“Parasite”, even with its comparably meager $11 million dollar budget, has had quite an impact in the past few months. As the first Best Foreign Language Film to win Best Picture at the Oscars, “Parasite” came out on top of a pool of the leading movies in a year that has widely been considered to be the best on record. Beating out a Quentin Taratino movie, a three hour Scorsese and De Niro epic, and a seamlessly edited war time movie, “Parasite” was the underdog to win, and yet it won some of the biggest awards of the night: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Director, all standing as a testament to how great this movie is, at least according to the Academy of Motion Pictures.
The story revolves around the Kims, an enterprising, poor family, clawing their way up the social ladder using the rungs provided by the unsuspecting Parks, a rich, though often times comically-oblivious, family. After Kim Ki-Woo, the son of the Kim family, played fantastically by Woo-sik Choi, earns a job tutoring the young Park daughter through connections, he takes advantage of the gullible mother of the Park family, allowing for the rest of his family to get jobs for other household tasks around the rich residency.
A parasite is “an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense”. This is on full display at the Parks home.
“Parasite” is the tale of two families at opposing sides of the financial spectrum: one poor, the other rich. The differences between the two stack up quickly: one family lives in a basement house half below the street; the other lives in a multi-million dollar house atop a perfectly manicured hill. One family can look out their window to see a man urinating in the street; the other can look out their window the size of a wall to garden parties, immaculate grass, and the sun shining down. A line is drawn between the two classes. No matter how much the Kims wish otherwise, their plans and schemes and hopes will not actively allow them to pass over it.
The Parks may seem like the innocent family that was taken advantage of; the poor ones who were oblivious to the scam happening beneath them. The audience should feel for the Parks and hate the “maniacal” Kims, and yet, it’s hard; feelings naturally align the other way. The Kim family understands their position in society due to their poor status, as do the Parks, the viewers, and the rest of the world. The Kim family tries desperately to improve their life and social standing. They can’t help the lot they were dealt, the only thing they can do is try and take advantage of the system that has ruthlessly pushed them down at every opportunity.
They aren’t the only ones trying to game the system: the Parks are not in the clear. They have abused modern Capitalism just the same. They leech off of the backbreaking work of those below them, all the while basking in the comfort they receive as a trade for others suffering. They actively choose to ignore how the other 99.9% lives, as they have the resources, and fortune, to do so.
Though the Parks may try and live in blissful ignorance of the hardships of others, the Kims make this obliviousness impossible for their counterparts in the upper echelon of society. They are said to have a smell, from their sub-basement home, that the Parks say crosses the line of what is acceptable. The literal smell of poverty is unacceptable to those in power, and they are forced to come to terms with the nature of their situation: that there are many less fortunate than them that are exploited for their benefit.
The goal of “Parasite” is to bring forward this division, to make the viewer aware that they, perhaps unknowingly, are feeding this monster of a system. We are all parasites.