鬼 in the Lilly-Blanc Shell [编年史 of Dis/Infection, 九月 2017]


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If you read some of the recent literature, you’ll realize there really is no such thing as whiteness, but we kind of made that up. … Because you were born white, you have advantages that are systemically, culturally, psychologically there. And they have been built up and cemented for hundreds of years, but many people can’t look at it. It’s too difficult. – G. Popovich

Ok, so this one time I’ve fallen into the trap of racialized thinking. And I’m gonna do this whole bit like it makes perfect sense. But what you need to realize though is that all these concepts of whiteness, brownness, blackness and whateverness are at the very beginning of what keeps us locked into our old, unproductive, discriminating patterns of thought. Just saying. – tm

 

 

Without being a Frankfurt style pessimist, I do often get this feeling of cultural exhaustion when it comes to video games [which i don’t care about] and, what-to-call-them?, major motion pictures. The other day I watched Ghost in the Shell and the sense of boredom, of repetition was near-infinite. Even without being a diehard aficionado of the original anime, it is very hard to see past the lackluster, pro forma recycling of sci-fi tropes plus the regular, horrid genre conventions: cyborg identity crisis [played with numbing absence of sentiment by SJ], whitewashing of protagonists [for, as always, ostensibly commercial reasons], the evil exploitative corporation [true but bereft of any original take], gun fights [they should be illegalized, i no longer have the stamina to watch one]…. and… I cannot recall, I couldn’t watch this mess to the end, all images unpeeled with cyborg-shell slickness, every other scene was as if I had seen it a million million times before.

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Whereas the one thing that did, predictably, stick out, were the stunning neon visuals, the genius of the digital metropolitan aesthetics. The whole city was livid and animated with skyscraper-sized, three-dimensional advertising characters. Also watching Madame Johansson jump and run through this incandescent, candy-colored, hyperkinetic metropole, cloaked in [near-]invisibility was  non-cognitive bliss.

So, not quite true what I stated about the degree of boredom, let me reverse. To one scene in particular. When it was finally revealed that the protagonist’s original mother, the biological mama of the daughter whose brain was used for the ghost in the shell, was an elderly Chinese lady, the floodgates of post-/neo-colonial theory were flung wide open. There was a bittersweet moment of recognition in this twist of futuristic neo-colonial neuro-exploitation: even in the centuries ahead the tricontinents are only a source of labour and replacement part providers. Not what you hope for in progressive sci-fi but unfortunately the maximum imaginative range of the folks behind this GitS rehash.

 

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Here, nothing much of tradition is contested or modified. The cultural artifacts in this movie seem inert, functional parts in the unspooling of a 22nd century techno-thriller, cogs in the narrative machinery. And so the 32-bit howl of cyborg identity crisis has been reduced to Scarlett Johansson’s inert mien but it doesn’t matter because she ultimately finds her [romantic] partner, meaning that the prospect of some cybernetic, white, virtual nuclear family might yet be in the offing. A meta-title for the movie might then be Shell minus the Ghost.

 

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About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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