Asian activist group calls for a boycott of “Licorice Pizza” due to false Asian accents

An Asian-American activist group calls for a boycott of the awards ceremony for director Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza” for the use of a fake Asian accent.

In the film, a white male restaurateur, played by John Michael Higgins, speaks to his Japanese wife with a fake Asian accent. He appears again in the film with another Japanese woman, his new wife, and repeats the attempted gag.

While the film has received overwhelmingly positive reviews and sparked a ton of award shows, some critics and folks on social media have blasted it for its portrayal of racism without any rejection of its characters.

“Due to the incidental racism in the film ‘Licorice Pizza’, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) believes that Paul Thomas Anderson’s film does not deserve Best Picture, Best Director, or Best Original Screenplay nominations, and challenges others Film critic associations to skip this award season, “MANAA said in a December 18 statement.

“To shower it with nominations and awards would normalize the egregious ridicule of Asians in this country and send the message that it is okay to make fun of them,” the group said, noting the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes during the Coronavirus pandemic.

According to corrected data released by the FBI in October, hate crimes against Asia rose more than 73 percent in 2020. That was a disproportionate increase compared to hate crimes in general, which increased by 13 percent.

A representative from Higgins and Anderson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Anderson addressed the criticism last month in an interview with the New York Times in which the Times journalist said the accent was “so offensive that my audience actually gasped for air.”

Anderson replied, “I think it would be a mistake to tell a historical film through the eyes of 2021. You can’t have a crystal ball, you have to be honest at this time. Not that it wouldn’t happen now, by the way. My mother-in-law is Japanese and my father-in-law is white, so it happens all the time that people with a Japanese accent speak English to her. I don’t think they even know they’re doing it. “

Sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen previously said that while Anderson admitted the film was a “contemporary” play, the scenes still showed racism “unfiltered”.

“When there are no consequences, scenes like this can almost glorify that behavior,” said Yuen. “You don’t laugh [Higgins’ character] because he’s making fun of someone else. Either you laugh with him at the expense of the Asians or you get upset as a spectator. “

MANAA said the “terrible” scenes “did nothing to advance the plot” and “reinforced the notion that Asian Americans are ‘less than’ and eternal aliens”.

The limited-edition Thanksgiving weekend film is a coming-of-age comedy-drama starring Alana Haim (of the band Haim) and Cooper Hoffman (son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman), two young people grew up in the 1970s in California’s San Fernando Valley.

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