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The Philosophy of Ghost in the Shell (1995)

The Wisecrack Youtube channel has a great video on the philosophy of Ghost in the Shell (the original one). It’s actually a very Western movie because it’s Hegelian through and through, and Hegel is as Western philosophy as it gets.

I left a comment on the video that I will cross-post here, for those interested.

Sure, I can explain.

There are numerous instances of Mamoru Oshii using reflections to embody Motoko’s search for her counterpart, or antithesis. Not necessarily with literal mirrors but with imperfect, reflective surfaces like glass or water. If you pay close attention you can maybe pick out a dozen or so instances. An obvious instance of the reflection motif is in the diving scene where Motoko rises to the surface and it looks like she “meets” herself: until the images meet, you can’t really tell who the Major is from her reflection. Her conversation with Batou after that scene goes hand in hand with that kind of confusion.

You’ll notice too that the reflection becomes “reality” when the Puppermaster hacks into the shell, especially where they are laying side-by-side on the museum floor. That was the physical meeting of the thesis and anti-thesis. You’ll also notice that the Major and the Puppetmaster have reverse existences: the Major was a human who became fully robotic except for her brain, while the Puppetmaster was essentially a program looking for a human body to achieve the full range of existence, even death.

Regarding the end scene when the Major-Puppetmaster figure is in the chair inside Batou’s safehouse: there’s a strange shot her in the chair which quickly cuts to the same shot, but a mirror image of it. The second shot is a different kind of quality than the first, so the effect isn’t quite as jarring. This was Oshii’s way of telling us by imagery that the synthesis is complete and the Major and Puppetmaster are now the same being. This scene is examined in this video, at mark 30:40 and onward: /watch?v=l9v8FzQ2btg

Hope that helps.

EDIT: Clarified some things.

EDIT 2: Contrast this with the 2017 Ghost in the Shell, which I also like, though not as much and for different reasons. Both films deal with issues of self-identity, but in different ways: Oshii’s Major lacks an identity because of the nature of her humanity, where ScarJo’s Major lacks an identity because of what others have done to her. In the former, existence is deceptive, in the latter, humanity is deceptive.

EDIT 3: Is Project 2501 a Boltzmann brain?

EDIT 4: No edit. Just a what up to my party peeps.

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At What Point Does Nancy Drew Become Not Nancy Drew?

There’s a pilot ordered for a Nancy Drew series on CBS:

Described as a contemporary take on the character from the iconic Nancy Drew book series, the CBS project will center around a diverse, 30-something title character. A more mature version than the classic story, Nancy is now detective for the NYPD where she investigates and solves crimes using her uncanny observational skills, all while navigating the complexities of life in a modern world.

So…it’s basically another hour-long crime drama, and dare I call this darkwashing? Nancy Drew—yes, I read some of the books when I was younger—went through a lot of changes and iterations since the books started in the 30s, but three things were constant: she was white, suburban, and a girl. This depiction destroys two and a quarte of these things…the “quarter” part comes in because Drew was depicted as a teenager or a college-to-mid-twenties aged person. I don’t remember her being thirty years old at all, and thank God they didn’t make her a man. It’s sillier than making Thor a woman or Dr. Watson a Chinese woman living in America, but not as silly as using a half-Danish, half-Jewish actress portray Motoko Kusanagi from the upcoming Ghost in the Shell live action film. Don Quixote as an Indian auntie? Wonder Woman as a man? When does the Ship of Theseus become another ship?

But there’s degrees to this, and the live action version of Ghost in the Shell compared to its more canon material is a good specimen. Casting Scarlett Johansson as Kusanagi is wrong for fundamental plot/expository reasons: Kusanagi is an ethnic Japanese, a Japanese national, heavily involved with Tokyo politics and white-collar, technological crime. All of her prosthetic bodies are female and Japanese (there’s even an episode where a colleague asks why she chooses the same body type every consciousness transfer). Contrast this with the casting of as her co-protag, Batou. Batou is a French national that got involved with Shell’s Section 9 during a world war. Pilou Asbæk is portraying him in the 2017 film, yet he is half-French and Half-Danish, and a Danish citizen. Not completely off the mark, especially physiognomically, even if Asbæk were a 100% Dane. Batou’s Frenchness could be rewritten since it’s not essential to his character; that he’s not Japanese is, and Asbæk would still fit that bill.

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Scarlett Johansson’s Race and Ghost in the Shell

ghost_in_the_shell_motokoIf you’re my friend on Facebook you’ve seen me briefly whine about Scarlett Johansson’s role in the Americanized, live-action version of Ghost in the Shell (GitS). As I’ve said on there, I don’t care much about race qua race in most contexts, but within the GitS fictional world it matters a lot. Since both movies, the two series’ season and related movie, the recent mini-movie reboot, and (presumably) the manga, take place in Japan and heavily involve high-level government workings in a near-future Japan, the artistic pressure to match the race of the protagonists is present*.

Rupert Sanders, the director, could work the non-Japaneseness of Motoko Kusanagi, the main protagonist and Johansson’s role, into the plot. Kusanagi’s body is completely synthetic. Though the ethnicity of her cybernetic body has a Japanese appearance, she could conceivably have a Caucasian body since it’s not difficult to “change” bodies out. This doesn’t seem likely since this new film is going to be marketed to a more general audience than a GitS fanbase. The former demographic is not going to be concerned or even be aware of the discrepancy. Since the nature of human consciousness is a major theme, especially in the original film, Sanders could even work in some meta-counter-criticism of race by leveraging the a-ethnicity of the soul (however one may consider the nature of the soul to be).

But my main point in all this is that many Facebook commenters are calling the casting a “whitewash” of the source material. I wonder, though, if the people making this criticism would call the newest Annie film or Idris Elba’s possible casting as the new James Bond a “blackening” of the original, or if they consider a black Santa Claus a betrayal of a European tradition? Why would Johansson’s casting not be considered a win for diversity in a franchise that is traditionally very Asian?

* As far as I remember, all of the main, recurring characters in GitS except for Batou are Japanese. Batou is actually French, and presumably Caucasian. Might be interesting to track the casting of his character as well.

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