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The QAnon Crowd Has Been Curiously Silent on ‘Licorice Pizza’

Age-gap discourse around the film is only happening on the left

This season saw the release of Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, Licorice Pizza, which forms a kind of 1970s Los Angeles trilogy with two of his earlier movies, Boogie Nights and Inherent Vice. This one is rather more grounded than the others, focused on a 15-year-old child actor named Gary (played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s son Cooper Hoffman) who becomes infatuated with Alana, a woman 10 years his senior (portrayed by musician Alana Haim).

This age gap in the relationship — which, to be clear, is really a close friendship — upset a handful of woke youths who declared that Licorice Pizza sought to normalize “grooming” behavior and even pedophilia. (Fact check: Not really.) But on the far right, where the QAnon movement has fueled conspiracist claims of a liberal Hollywood cabal that sex trafficks children and propagandizes to this very purpose, there hasn’t been the slightest uproar about Anderson’s coming-of-age period piece. Last year, the Q crowd and allies waged war against Cuties, a French film distributed by Netflix, for supposedly exploiting and objectifying underage girls (the film is meant to be a satire of the inappropriate hypersexualization of children). So why haven’t they latched onto Licorice Pizza as more evidence of powerful perverts’ sick agenda?

Listen, I’m not saying I want these lunatics to start sending death threats to Paul Thomas Anderson, United Artists, Hoffman and Haim. I only have to note my surprise that they aren’t! Because the movie ticks a lot of their boxes. For starters, you have “pizza” right in the title, and QAnon is partially an outgrowth of the “Pizzagate” hoax, which posited the existence of an underground child sex ring operated by Democratic politicians — a key element of the conspiracy theory was that this shadowy organization used pizza-related code words in emails. They’d have a blast deducing some sinister meaning of the unusual phrase “Licorice Pizza” while claiming that the Satanic elites are rubbing our noses in their corruption and depravity.

Then you’ve got the romantic tension between an adult and a teenager. Boom! The Gen Z TikTokers have already done the work for you there, just say it’s predatory and abusive and that the cabal is trying to “shift the Overton window” on sex with minors or whatever. The real bonus for the reliably anti-Semitic Q gang, however, is that Alana comes from a Jewish family — you’d have no problem tying her “seduction” of an innocent gentile boy to offensive beliefs about George Soros. Hell, you could kick it all the way up to blood libel if you got creative with it.

And yet… no mention on 8kun’s /qresearch/ board, nor on the Great Awakening forum. No comment from Q-based Telegram personalities like QAnon John and GhostEzra. It’s almost like they don’t know it — or auteur cinema — exists. The best link I can find between their ideology and Licorice Pizza is a three-month-old Reddit thread on r/paulthomasanderson where someone speculated that the movie was “about a cop (Haim) infiltrating a high school and pretending to be a child actress to investigate child abuse in Hollywood,” which led another redditor to joke that they were a QAnon follower. The rest of the discourse is exclusively between left-leaning critics of the movie and Anderson’s most passionate defenders.           

Maybe the paranoid fringe is too busy for this battle, or simply hasn’t been exposed to the content — and the trailer, which lacks the provocative imagery of Cuties, is tame enough to throw them off the scent anyway. In the end, also, they’d rather see themselves as saving virginal girls than preventing a 15-year-old boy from glimpsing an adult woman’s breasts. For all their posturing on the issue of abuse, the Q cultists seem likely to brush off cases of sex between, say, a female teacher and a male student as no big deal and “luck” on the young man’s part. It goes to show the limits of their outrage, which has never been equipped for less-obvious targets. 

Congratulations to Anderson, then, on dodging the wrath of America’s most reactionary lunatics — all he has to worry about now is getting canceled by the other side.