The movie “Licorice Pizza” is a coming-of-age comedy-drama starring Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman. It was released on November 26th, 2021, and has received pretty high ratings from viewers and film critics.
However, one pretty big controversy about the movie sprang up as soon as it was released. Director Paul Thomas Anderson was accused of having a character use a fake Asian accent, and it became a big issue. Anderson has finally responded to the backlash so read on to find out what he said.
‘Licorice Pizza’ Has An Ensemble Cast
“Licorice Pizza” is set in 1973 Hollywood and follows the story of Alana Kane (played by Alana Haim) and Gary Valentine (played by Cooper Hoffman) as they grow up, chase their dreams, and find love in California’s San Fernando Valley.
The film has an ensemble cast that includes Sean Penn, Bradley Cooper, Maya Rudolph, George DiCaprio, and several other stars. Upon its release, “Licorice Pizza” was praised for its heartstring-tugging story and excellent storytelling.
It is currently rated 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, 90% on MetaCritic, and has a 7.7 over 10 on IMDb. The film has now been nominated for three Academy Awards in Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director category.
The Film Received Backlash
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In December, shortly after the film hit cinemas, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) called for a total awards boycott. They said it was because giving the film any awards could “normalize more egregious mocking of Asians in this country.”
They also said that it would “send the message that it’s okay 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.”
MANAA called the controversial scenes “cringeworthy” with “casual racism” that was included “simply for cheap laughs” and completely unnecessary in the movie.
Anderson Addressed The Backlash
Anderson finally answered questions about the scene and addressed the controversy during an interview with IndieWire. He also shared his original intentions for using the fake accent.
During the interview, 51-year-old Anderson was asked about his opinion regarding the negative response to a scene in the film where a white character (played by John Michael Higgins) used a fake Asian accent to tease his Japanese wife.
He said, “It’s kind of like, ‘Huh?’ I don’t know if it’s a ‘Huh’ with a dot dot dot. It’s funny because it’s hard for me to relate to. I don’t know. I’m lost when it comes to that. To me, I’m not sure what they— you know, what is the problem? The problem is that he was an idiot saying stupid s—?”
He Said He Might Have Missed The Mark
The IndieWire interviewer then explained to Anderson that many people saw the use of the accent as offensive and that the character’s “racism could give people permission to laugh at the stereotype, rather than his stupidity.”
Anderson replied, “Right. Well, I don’t know, maybe that’s a possibility. I’m certainly capable of missing the mark, but on the other hand, I guess I’m not sure how to separate what my intentions were from how they landed.”
The “There Will Be Blood” director was asked about the scene again during an interview with the New York Times. He said, “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,” he continued, “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. I don’t think they even know they’re doing it.”