Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in "Ghost in the Shell" live action film
Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in "Ghost in the Shell" live action film Twitter/ParamountPics

Scarlett Johansson’s first image as Motoko Kusanagi in the “Ghost in the Shell” movie has been released, and people are not happy about it. The film is accused of whitewashing practice for casting a white actor in the lead role.

The first still for the live action film was released Thursday, with the studios announcing that the film has commenced production in Wellington, New Zealand.

“Ghost in the Shell” is an upcoming film by Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures based on the Japanese manga of the same name. The lead is Motoko Kusanagi, an augmented-cybernetic employed by a special operations task force. In the film, she is played by Johansson, and that’s the problem, according to the comic’s fans.

Johansson, who will be next seen as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow in “Captain America: Civil War,” is no stranger to playing badass female characters. It’s almost certain that she would be playing the part very well in this film. However, as the manga’s fans claim, it’s not about her skills as an actor; it’s about her getting the role in the first place.

Motoko Kusanagi is, after all, Japanese. Fans are expecting the role to be filled in by a Japanese actor or at least an Asian. But the film studios went for a white A-lister in this case, probably because Johansson’s name is good for box office sales.

The film, which is slated for release in March 2017, is now facing backlash on social media for whitewashing or the practice of casting white actors in non-white character roles. As commenters complained, there were a number of Japanese or Asian actors who could have filled the role of Motoko Kusanagi. Asian actors already have a hard time landing a starring role in Hollywood, and this just diminishes their chances even more.

“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” star Ming-Na Wen, who is in the same Marvel Cinematic Universe as Johansson, also spoke up against the casting. While she thinks highly of Johansson, Wen isn’t in favour of her taking the lead role.

As many of the commenters think, Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi (“Babel,” “Pacific Rim”) would have been a better choice for the lead. Here are some reactions from the comic book’s fans:

Whitewashing in Hollywood is not a new concept. As they say, it has been around since the film industry has been established. Last year, Emma Stone received backlash for portraying character Allison Ng, who is part-Chinese and Hawaiian, in “Aloha.” In 1961, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” also received criticisms for casting Mickey Rooney in the role of an Asian landlord.

Another Japanese comic-based film, “Dragonball Evolution,” was panned as well mainly for casting Justin Chatwin to play the main character Goku. “Avatar: The Last Airbender” in 2010 cast mainly white actors in Asian roles.