Licorice Pizza, a 1970s Los Angeles coming-of-age comedy, has been condemned for racist moments in which a white character imitates his Japanese wife.
Critics and moviegoers have questioned whether the scenes show a racist character or are racist as a whole since the film’s premiere in November 2021.
In March 2022, after Paul Thomas Anderson won a BAFTA and a Critics Choice Award for the film, a Twitter clip showing the moments reappeared.
The major gripe was a white man character’s racist portrayal of Japanese ladies in the film. The second was about the “age gap” between Alana Kane,25,(Alana Haim) and Gary Valentine,15,(Cooper Hoffman), whose friendship is on uncertain footing.
The outrage came from those who saw the film and were blindsided by how tone-deaf it was, those who hadn’t seen the film but made up their opinions based on the idea, and those who dismissed it all as overreacting.
Asians in Hollywood have been used as punchlines, fetishized, and rendered silent, and audiences called the film racist after seeing these themes.
Controversial Licorice Pizza Scenes
Gary, a high school performer, and businessman help his mother manage an advertising agency. One of their clients is Jerry Frick (John Michael Higgins), who runs The Mikado with his Japanese wife Mioko (Yumi Mizui).
The film’s two controversial scenes. In the first, Jerry is at the advertising company discussing a restaurant ad with Mioko. He imitates a Japanese accent as though she can’t understand English and his accent will make it clearer. His wife and the other characters are tense.
In The Mikado, Jerry reveals his “new bride,” Kimiko (Megumi Anjo), who is Japanese. Again, he mimics a Japanese accent. When Kimiko replies in Japanese, Alana asks what she said. Hard to say. I don’t speak Japanese, Jerry says.
How Paul Thomas Anderson Responded
As soon as Licorice Pizza was released in November 2021, journalists asked Paul Thomas Anderson about the scenes with Higgins.
In a November Interview with the New York Times, Anderson said of the scene, “It would be a mistake to narrate a historical film through 2021’s eyes.” You can’t have a crystal ball; be honest.
He notes that his mother-in-law is Japanese and his father-in-law is Caucasian, so he’s seen this sight often. Maya Rudolph’s father Richard is married to retired Japanese jazz singer Kimiko Kasai, Anderson’s companion.
Licorice Pizza, a 1970s Los Angeles coming-of-age comedy, has been condemned for racist moments in which a white character imitates his Japanese wife. The footage displays two sequences from Licorice Pizza, which revolves around high school freshman Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and his platonic friendship with Alana Kane (Alana Haim). Despite its disorganized structure and incoherent narrative, Licorice Pizza focuses on how harsh the 1970s were. Mean to girls who don’t sure what they want to be. Young males who want all the “free” T and A pop culture promises are cruelly treated.