Entertainment

“Licorice Pizza” Criticized by Asian Activists for Fake Asian Accent

Asian American activists are calling for an awards boycott of Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1970s-set film, Licorice Pizza.

In a recent statement, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) criticized the buzzy film for its “casual racism,” specifically due to two scenes where a white restaurant owner — played by John Michael Higgins — uses an “extremely racist, mocking accent” while talking to his first, and later, second Japanese wife. Not only that, but he also calls his second wife by his first wife’s name in another “joke” that perpetuates the stereotype that all Asians are the same and how Asian women are “interchangeable.”

“The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) believes that Paul Thomas Anderson’s film is not deserving of nominations in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, or Best Original Screenplay, and is asking other film critic associations to pass over it this awards season,” the statement read, before noting that the “cringeworthy scenes” don’t even “advance the plot in any way.”

Instead, MANAA said that they are included “simply for cheap laughs, reinforcing the notion that Asian Americans are ‘less than’ and perpetual foreigners.” Additionally, the statement said showering the film with critical praise, awards and nominations would “normalize more egregious mocking of Asians in this country, sending the message that it’s OK to make fun of them” amidst a spike in hate crimes and “unprecedented levels of violence” against Asian Americans connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anderson has yet to respond to MANAA’s statement, but did defend the scenes in a previous interview with the New York Times‘s Kyle Buchanan, who said the accent was “so offensive that my audience actually gasped.” Granted, the director said he believed it would be a “mistake to tell a period film through the eyes of 2021,” adding that “you can’t have a crystal ball, you have to be honest to that time.”

“Not that it wouldn’t happen right now, by the way,” he said before invoking the old “I have a vague connection to said racial group, so it’s fine” argument.

“My mother-in-law’s Japanese and my father-in-law is white, so seeing people speak English to her with a Japanese accent is something that happens all the time,” Anderson said. “I don’t think they even know they’re doing it.”

Read MANAA’s entire statement here.

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