Two families. One is rich, the other is powerless. The premise of Parasite is simple, but there are many meanings contained init, to the point that Bong Joon-ho’s work won many awards, even being nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars .
In general, Parasite depicts social and economic inequality through the lives of two families, namely the Kim Family and the Park Family.
According to Bong Joon-ho himself, this film feels closer to society because it focuses on everyday problems, ways of survival, and family.
“Family is the most basic group in society. I tried to illustrate the life of two extreme families without using socioeconomic terms such as polarization,” said Bong Joon-ho as reported by Yonhap .
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Chapman University Associate Professor of Film Studies, Nam Lee, said Parasite was a platform for Bong Joon-ho to portray injustice and hardship from the perspective of the weak.
“Bong doesn’t forget to relate this to broader conditions in society, such as what makes a character act this way? What drives disaster physically and morally?” said Nam Lee in the results of his study published in the Busan International Film Festival discussion paper.
In his previous works, Bong Joon-ho often portrayed social inequality in a black and white way, the ruler exploiting the weak, as in the films Snowpiercer and The Host .
However, that is not seen in Parasite, where everything looks gray. There is nothing really good or bad in the film. Parasite instead became a means for Bong Joon-ho to break the stereotype that the rich must be evil and like to exploit.
“Even though he (Mr. Park’s wife) is rich, he is still kind,” Kim Ki-taek said in the film.
“He’s good because he’s rich,” Ki-taek’s wife replies.
Cuts from the movie Parasite.
Actor Song Kang-ho (Ki-taek) once stated that this simple sentence stems from the assumption that it is easier for rich people to share and do good.
Meanwhile, those with disabilities may find it harder to share, including when they really want to.
This condition is clearly seen in the main dish of Parasite, namely the lower class people actually prey on each other rather than uniting power.
The Kim family initially only wanted to prolong life by working at the Park house. That leads them to devise a plan to get rid of the Park Family’s housekeeper, Moon-kwang.
However, the plan turns into an act of crime and even “war” when he finds out Moon-kwang is hiding her husband, Keun-se, in the basement. Moon-kwang is actually willing to compromise with the Kim Family as long as her husband can stay in the basement.this action is considered to be one of the Parasites’ ways to show the existence of a society that legalizes criminal acts for the sake of their families and prolongs life.
“Parasite shows the moral decay of society. The Kim family doesn’t feel guilty at all. They actually do and develop it naturally and beautifully,” said Nam Lee.
One example is when Ki-woo was about to work as an English teacher at the Park Family’s house. All members of the Kim family considered everything that was done from the start was natural.
The initial strategy starts with Min-hyuk, Ki-woo’s friend who is actually an educated person, but encourages Ki-woo to falsify documents.
This continues with Ki-jung’s success in falsifying Ki-woo’s education certificate. His father, Ki-taek, even praised Ki-jung for being the best student if Oxford had a document forgery major.
The wife also asks Ki-taek to pray for Ki-woo so he can get a job with his fake certificate. The continuity concludes with Ki-woo’s narration confirming that their actions were not crimes.
“Pa, I don’t think this is a forgery. Next year I will enter this campus. I just print it early,” Ki-woo said.
“Ah, apparently you have a plan,” Ki-taek replies with a proud smile.
From the scene, Nam Lee concluded that Parasite depicts mental depravity in society.
Only a few tens of minutes after the scene, Bong Joon-ho brought the audience to a reality where not all problems can be directly addressed through planning.
Parasite scene footage. (Doc. CJ Entertainment)
Ki-woo was used to planning everything for his family from the start. However, he is confused when his family almost loses everything due to a flash flood and gets into trouble with Moon-kwang.
“You know what plan won’t fail? No plan. Because life can’t be planned,” Ki-taek tells Ki-woo.
“There’s no plan, there’s a plan,” Ki-taek insists.
Nam Lee thinks Parasite represents chaos where everyone can get confused and get lost.
“A despair that makes it impossible for people to dream or hope anymore,” he wrote.
Nam Lee also thinks that Director Bong managed to slip a message about the impact an insult has on someone.
Parasite Scene. (Doc. CJ Entertainment/Korean Film Council)
The message is clear when Ki-taek stabs Mr. Park. This action is seen not as Ki-taek’s jealousy of Mr. Park’s wealth, but as a form of anger over his unstoppable shame.
“The smell of the poor that Mr. Park often mentions and always closes his life when he is near Ki-taek is an insult that makes Ki-taek kill Mr. Park,” said Nam Lee.
Until in the end, Bong Joon-ho neatly wrapped up all the problems in Parasite with the view that family was basically the safest place.
Nam Lee stated that Parasite shows two sides of a coin in the family, an ironic situation where harmony makes selfishness grow.
“All of the unemployed Ki-taek family members try to survive with the family-nation system. However, they end up tragically,” he said.