by Abby Ho, Amanda Low, and Rose Ho
In a near future where the population is interconnected through electronic networks, Major Motoko Kusanagi and the Public Security Section 9 hunt for an elusive cyber-criminal known only as the Puppet Master. Her hunt for the Puppet Master brings up questions about the nature of humanity and what constitutes life, leaving the Major with doubts towards her own identity.
(Warning! Spoilers ahead!)
Rose: I loved the sci-fi stuff. Reminded me of so many other sci-fi films.
Amanda: All I could think of was The Matrix.
Rose: I was thinking of Blade Runner, Ex Machina and Neuromancer. The Matrix, too, of course.
Amanda: I find it interesting that this is a film made in 1995 but it’s still extremely relevant today.
Abby: I have to say I was a little confused and it was difficult for me to get into. I need help understanding… how did they become one person?
Rose: I guess I had difficulty understanding their terms and world-specific things, but then I realized “ghost” was “soul”.
Abby: Yeah, none of that is explained so you have to pick it up as you go along.
Rose: There were so many great philosophical questions brought up by the film and by the main character.
Amanda: I also found it very similar to Person of Interest. What with the sentient computer program and all.
Rose: So much sci-fi!
Abby: Yeah actually- it’s like we opened up a new world, so many other movies and books it reminded us of.
Rose: They do cover a lot of similar things. Ethics with new tech, especially robotics, AI, and cyborgs. I took an English course called Science and Technology in Literature a while ago and we covered many of these themes.
Abby: Did that stir a lot in you after watching this film?
Rose: I guess going back to Neuromancer—which was one of the books I had to read—there’s stuff about plugging into a new or augmented reality. Which is what the characters of Ghost in The Shell do. Regarding cyborgism (if that’s a word) – to a certain extent, we are already cyborgs in that we use technology so much right now. The tech we carry everywhere which is slowly becoming more and more attached to our bodies (glasses to contacts, for example). Meaning cyborgism is in fact very natural.
Amanda: In Ghost in the Shell, I believe it was Kusanagi who said something along the lines of “self-improvement is embedded in our DNA” or something similar.
Abby: Yeah, I was just thinking about how technology becomes an extension of our human body.
Rose: When the Major merges with the Puppet Master, they become a new hybrid being. Perhaps the next step of evolution in the movie. The ending actually reminded me of the ending of Ex Machina. That can be seen as terrifying or hopeful.
Amanda: Speaking of, do you guys think the Puppet Master is human?
Abby: No, I don’t think the Puppet master is.
Rose: I think the Puppet master is something else.
Abby: I still don’t quite understand how they reach a hybridity.
Rose: They somehow merged their shared software/coding.
Abby: Honestly, if I were Kusanagi and Batou though, I would question my identity and existence. Batou just seemed to accept it.
Amanda: I don’t know, I can understand Batou’s point of view. If I were a sentient floating mass of goop, I’d still consider myself human. So long as my sentience was there.
Rose: Is the self made up memories? What happens when you lose them? Or have them replaced?
Amanda: I don’t trust my memory that much, actually. I don’t think memory alone makes humanity.
Abby: I think the Major is also right saying that her identity is made up of the things around her. So I think it’s both? Memory and experiences?
Amanda: Here’s another interesting thought: the theme of destruction and reconstruction in the context of post-war Japan. This theme came up often in an animated film studies course I took. A notable example was in Akira, where a nuclear disaster ruined the country and they went on the rebuild it again (the setting of Akira was after WW2).
Rose: Mmm, and Godzilla. Nuclear monster.
Amanda: In the context of Ghost, I was thinking of the cyborg as reconstruction of the physical world? Kusanagi removed her human body only to replace it with robotic parts. Deconstruction/reconstruction of the Body.
Abby: Along this line, maybe reconstruction becomes less important in the physical world? So much as the online network?
Rose: What about the few non-cyborg humans?
Abby: I was thinking also the level of how cyborg you became depended on your status. If you can’t afford it, why would you be a cyborg? Because they did say becoming full cyborg required a lot of maintenance.
Amanda: That’s something you’ll see all throughout history though. The rich were the first to have cell phones, transportation, advanced medicine even. Eventually, society catches up.
Amanda: In terms of storytelling, what did you guys think aside from it being confusing?
Rose: I liked the themes and ideas it brought up as well as the links to Blade Runner, The Matrix, etc… I didn’t like the over-sexualization of Major K’s body.
Abby: Yeah, the sexualization, I got it from the beginning scene with her body being created, and from the scene when Batou saw her naked back.
Amanda: Yeah, those scenes in particular I had issue with.
Rose: I think it’s a problem in all sorts of sci-fi media.
Abby: It made me question whether the sex of her body or shell mattered.
Amanda: Maybe her gender is also important to her ghost. She was born a human female, after all.
Abby: But the Puppet Master was in an ambiguous body.
Amanda: The Puppet Master is genderless. So you can criticize why they chose a female body when it could have been anything else.
Rose: She doesn’t even use her sexuality in the movie so it’s clearly just for the audience
Amanda: There were scenes I had issue with for sure but that scene with the tank where she rips her body apart… I felt like her naked body was referring to her Body with a capital B and less her sexuality.
Rose: The filmmakers still kept the “skin” on. It would’ve worked better if they had gone all Terminator exo-skeleton.
Abby: Also the fact that her future body was a child’s body. She looked like a doll.
Amanda: I actually thought that was symbolic. Like she was reborn again?
Abby: I thought it was relevant to Japanese culture- kawaii culture.
Rose: Yeah, some icky stuff.
Abby: It was weird when she spoke in the young soft voice when she was in her new body and then in her normal voice she said, “I’m not only the major now”. It made me question if it was an act.
Amanda: But again, I thought it was like a rebirth. The Puppet Master and the Major created this ‘child’. It would make sense to put her in a new body to represent the new hybrid being. Wonder how they’re going to interpret this movie in the live action remake though.
Abby: Oh my goodness, that is a good question. Like, the CG was really good in Ex Machina… I’ll bet it will be even better for this movie.
Rose: Yeah, actually the visual creativity of this movie was not bad.