality, consciousness, and the intersection between the two. If the rest of the movie is anything like these twelve minutes, Ghost in the Shell may well be the deepest and strangest big budget film of its ilk in quite some time. I, for one, can’t wait.” –Tommy Cook, Collider

“Visually speaking there is much to be impressed by. Sure twelve minutes can’t tell you a whole lot, but it appears that the filmmakers have really tried to do justice to the franchise. From The Major’s appearance to the hustle and bustle of the futuristic city, there is much to admire in the look of the film. When she comes crashing through a window and the shards of glass explode around her, there isa definite energy that is on-screen.”—JimmyO, JoBlo.com

Now, here’s what Valerie wrote for Nerds of Color. This is the take you’ll want to grab a seat for.

“The plot of this movie is nothing like anything in the original Ghost in The Shell films or shows. Don’t let a few of the philosophical conversations in the trailers fool you. It’s a hodge-podge of familiar elements from different parts of the series, but the philosophy and exploration of existentialism seem to be missing. Even the trailers denote this adaptation is nothing more than a revenge story. Nothing about the original Ghost in the Shell has been about revenge. Revenge is never a prime theme here.”

As Valerie writes, the film is worse than just Scarlett Johansson playing “The Major,” which is bad enough.

“From the sneak [peek] footage I saw, it looks [like] the Major is originally Japanese. Let me explain. It appears that the character is in a nearly fatal accident. This accident causes her body to be rendered useless, but her brain is the only thing that can be salvaged. So this Japanese woman whose brain is recovered is transferred into a body, or Shell, that just happens to be Scarlett Johansson’s new body. Now her name is ‘Mira.’

This is horrifying.”

We’ll see what the full reviews will be like once the film comes out March 31.

What I will say is that any attempt for anybody to say that the film isn’t aware of its source material’s Japanese roots and that it isn’t whitewashing hasn’t seen this trailer, which literally has Kenji Kawai’s theme for 1995’s animated Ghost in the Shell, “Utai I Making of Cyborg” in it, remixed by Steve Aoki (yet another instance of this film using an Asian face to try to allay fears of whitewashing without actually fixing the root of the problem).

Here’s the real version of that song:

The lyrics from that song, as IMDB states, are written in Old Japanese (like Olde English for us Westerners), steeping it even more in Japanese history and culture. The lyrics are also confusing at first:

When you are dancing, a beautiful lady becomes drunken.

When you are dancing, a shining moon rings.

 

A god descends for a wedding,

And dawn approaches while the night bird sings.

 

When you are dancing, a beautiful lady becomes drunken.

When you are dancing, a shining moon rings.

 

A god descends for a wedding,

And dawn approaches while the night bird sings. (Lyrics Wikia)

But after thinking over what the 1995 film is about and pairing it with what I know about “The Ballad of Puppets” from Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, I’m going to venture a guess that not only are the lyrics referencing something ominous that happen in the film (Spoiler alert: Major Motoko Kusanagi unwillingly merges with the villain of the film, The Puppet Master, hence the line about a “wedding”), but also reference the overpowering might of technology in the Ghost in the Shell world, the technology being referenced as a “God,” and life before technology as the person dancing so beautifully they can make people drunk and make the moon ring. Like “Ballad of Puppets,” the song is sung in an exclusively Japanese folk style called min’yō.

Sidebar: you can read my whole dissertation on the meaning of “Ballad of Puppets” in relation to Japanese history and Ghost in the Shell at Nerds of Color, in which I posit that the song deals with exclusively Japanese themes that subtly relate back to Japan’s existential war with technology invading its memory of the past as well as how it affects Japan’s future.

This point is not even bringing up the fact that the film is flooded with Japanese imagery and Japanese actors playing secondary roles. Secondary roles in their own story. What’s that about?!

What do you think about Ghost in the Shell? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

  • Anirban Samanta

    It seems only the west is up in arms about the whitewashing issue while it is a non-issue for the Japanese. Almost every Japanese manga character has pronounced western characteristics and they don’t really care who gets cast. Well I suppose the Japanese actors may want a role in a big Hollywood movie, and I would understand if the argument stays that we need more representation for representation’s sake, but that is still ignoring the economics of making a movie. It is a business after all, the headlining films more so than any other.

    • Boogie Woogie

      Konnichiwa Anirban, spokesman of all Japanese people. My wife, who is a Japanese national, must have missed your survey. Because she thought it was BULL squat they have a white person in this very Japanese story.

      • Anirban Samanta

        I am a spokesman of all Japanese people just as much as you are, I suppose, or just as much as most people who are offended by all this. I have Japanese friends who don’t have objections to the casting. A Western remake not having India as target audience can cast anyone they like for Mowgli if they think that will relay the message better. New remakes of period creations make changes all the time in order to cater to a new generation with a different culture, so I don’t expect a hollywood movie to cater to Indians or indeed provide jobs to Indians, unless they want to sell tickets to Indians. It’s a work of art, and the people holding the IP clearly don’t have issue with the casting. By the way, I have a distinct feeling you don’t really understand what Captain Nemo represents in literature or indeed to India. Shaktimaan itself is a bastardized creation from western comic characters, so it’s ironic that you would take that in this argument. I didn’t see people go shit crazy with the casting of Khan Noonien Singh for Star Trek. I don’t see the politically correct social commentators take offence that for more than 2000 years Jesus Christ has been portrayed as a white man, or indeed Santa Claus for that matter.

    • Boogie Woogie

      Tell me how you would like it if they had made Mowgli or Captain Nemo white? Maybe they’ll do a western remake of your favorite heroes like Shaktimaan and make him white. Then I’ll say, it’s okay because no one in India really cares they portrayed him as white.

    • Eliza Miller

      “It seems only the west is up in arms about the whitewashing issue while it is a non-issue for the Japanese. ”

      Uh duh. The Japanese live in a homogenous society where racism and marginalization isn’t as big an issue. Non-white people in the US, in this case Asians, are constantly erased. So no, they wouldn’t have the same attitudes about it.

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