Activist group calls for awards boycott of ‘Licorice Pizza’ over its ‘egregious mocking of Asians’

Licorice Pizza

An Asian advocacy group wants to take Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza” out of awards consideration over content it says is racist. 

A call for boycott: Media Action Network for Asian Americans has called for an awards boycott of the comedy-drama film due to specific scenes that it says blatantly ridicules Asians, reported The Wrap.  

  • “Licorice Pizza,” which is expected to land an Oscar nomination next year, won the Best Film award from the National Board of Review, reported Variety. Anderson also won an award for Best Director.
  • On Dec. 17, MANAA released a statement saying: “Due to the casual racism found in the movie “Licorice Pizza,” 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.”
  • According to the post, nominations and awards bestowed to the film would “normalize more egregious mocking of Asians in this country, sending the message that it’s OK to make fun of them, even during a time when Asian Americans are afraid to go out on the streets because of the unprecedented levels of violence from fellow Americans blaming them for COVID-19.”
  • The scenes that drew the most backlash from netizens involve a white character who does a fake Asian accent when addressing or referencing his Japanese wife in two scenes, NextShark previously reported.
  • “The cringe-worthy scenes in ‘Licorice Pizza,’ which takes place in 1973, do not advance the plot in any way and are included simply for cheap laughs, reinforcing the notion that Asian-Americans are ‘less than’ and perpetual foreigners,” the representative for MANAA said.
  • Other critics have also called out the film’s romantic premise, which involves a 25-year-old woman engaged in a relationship pursuit with a 15-year-old boy, reported TMZ.

Asians as a punching bag: In an interview with The New York Times, Anderson defended the film against offended critics, claiming it is merely being authentic to the period it was set.

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  • “I think it would be a mistake to tell a period film through the eyes of 2021. 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,” Anderson said. 
  • The filmmaker added that his mother-in-law is Japanese and people usually spoke English to her with a Japanese accent.
  • A previous statement from MANAA founding president Guy Aoki expressed doubts on whether Anderson would have done something similar to a Black wife character.
  • “Would he even have dared to include a similar stereotypical scene that insulted African-Americans and encouraged the audience to laugh? Absolutely not, because the blowback would have been swift, harsh, fierce, and his film would have been shut down,” Aoki pointed out. 
  • He further charged that Anderson only incorporated the racist parts thinking no one would react since Asian Americans have long served as “the punching bag” in American media.

Featured Image via MGM

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