Parasite Is A Mirror Of Our Society

The brilliant film by Bong Joon Ho reflects the extreme inequality of South Korea– a fact that is prevalent elsewhere in the world

Warning: some spoilers ahead

The main cast of the film. Image from Amazon

First of all, what an amazing film Parasite is. A film of so many layers, it’s hard to find a genre to categorise it in. But maybe it doesn’t need to be put in a category? The film elegantly interweaves the economical situation of the country, the politics (think the bunker scene story), family dynamics, dark comedy, and suspense. I went to the cinema without knowing anything about the film, except from being drawn to the ominous sounding one worded title.

While its easy to point fingers at the characters and blame them for their actions, we must face the cold hard truth. So many societies of the world including South Korea, are becoming increasingly divided to the extremes. The gap between the rich and everyday people are so drastic that there no longer is a middle ground that can breach both worlds. In South Korea like many East Asian countries, the top 10 percent of the country hold almost 70 percent of the country’s wealth. Similarly like in the UK (where I live), a 2019 Guardian article reported how the 1 percent of the population own half of Britain.

This isn’t an isolated case. Other parts of the world like the US, many parts of South America including Brazil and Venezuela; India, Nigeria (where my family is from), France, Italy, even in places like Germany and more, the increase in wealth can be seen but it only benefits those at the very top of the food chain, while the rest of us scramble to get the smallest things to get by in life, being constantly told to be grateful for what we have and to stop complaining.

In the end, we’re just a number and a nuisance in the eyes of the power holders of society. Many who manipulate the minds of the vulnerable for their own agenda, like a chess piece in a tense game between themselves.

Mr and Mrs Park. Image from The Hollywood Reporter

This is why we’re presently seeing numerous instabilities from protests to more. People are beginning to wake up as they have had enough with the goings on of the world. To add to all of this, race and gender factors come to play as in order to have a progressive society, we have to find solutions to the varying issues in these areas, starting with having productive conversations to open each other’s minds, rather than shouting down on people who are showing you the facts.

When we look at the Kim and Park family in Parasite, many of the behaviours and actions displayed affect us in some way as we might have come across them or even expressed some of it in our daily lives.

The Kim family. Image from The New York Times

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In the end it all comes down to how the rich vs the poor live. One could throw shade at the dogmatic behaviour of the less fortunate and be troubled by their need to hate on people who are more well-to-do than them. We are confused as to why they aren’t doing anything to get out of that mindset to better themselves and their future. Even by trying to help, sometimes their toxic traits only allow them to think of their immediate pleasure, biting the hand that feeds them. Think the sycophant tendencies of the Kim family. The power of the ego prevents them from looking past their suffering.

Likewise there are some rich people who are oblivious to their surroundings, living in a bubble-like state. Everything has to fit perfectly in the box they created, anything out of place will ruin the order they’re used to. Not knowing (or knowing as they might not care), that it affects the people around them. Mr and Mrs Park’s biggest problem is the smell of the Kim family which is such a silly and unnecessary issue to have. Meanwhile, the Kim family has lost everything in a flood.

Even when we look at the previous housekeeper of the mansion, despite working for the Park family for years and previously working for the original owner of the property, she never makes enough money to improve her and her husbands future, spending vast amounts it paying off her husbands debts which he acquired after loosing his job. This further proves that no matter how hard you work or follow the ‘right’ rules of life, there can be blockages around you which makes it difficult to get out of your present situation and progress for better things.

The Park family celebrating their son’s birthday. Image from Now Toronto

Another thing to note in the film is that planning for things is okay. Remember when Mr Kim told his son not to plan for anything because then he wouldn’t be surprised when things don’t go to plan? This thinking is counterproductive. You need some planning in order to navigate through the world.

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We all have a tumultuous relationship with having abundance or lack of it– whether you admit it or not. But when do we draw the line? This is also why the title of the film is perfect as it explains the overall message of the film. Humans constantly display parasitical behaviours. Many only think of themselves rather than looking at the bigger picture.

Parasite is a universal story of our conscious mind. Countless families have gone through similar situations in one way or the other. Appreciating life and expressing gratitude goes a long way to helping us become better people and knowing that there is something bigger than us as often, our ego prevents us from doing so, preferring to wallow in our own misery.

Writer and visual artist // I write about culture and societal issues with a focus on the effects of colonialism, globalisation and capitalism.

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