I have always loved books and movies. They have been my way of learning new things, visiting new places, being educated about history, and learning about different people. When I was younger, it was something of a ritual for my parents to visit the video rental shop and buy VHS movie tapes which we would watch that weekend. This was long before the internet, the PC, and the technology explosion. There was always something for everyone - Ninja movies, action flicks, drama, comedy, and much more. Sometimes, my dad would give us a lecture at the end of the film to drive home some life lessons. One of his favorite expressions was 'In every work of fiction, there is an element of truth'.
This background birthed my love for movies and an interest in actors and actresses, producers and directors, award shows, and all things movies. I try to keep up with news and information on major movie awards like the SAGs, Oscars, BAFTAs, and others. This is where I get my list of 'must-watch' films for the year. It's always great to see directors, producers, actors, actresses, screenwriters, make-up artists, animation experts, stunts men and women, and so many others take home awards for the incredible work they do to bring these films to life.
In the build-up to the 2020 awards season, there was a lot of interest surrounding which films would clinch the year's major awards. Contenders included Joker, Parasite, 1917, Ford vs Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Marriage Story, Judy, and Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. Director Bong Joon-Ho's Korean language film 'Parasite' beat other contenders to clinch Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay & Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards (see my short review).
'Parasite' is a movie that generated a lot of discussion on societal issues like class, the rich/poor divide, desperation, economic climate, poverty, inequality, and so on. The major arguments centered around the economic status of the Park family and Kim family; who was treated worse by the other and who eventually was to blame for the terrible tragedies. I would, however, beg to differ. I think the major lessons from the movie have more to do with human nature and how we treat one another. I would like to share some insights from the movie by looking at both families, their interrelationship, and ultimate culpability in the final tragedies.
The Kim Family
The Kim family could be described as a dirt poor but lively close-knit street smart bunch. They laughed and made fun of themselves and their 'below ground' living quarters and worked together on any jobs they could get. They were also proud people who believed they deserved the good life no matter the means employed to get there. Their hope and tenacity are commendable but their desperation, mean-spiritedness, and dubious ways contributed to their undoing. Below, I highlight some traits that ultimately cost them so much
Opportunism: Ki-woo took advantage of the opportunity and trust placed in him by his friend Min-hyuk. Min-hyuk asked him to stand in as a substitute teacher to the Park's daughter while he traveled for his studies. Ki-woo should have been considerate enough to remember that Min-hyuk would return to his old job. Min-hyuk is not altogether blameless. When Ki-woo reminded him that he did not have the necessary credentials, he told him to fake them. Although not explicitly addressed in the film, we deduce that Min-hyuk could have used fake papers himself. Also, both of them thought to exploit the Park's young daughter for their own ends
Desperation: The Kim family used their desperate situation to justify their actions. They searched and tapped into other's wi-fi networks as a joke. Also, when the fumigation officers came round, they could have closed the windows to avoid having harmful chemicals in the pizza boxes they were packaging but instead chose to get 'free' fumigation even at the expense of their own health.
Importunity: The Kims were a close-knit family and supported each other through everything including their wrongdoing. They made fun of the Parks and ridiculed them in private even though their entire family income was from them
Irresponsibility - Mr. and Mrs. Kim should not have supported their children in setting up the house-keeper and driver to lose their jobs. Ki-woo had already established himself as a tutor and gotten his sister Ki-Jung set up as the son's art therapist under a fake identity. It was enough that these were done via dubious means without their parents encouraging them further.
Mischief - The housekeeper and driver had done the Kims no wrong and did not deserve to be treated as they were. Immediately Ki-woo and Ki-jung established themselves in the Parks home, they set about removing the driver and the housekeeper forgetting that they would be pushing them into the same situation they were running from.
Prey - The Kim family preyed on the Park family especially on Mrs. Park's gullibility. Her misplaced belief in all things American led her to accept their fake credentials without further checks. Ki-jung got her to believe that her son had a psychological problem. Ki-woo and Ki-jung exploited the information on the housekeeper's peach allergy and got their father to make Mrs. Park believe she had tuberculosis and sack her. Ki-jung planted her underwear in the car where Mr. Park found it and insinuated to Mrs. Park that the driver had dishonorable intentions. These led to his sacking. They employed the same dubious means to recommend their parents as driver and house-keeper respectively.
Greed - Their scheming and greed blinded them to their precarious position should anything go wrong (and they did go terribly wrong). In the event that they were found to be from the same family and proven to have schemed their way in, the assumption would be that they planned the worst and acted with criminal or malicious intent
Lack Of Empathy - Chung-sook's (Mrs. Kim) lack of empathy led to the escalation of hostilities and eventual tragedy. Moon-gwang (the former housekeeper) came to the Park home requesting to pick up something from the store having found out the family had gone on a camping trip. Moon-gwang was not aware that Chung-sook and her family were responsible for her being put out of work and was forced to divulge her secret when she went into the secret underground hide-out to give her husband food. She pleaded with Chung-sook to keep her husband's presence a secret offering her money to ensure he had food. Chung-sook's refusal, her family's exposure, and the Park's sudden return led to the tragic chain of events. Chung-sook and Moon-gwang both had secrets and both had deceived the Parks. Had the Kims remained hidden and Chung-sook accepted Moon-gwang's plea, there could have been some sort of agreement (honor among thieves if you will) rather than the chaos and death that ensued.
Mean/Violent Streak - Ki-Jung again exploited Moon-gwang's peach allergy to get her phone away from her after she threatened to expose them using the pictures she had taken. In addition, when the Parks returned from the botched camping trip, Moon-gwang tried to alert them but was kicked down the stairs by Mrs. Kim. Her inability to get treatment for her allergy and the injuries sustained from being kicked down a flight of stairs led to her death and her husband's bloody revenge mission. After the long trek and finding their home flooded with sewage, Ki-woo, Ki-jung, and their father slept at a shelter before returning to work the next day. Ki-woo asked his father what they were going to do about Moon-gwang and her husband and his response was that they would do nothing. We could as well deduce that they planned to abandon them there to die. Although not explicitly stated, we assume that Ki-woo intended to kill Moon-gwang and her husband as a way to solve the problem but was overpowered by Geun-sae, Moon-gwang's husband.
The Park Family
The Park family are a wealthy affluent family living in a posh secluded upstate residence built by a famous architect from whom they bought the house. Judging by the ages of their 2 children, they are a fairly young family. Mr. Park is a wealthy and successful businessman who runs his own company and can afford the luxuries of an expensive home, chauffeur, housekeeper, and private tutors for the children. He tends to be generally bored and unbothered with how the home is run thus leaving all such matters to his wife. Mrs. Park is something of a social butterfly who spends her time managing the home front (with the help of the housekeeper), attending to her children and fraternizing with her wealthy contemporaries. She is gullible, somewhat naïve, and easily manipulated. The intrusion into her home could have been avoided had she been more alert. Let's take a look at some of the traits that unwittingly led to the sad trend of events:
Aloofness - Mr. Park is a successful business owner whose major concern is providing funds for the family's lifestyle. Everything else is left to his harried wife. Mrs. Park with the assistance of the housekeeper runs the home and attends to the children's needs.
Gullibility - Mrs. Park is gullible to a fault. It was so easy to deceive her with the fake certificates as she made no effort to check or confirm the information provided. She accepted anything that looked posh or had a connection to America. She was too trusting of the 'expert' credentials and allowed strangers to tutor her children in their bedrooms rather than in a common room under her supervision. She should have been suspicious when issues were brought to her notice about both the driver and housekeeper after Ki-woo and Ki-jung's arrival in her home.
Condescending - Mr. and Mrs. Park looked down on others and were quick to believe the evil report about the former housekeeper and driver even though they had worked for them over a period of time. Mr. Park did not consider it the place of his domestic staff to engage him in intimate conversation as far as they were paid. They ended up sacking their dedicated workers and believing conmen.
Insensitive - Mr. Park's remarks about Mr. Kim's smell was insensitive and insinuated that their poor state was to blame. In addition, after Moon-gwang's husband stabs Ki-jung at the garden party in retaliation for the death of his wife, the Parks only concern is their son who 'fainted'. They cared nothing for the dead, dying and injured. Mr. Park wanted his son driven to a hospital but showed no compassion for their injured and bleeding employee. The final straw was his reaction to the bad smell from Moon-gwang's dead husband while trying to get his car keys. This incensed Mr. Kim so much that he grabbed a knife and stabbed him in a fit of rage.
The beauty of this movie is the way the Director brings these families into each other's lives beginning as a mean joke then exploding into a fight of volcanic proportions leaving death and despair in its wake. I decided not to approach this from a for or against argument but rather place responsibility where it lies. That said, we need to remember 2 important points:
1. The Kims knew exactly what they were doing when they set about scheming their way into the Park's home. What we do not know is their intended end game
2. The Parks did not know they were being conned. They had no idea the new driver, housekeeper, tutor, and art therapist were members of the same family. They were also not aware of the 'secret tenant' in their home
I believe the creators of this movie succeeded in:
I. Making us think deeply.
II. Reminding us that our individual and collective actions (or inactions) come back to us one way or another
III. Bringing home the fact that human nature and not poverty or wealth are the root of the human problem
My parting shot?
The way we treat each other matters a whole lot. If we truly love our neighbor, we will not do him/her harm no matter his standing or status. If we treat the next person as we ourselves would want to be treated, the world would be a much better place.
Thanks for reading
Imabong Faminu is a content writer and creative writer. Connect with her on Twitter @IFaminu and on LinkedIn