It’s been a rough go for Ghost in the Shell. The film that was initially highly anticipated has attracted a lot controversy for the decision to cast Scarlett Johansson as Major, the Japanese lead character. The criticism centers around cultural appropriation and Hollywood’s propensity to “whitewash” stories.
Paramount’s domestic distribution chief, Kyle Davies, admitted to CBC News that the film’s poor box office performance probably is a result from the casting controversy. He said:
I think the conversation regarding casting impacted the reviews. … You’ve got a movie that is very important to the fanboys since it’s based on a Japanese anime movie. So you’re always trying to thread that needle between honoring the source material and make a movie for a mass audience. That’s challenging, but clearly the reviews didn’t help.
It’s not clear exactly how the negative press hurt the Ghost in the Shell’s reception—the critical merits may be a separate problem. But cultural appropriation sure didn’t help.