cyberpunk, cultural appropriation, and the incomplete understanding of context

You know what’s amazing? Own voices cyberpunk and also own voices criticising cultural theft. Come with us, friends, as we eat more vegan schaedenfraude pie and talk about awesome things.

Hey so the whitewashed Ghost in the Shell did pretty poorly. Given ScarJo was cast because she was more bankable than an actually Japanese-American or Japanese actress, that’s a little bit lols. But also don’t be that person who was like ‘stop gloating, now we’ll never get any more cyberpunk ever again,’* because a) have you met cyberpunk, and b) have you met cyberpunk.

Here’s some non-white cyberpunk business:

Cyberpunk is alive and well in China

I want to watch these movies. (Ignore that egregious use of the word ‘foreign’)

On this thing

The cultural appropriation that we encounter in situations such as the maladaptation of Ghost in the Shell and the upcoming Death Note maladaptation is indicative of this ongoing conceit, usually from Westerners, that all cultures are available for adoption and consumption. But a concept and context incompletely understood is not infinitely translatable.

I know you didn’t actually see Ghost in the Shell, so you should know that, no matter what excuses or reasoning is offered, ScarJo still plays The Major as a Japanese woman’s brain in the body of a white-appearing robot, ie, ScarJo. And that is some gross racial politics.

You should know that Death Note is about a boy who can write in a book to kill people. In a Japanese context, that’s this totally radical thing, an exploration of power and society. In an American context, where buying a gun is easy and white boys kill black boys all the time, making Light a white boy creates a whole different conversation, one I doubt Death Note is actually going to have.

Me previously on the inappropriate use of pan-Asia as dystopia:

An aside

Notice how soup noodles is also a signifier of our cyberpunk future? I can’t believe in all my times ranting about the use of pan-Asia to indicate the future I’ve totally failed to talk about the exotification of noodles in that.

I’m gonna go eat some noodles right now.

(I did write a climate dystopia where noodles was a plot point, I guess: “The Dan Dan Mian of the Apocalypse”.)

Other Azns’ thoughts

This article is amazing and you should read it five times:

‘Ghost in the Shell’: 4 Japanese Actresses Dissect the Movie and Its Whitewashing Twist

Scarlett Johansson has noted that Ghost in the Shell represented a rare opportunity for a woman to star in a studio-backed action film. Tilda Swinton and her Doctor Strange filmmakers also have noted that gender-bending The Ancient One was a positive step for female representation. What do you make of their points?

Kato-Kiriyama: It’s trying to get the conversation away from race yet again. Sure, it’s a great role for women. I don’t know if kick-ass white woman action stars is such a void, but even that aside, it’s trying to step over the dead body. That’s fine when there are empowered characters who are women, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re actually talking about race. Can we just stay here for a little bit?

Okatsuka: When white feminists don’t know what to say about race, they go for the feminist thing. That’s what happened with the Women’s March. When women of color were like, “Will you be there, though, for the next march, when the next black kid gets shot? Will you be there when women of color need you?” they were like, “Wasn’t it great for women all around?”

Kato-Kiriyama: To the argument they were making through Doctor Strange about not wanting to create the Fu Manchu character, it’s like, well, then don’t.

Okatsuka: Give them words to speak that aren’t stereotypical.

Kato-Kiriyama: “If I stick an Asian there, they’re gonna be too Oriental.” That’s how you see us. If you can’t see an Asian actor as a fully dimensional human being…

Agena: Oh damn, oh shoot! Drop the mic! This is deep, y’all! My heart hurts.

*breathes into a paper bag*

Perhaps Sanders and the screenwriters, Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger, don’t believe that race is relevant?

Okatsuka: And that experience is more generic because of it. You’re supposed to connect with the fact that she hasn’t seen her mom in a while. If she was a girl who grew up in Japan and ran away, first, she would feel shame, because she’s Japanese. (Laughter.)

Agena: Where was the shame in this movie?! There should have been a lot more shame.

Kato-Kiriyama: No eye contact! You’re just staring at your mom’s toes the whole time!

Yoshihara: The actress who played the mom played a madam in Memoirs of a Geisha, and when I saw that movie I knew she was directed by white directors because she was totally playing an American bitch. In Japan, we don’t act like that. The demeanor and body language was mimicking an American person. Any time a white director directs a Japanese movie, they’re always trying to get us to act American.


This article is also amazing: MECHANOIA: The maladaptation of Ghost In The Shell (2017). Some more great history and context building and also some shade.

Seminal works like Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy, Toho’s Godzilla and Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira all developed from the aftermath of WWII. Tezuka created the titular Astro after being assaulted by a Allied GI, a means to explore grief, the discord between humanity and the military, and the ethics of a weaponised and segregated society. Astro’s ‘cuteness’ derived from the post-war toy-making industry in an otherwise highly destabilised economy; Japanese manufacturers built miniature American cars from Allied tin scraps and ‘cute’ plastic dolls that would appeal to Western consumers, no longer bearing a highly stigmatised racial resemblance of Japanese human iconography. The graphic style of Astro Boy permanently transformed the aesthetic of manga (and anime) to come, and Tezuka is considered the “godfather of manga.”

This is good too: Asian American celebs take on Hollywood whitewashing with viral T-shirt

Five points will be awarded to any person who works out what my least favourite GitS17 review was. People who have already received my all-caps texts are ineligible to play. Please leave your answers in the comments.




*The post is COMEDY GOLD. I’m not going to link to the original post but you can find a thread of it here and I cut and paste the OP for your hilarity:

So people are thrilled that Ghost in the Shell bombed.

So congratulations tumblr. You won.

Meanwhile, hollywood will probably consider cyberpunk as too much if a financial risk to greenlight more films with that genre and aesthetic.

But hey, gotta fight whitewashing, right? Nevermind the fact that GitS’s creator approved the film and there’s a GOOD STORY-BASED REASON why ScarJo’s character looks the way she does and is named in that way.

I implore everyone to not be this person. Never be this person. This person is a dud human and should not have been generated.