Media Action Network for Asian Americans, a nonprofit media watchdog group, is calling for critics and other Hollywood awards voters to leave Paul Thomas Anderson‘s recently-released Licorice Pizza out of 2021’s awards consideration.

Licorice Pizza stars Cooper Hoffman and Alaina Haim (part of the sibling musical trio HAIM) in a coming-of-age story set in the early 1970s in California’s San Fernando Valley.

The film has earned three Golden Globe Award nominations and has been listed among the Top 10 movies of the year by The American Film Institute and New York Film Critics Online. MANAA is still asking other groups to “pass it over this awards season.”

MANAA’s complaint stems from scenes in the film which show a white restauranteur (John Michael Higgins), using a mocking Asian accent while speaking to his wife (Yumi Mizui), who is Japanese.

In a statement published by Rafu Shimpo, a Japanese-American newspaper from L.A., MANAA called the scenes “cringeworthy” and said they “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.”

They argue that further awards buzz for the film “would normalize more egregious mocking of Asians in this country, sending the message that it’s OK to make fun of them,” and reminded readers that Asian Americans are experiencing an uptick in racial violence in the past years.

Along with the mocking tone the white character employs towards his Asian spouse, MANAA also criticized the film for not using subtitles when multiple Japanese characters spoke in Japanese.

They also took issue with the fact that this character had two different Japanese wives throughout the plot of the film, which causes confusion for the protagonists in one scene “Love, feelings, and individuality are absent at Asian women are apparently as interchangeable as one’s clothes,” MANAA said.

Anderson has responded to the film’s criticism in a New York Times interview, where he says his film was “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 in a Japanese accent is something that happens all the time.”

MANAA decried this response later in their statement, with their founding president Guy Aoki claiming “blowback would have been swift, harsh, fierce, and his film would have been shut down,” if Anderson’s scenes had mocked black Americans instead.

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