Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film Licorice Pizza is facing backlash for including scenes where a white man speaks to Japanese women in a fake Asian accent.
The scenes in question feature actor John Michael Higgins, who plays a white businessman in the coming-of-age film. In one of the scenes, Higgins speaks to his Japanese wife with a fake Asian accent. Later in the movie, he repeats the gag while in conversation with his new on-screen Japanese wife.
David Chen, a movie critic and podcaster, took to Twitter last week to slam the movie for dropping an “Asian caricature.”
“Picture this: You’re watching Licorice Pizza. It’s brilliant,” he wrote. “Then, early on, a buffoonish character drops an Asian caricature. The (mostly white) audience laughs. And now, you gotta think about that laughter the rest of the film. Did you picture it? Because it fucking sucks.”
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Paul Thomas Anderson was asked about the offensive scenes.
“I think it would be a mistake to tell a period film through the eyes of 2021,” he explained. “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. 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.”
Licorice Pizza stars Alana Haim and late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s son Cooper Hoffman in the lead roles, who play two young people growing up in the San Fernando Valley in California in the 1970s. The film also features Sean Penn, Bradley Cooper, Tom Waits and others.