Asian American group slams "Ghost in the Shell," Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson stars in “Ghost in the Shell,” the live-action remake of the Japanese anime film.

Paramount/Dreamworks

The live-action adaptation of Japanese anime “Ghost in the Shell” opened Friday, bringing in $19 million at the box office its first weekend along with a renewed wave of controversy. 

The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) condemned what it calls the “whitewashed” casting of Scarlett Johansson in the lead role, joining a backlash that surfaced last year when the first image of Johansson in the lead role in the film was released. 

Critics have taken the filmmakers and the studio, Paramount, to task for casting Johansson in a traditionally Japanese role as a character named Motoko Kusanagi, though for most of the film she goes by Major. 

“Apparently in Hollywood, Japanese people can’t play Japanese people anymore,” MANAA’s Robert Chan said in a statement. “There are many Japanese, Asian or Asian-American actresses who could’ve handled the role of the Major, including Rinko Kikuchi, Karen Fukuhara, Kiki Sukezane, Chloe Bennet, Maggie Q, Doona Bae, Li Bingbing and Gemma Chan.”

While promoting the film, Johansson made it clear that she thought the allegations of whitewashing were unfounded. “I would never attempt to play a person of a different race, obviously,” she said during an interview with “Good Morning America” last week.

“I think this character is living a very unique experience, in that she is a human brain in an entirely machinate body,” Johansson said “She’s essentially identity-less.”