Actresses Constance Wu and Ming-Na Wen sounded off on the recent controversy surrounding the first photo from "Ghost in the Shell" at a Committee of 100 luncheon on Saturday.
Last week, fans called the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi, a human-cyborg hybrid from the Japanese anime series, a blatant example of whitewashing and yellowface in Hollywood.
When the photo of Johansson in the film came out, Wen, who stars on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," tweeted, "Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I'm a big fan. But everything against this whitewashing of Asian role."
Claims that Paramount and Dreamworks commissioned visual effects tests to make Johansson appear more Asian (which Paramount denied) haven't helped.
"Some people call [the alleged CGI tests] 'yellowface,' but I say 'the practice of blackface employed on Asians' because that's more evocative," Wu said of the reported visual effects tests. The "Fresh Off The Boat" actress added that the alleged tests are problematic because they reduce "our race and ethnicity to mere physical appearance, when our race and culture are so much deeper than how we look."
In a statement to ScreenCrush, Paramount acknowledged the tests, but denied that Johansson was involved.
"A test was done related to a specific scene for a background actor which was ultimately discarded," read the statement. "Absolutely no visual effects tests were conducted on Scarlett’s character and we have no future plans to do so."
Many have found fault with Wu calling the CGI "blackface" and expressed their opinion on Twitter:
Actress Joan Chen argued that the casting was not controversial at the luncheon, adding, "The Chinese and Japanese have adapted many works from the West."
Wu disagreed, saying, "Many people's vision of who they see as a hero is rooted in systemic racism. It's not blaming; it's asking for awareness. It's good for artists to think outside the box and stretch their imagination."
Wu's comments are just the latest in a string of complaints about Paramount and Dreamworks' casting choice. A Care2 petition called "DreamWorks: Stop Whitewashing Asian Characters!" currently has over 96,000 signatures to date. The petition points out what's glaringly wrong about Johansson's casting, saying, "The original film is set in Japan, and the major cast members are Japanese. So why would the American remake star a white actress?"
Wen urged fellow panelists and those in the audience to continue fighting against the problematic whitewashing, saying it "will continue if Hollywood thinks it's OK."
"The fight is exhausting: two steps forward, 10 steps back," Wen said. "But it will continue because we don't voice our opinions and band together to say this is wrong."