An American movie dream

I believe popular movies are the subconscious of societies, that nations are literally dreaming through their movie industries: going through past event and trying to come to terms with them, fulfilling wishes, battling fears. USA dreams in Hollywood and India in Bollywood and so on. The more driven by a single person's artistic vision a movie is, the less it channels these subconscious themes, but movies where every decision is made by a committee with money in mind, ar the purest as national dreams. I have just woken up from Hollywood live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell anime and I'm in need of a book of dream symbolism.

Everyone has probably heard about how the movie was cast with western actors instead of asians or specifically japanese. The only big role in the movie filled by a Japanese actor is Mr Aramaki, Section 9 boss, played by super cool Takeshi Kitano. Even Togusa is played by a Singaporean actor. As if there was a shortage of Japanese actors and actresses...

The problem is not that Major is played by Scarlett Johansson, a western actress. It totally makes sense someone would build a robotic body with her features – I would, wouldn't you? But it just drives me nuts that in the movie a remarkable portion of US populace has immigrated to Japan, as refugees probably, but the situation is not elaborated at all. In the movie there are at minimum as many western characters as there are asian, and English has become the main language of Japan – only old people speak Japanese anymore. Major can't even pronounce her original Japanese name properly. The Japanese culture is being swamped by American culture, up to the point where gravestones are written in alphabet instead of kanji.

In the original anime, one of the major plot-driving forces was political strife between countries. In the new movie, we hear that a political entity called African Union exists, so nations have not disappeared, but the political relationship between US and Japan is left completely vague. This lacuna is so conspicious it must be important.

Is this movie an American dream or a Japanese nightmare? Is there a nagging feeling in the collective American unconscious that occupation of Japan and restructuring the nation after WWII should have been more thorough? Some kind of irritation that Japanese reamined so Japanese instead of becoming Americans? Or is it a nationalistic warning about allowing "too many" refugees to your country, lest they take over, inspired by recent real-world events? I am confused.

Defining ourselves through memories
Uncovering mysteries in one's past is such an archetypal plot motivation in American pop culture, I wish I knew why! It is said in the movie that "memories don't define us, what we do define us", but this is revealed to be a lie or a misstatement – memories end up being the most important part of humanness. I don't remember anyone in the anime having families, but it was admittedly a long time ago that I saw it. In the movie Major re-connecting with her mother provides emotional closure, in a touchy-feely way at odds with typical cyberpunk mindset. Now that I come to think of it, the public hug Major gives to her mother is a very un-Japanese thing to do, underlining the fact that even if her daughter's "ghost" is returned in humanoid form, her mind and spirit are irrevocably American.

Scarlett Johansson looks throughout the movie as if she was only 90% there, which makes her character appropriately distant – although everyone is too emotionally expressive for my tastes. The part where she went into a brothel to fondle a human woman was aesthetically a very pleasing moment, but seemed quite purposeless except as fan service. But yeah, good-looking scene, as was the whole movie. The cityscapes and all the design was awesome, I'd watch this movie again just to properly appreciate the visuals.

Romance-wise, Major's colleague Batou has still an unrequited crush on the Major, very touchingly expressed. "You never ask, I always come [to the resque] – resignation to the facts, not as a complaint. Consent is one of the main themes of the movie, as well as violation of the body and mind. So Batou, who keeps his respectful distance is the perfect relationship for Major, whose body is continuously ripped to pieces and regrown, yet does not feel anything and whose head has been completely messed.

Final verdict: Gorgeous-looking movie which dregs up some weird stuff in American unconscious about relations to Japan.