• JohnRB
    30
    First, my apologies if this post is better suited to the philosophy of art subsection. My post is about the politics of a movie and so I guess it could go in either subsection.

    Second, I will clearly designate where any spoiler occurs.

    On to the subject. From what I've seen and heard, both by conservatives and liberals, is that Parasite is giving a liberal-sympathetic analysis of class or a critique of the rich, with several jabs at American culture thrown in for good measure.

    After watching the movie last night, that's not the impression that I got and so I figured I would start a discussion here to see if someone can explain what I've missed. My impression is that the movie is subversively conservative.

    Recently there was a thread here that mentioned Rawls' veil of ignorance. I think we should enter into any movie with another kind of veil of ignorance although I'm not quite sure what to call it. ... In this case, let's call it King's Veil of Ignorance.

    King's Veil of Ignorance, as I'm applying it (and I hope this doesn't trivialize his important point which has more significant applications), says we should go into a movie without preconceptions about who the good guys or the bad guys are. We should decide that by the content of their character and the actions they take.

    With KVI, it seems obvious that between the rich family and the poor family, the poor family is clearly the villain. And what motivates their villany? Their envy or lust for wealth (signified by the stone that clings to "Kevin"). A Christian conservative could easily see the entire movie as an illustration of 1 Timothy 6:10:

    "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

    SPOILER

    In fact, the self-piercing of 1 Timothy 6:10 is exactly what came to my mind when I saw the scene of Kevin, who has lost control of the rock, it being used against him to "pierce" his head--although "piercing" is taking some liberty on my part.

    END SPOILER

    The worst that can be said of the rich family is that they are (1) naive and (2) insensitive to the condition of the poor in their midst. But their insensitivity is really, so far as we know within the confines of the film, due to ignorance that isn't their fault. The poor family is deceiving them.

    As for the "jabs" at America, I didn't see anything negative in the references. Possibly something of the movie was lost in translation for me as I don't speak Korean and likely wouldn't pick up on South Korean contextual issues.

    So... what did I miss? Is Bong Joon Ho trying to Make South Korea Great Again by making a movie called "Parasites" that depicts poor people as villains taking advantage of the rich and ruining both themselves and the wealthy in the process?

    P.S. Given how polarized our political discourse is right now I suppose I will add a qualification that shouldn't need to be made: my claim is not that Bong Joon Ho's movie is conservative because it depicts poor people as parasites. (I'm sure some liberals and some conservatives, especially of the internet-engaging variety, would love to make that point.) My final line above is tongue-in-cheek. My point is that what seems to be the theme or lesson" is conservative: envy of the rich or love of money can be a vice that destroys all classes of society.

    ----
    ** Possible Spoiler, Maybe? ***

    P.P.S. Also, if Bong Joon Ho isn't trying to say that the poor are parasites then what is the parasite? The rock. It's the foreign object that clings to Kevin, which he has to get rid of--put it out of human society. And the rock is the metaphor of envy or lust for wealth.
  • Maw
    2.1k
    Also, if Bong Joon Ho isn't trying to say that the poor are parasites then what is the parasite?JohnRB

    The movie shows that under Capitalism, both the rich and the poor are parasites to one another, and that class distinctions are arbitrary. The Kim family are intelligent (they beguile the Park family), and skilled (they quickly become skilled at the jobs they do), despite being poor. The Park family, despite being rich, are easily duped and portrayed as naive and stupid. They are parasites to the Kim family as they rely on them for basic tasks that they are unable to do themselves. The movie ends with Ki-Woo dreaming of becoming rich and successful and saving his father, but this ideal of social mobility is quickly revealed to be a delusion.
  • JohnRB
    30
    The movie shows that under Capitalism, both the rich and the poor are parasites to one another, and that class distinctions are arbitrary.Maw

    I don't see where the movie is critiquing capitalism. Do you have an example? And I also don't see where the rich are depicted as parasitical on the poor. The rich employ the services of the poor family, but how is that supposed to be parasitical in the context of the movie?

    The Kim family are intelligent (they beguile the Park family), and skilled (they quickly become skilled at the jobs they do), despite being poor.

    Since I'm going to disagree with this, in part, I guess I should qualify my own statement that the rich family is naive. In fact, only the wife is depicted as naive. I don't think the movie gives us much to judge the father or two children by. In fact, Park Da-song, the boy, is depicted as discerning in a few ways.

    Are the poor people depicted as skilled? In some ways, but it didn't strike me that the movie was highlighting their exceptional skills.

    The daughter has skills in photoshop, but it's stated that her art theory is just repeating what she read on wikipedia. We are given no indication that she's skilled at the job she's given.

    The father is skilled at driving, but it's stated that he had a driving job before--so I didn't interpret this as quick adaptation the way you did.

    The mother is just cooking and cleaning, no real indication of skill adaptation here either way. One might look to the scene where she doesn't know what a specific meal is that they ask her to cook, but it's hard to really look at this one very confined scene and say this indicates the sort of skill that blasts the effects of capitalism on class status.

    The boy is skilled at English, but it's stated that he took the university exams four times. This is where my ignorance of South Korean society may lead to miss what this means--is he supposed to have failed four times? Then not too smart, apparently. Was it only a practice test? Okay, then he is skilled and when he says to his father that he will go into university next year we can take him at his word.

    There is also a scene which depicts the family, as a whole, as not being too skilled... or at least this is what I heard one liberal commentator say: in the beginning when they are folding boxes, they screw up 1/4th or 1/3rd. There is also the scene of the father who tells the son not to make long-term plans. In fact, delayed gratification is one indicator of intelligence (but I grant that I may be reading too much into this scene to make that connection).

    Hence, the fact that the poor family does what they do (teach English, drive a car, etc) doesn't seem like a sufficiently grounded anchor upon which to hang a critique of capitalism--especially since the movie doesn't link any of this to an economic system. Where is the audience supposed to make the link with capitalism?

    SPOILER

    The movie ends with Ki-Woo dreaming of becoming rich and successful and saving his father, but this ideal of social mobility is quickly revealed to be a delusion.

    Since the movie doesn't show how much time has passed when it's revealed to be his imagination, I didn't take it as "This will never happen." It simply shows us what his dream of the future is, not that his dream of the future is out of reach.

    END SPOILER

    Now I grant that your interpretation may fit more with Bong Joon Ho's worldview. I just don't see any of that communicated on screen. It seems like we have to enter into the movie with a certain set of assumptions, i.e., about why someone is likely to be poor, and map that on top of the movie to before we can get that out of the movie. If we go in with a veil of ignorance, the movie simply illustrates the destructive nature of envy.
  • NOS4A2
    3.7k


    The movie did imply that the poor folk were the parasites, but also that they were bad people. Murder, theft, lying, and even reading the girl’s diary. They were depicted as insects, scurrying like cockroaches when the family came home early. Yes, it never made the poor family out to be noble.

    I’ve been to South Korea and the culture seems to me generally conservative, so I’m not sure if it is a subversively conservative film.
  • JohnRB
    30


    Based on the director's other films, I don't think he is intentionally attempting to communicate anything conservative. In fact, it's likely that he was simply being unreflective about his views on capitalism and he took it for granted the audience would be viewing the film through the same set of assumptions (and I guess they largely did) and so he didn't need to actually tie anything in the film to capitalism.

    But if that's right then, nevertheless, because he took such things for granted, I think he ended up with a movie that leans conservative or that conservatives can appreciate.
  • BitconnectCarlos
    663


    Alright its been a few months since I saw this film so I'll do my best to remember.

    As far as I can remember, the downfall of the poor family began when they attempted to eliminate the other poor couple in the basement. They seemed to be doing fine up until then. In other words, there just wasn't unity with their socio-economic class. Once the infighting began, it all started to unravel. Additionally, the poor family is definitely craftier than the rich family. As mentioned, the rich dad in particular is condescending and especially with that remark about how poor people smell the rich really don't come off well. So yeah - if only class unity could have been established the proletariat could have reached their goals was the message that I remember believing the director was trying to convey.

    I also left the movie unsympathetic for the poor family given all they did.
  • StreetlightX
    6.1k
    The movie shows that under Capitalism, both the rich and the poor are parasites to one another, and that class distinctions are arbitrary.Maw

    :up:

    It's an incredibly naive reading to think that 'parasite' refers only to the poor family, and not - perhaps especially so - the rich one too (to say nothing of the cellar dwellers). One of the great joys of the movie is coming to realize this, the way it kind of slowly subverts your expectations. Also, one of the film's strengths is precisely in not simply casting the rich and poor family along straightforward good/evil lines. The poor family are clearly the protagonists (how the OP can think otherwise is beyond me), but the rich family are not simply 'bad', and the poor family quite obviously have their problems. But the film does a great job in showing how their actions are deeply motivated - and in some manner necessitated - by their class position, and not simply their individual 'moral dispositions' or whathaveyou. In other words, societal structure is foregrounded in a way that undoes any simplistic individualist reading. That's the clear thrust of the critique that the film makes. If there's any notion that 'greed for money leads to tregedy', its very specifically clear that it does so under our specific societal arrangements and that everyone is implicated in this tragedy, rich and poor alike.

    Also, the only people who think this film is anti-American and people who are upset that an English speaking movie didn't win Best Picture.
  • BitconnectCarlos
    663


    It's an incredibly naive reading to think that 'parasite' refers only to the poor family, and not - perhaps especially so - the rich one too (to say nothing of the cellar dwellers).

    In science, a parasitic relationship is one where one group lives off of another and it's harmful to that other group... there's not mutually beneficial. I don't quite understand how the rich family are parasites on the poor one. You'll need to explain that to me. I agree they were quite rude and classist at points, but I don't understand how they were parasites.
  • StreetlightX
    6.1k
    To quote Bong himself: "Because the story is about the poor family infiltrating and creeping into the rich house, it seems very obvious that Parasite refers to the poor family, and I think that's why the marketing team was a little hesitant. But if you look at it the other way, you can say that rich family, they're also parasites in terms of labor. They can't even wash dishes, they can't drive themselves, so they leech off the poor family's labor. So both are parasites." (via the Wiki page).
  • BitconnectCarlos
    663


    They can't even wash dishes, they can't drive themselves, so they leech off the poor family's labor. So both are parasites."

    Yeahhhh that seems like a bit of a stretch to me. Maybe there's a translational issue, but it's just not really making sense to me. It would imply that if I were, say, to pay you $500 to wash my dishes that I would be the parasite. "Parasite" isn't the same thing as useless or lazy.
  • StreetlightX
    6.1k
    I mean he's only the director of the film but yeah sure totally a strech.
  • BitconnectCarlos
    663


    If you're just going to look at it from a marxist perspective then aren't all employers parasites? If he's a marxist or has that kind of weird perspective then sure he can have that interpretation but most average americans wouldn't call anyone who employs a maid a parasite. I don't even know what we're arguing here.

    If this were actually real the rich guy has given that family a huge pay raise and probably taken them out of poverty. But nah he's a parasite.
  • StreetlightX
    6.1k
    I don't even know what we're arguing here.BitconnectCarlos

    Um, you asked how the title could refer to the rich family, and I quoted the director explaining just that. Not sure what you seem to be confused about.
  • BitconnectCarlos
    663


    ok thank you for conveying to me the creative explanation.
  • JohnRB
    30
    the downfall of the poor family began when they attempted to eliminate the other poor couple in the basement. They seemed to be doing fine up until then. In other words, there just wasn't unity with their socio-economic class. Once the infighting began, it all started to unravel.BitconnectCarlos

    Not sure I agree with this. While their ultimate undoing was the other poor couple and how the poor family treated them, it doesn't follow that the movie indicates everything would have been fine otherwise. The scene with the rich family coming home early from camping shows us that the poor family is courting danger by their own actions apart from what they do to the other poor family.

    Additionally, the poor family is definitely craftier than the rich family.BitconnectCarlos

    Craftier than the wife, sure. The movie states explicitly that she is simple. But how can you make this judgment about the other members of the rich family? They are never placed in an situation which would call for them to display craftiness or simple-mindedness.

    As mentioned, the rich dad in particular is condescending and especially with that remark about how poor people smell the rich really don't come off well.BitconnectCarlos

    Agree. But given what I had heard leading up to the film, I was actually surprised that this was almost the only line in the film to indicate to paint the rich family in a negative light qua rich family.
  • Maw
    2.1k
    I'll post a longer response tomorrow or the day after, since I don't have time today, but for now:

    Where is the audience supposed to make the link with capitalism?JohnRB

    What do you expect? A character to turn to the audience and say "this is a movie about Capitalism"? This isn't a Marvel movie.

    The director has stated “Okja, Snowpiercer, Parasite, they’re all stories about capitalism," so that's probably a good indication to start with.
  • JohnRB
    30
    It's an incredibly naive reading to think that 'parasite' refers only to the poor family, and not - perhaps especially so - the rich one too (to say nothing of the cellar dwellers).StreetlightX

    I have to agree with what BitconnectCarlos has said here. It's hard to see how the rich family can fit the definition of "parasitic".

    You try to defend this by quoting Bong, but what Bong says doesn't make sense. To be clear, I'm making a distinction between what the movie actually conveys and what Bong's intentions were. So when Bong says the rich family is parasitic in terms of labor and that they can't wash dishes or drive themselves I have to think both that Bong must not be clear on the definition of the word "parasite" and that Bong failed to convey, through the movie, the idea that the family *can't* do these things rather that they simply don't want or need to do these things.

    One of the great joys of the movie is coming to realize this, the way it kind of slowly subverts your expectations.StreetlightX

    My expectations were subverted in that I went into this movie expecting a leftist message about the evils of rich people, but got something different. But it was definitely a good movie, apart from whatever message it intended or actually conveyed.

    Also, one of the film's strengths is precisely in not simply casting the rich and poor family along straightforward good/evil lines.StreetlightX

    I agree, it's good that the movie doesn't have one-dimensional, black and white villans and heros... But you're talking about an extremely low bar. Even today's super heros movies aren't dumb enough to make that mistake. This is one of the things a movie needs to not be bad, but it's not sufficient to make a movie good or great.

    The poor family are clearly the protagonists (how the OP can think otherwise is beyond me)StreetlightX

    I kind of already explained how they are the villains. Aside from a rude remark of the rich father, the rich family does nothing wrong. In fact, the poor father even says that the rich family did nothing wrong when they first confront the basement dwellers. The poor family lies, steals, and murders (not to mention their display of hypocrisy at trying to call the police on the basement dwellers for doing the very same thing they had been doing) and the audience isn't given any indication that they are forced into their actions.

    Even prior to the whole plot with the rich family, the movie indicates that the poor family is parasitic and bad: they try to get a food delivery guy fired so that Kevin can take his job. Also, Kevin immediately starts to steal the girl that his best friend is interested in.

    But the film does a great job in showing how their actions are deeply motivated - and in some manner necessitated - by their class position, and not simply their individual 'moral dispositions' or whathaveyou.StreetlightX

    Can you explain some more about how the film conveys that, for example, the poor father is deeply motivated or even necessitated to kill the rich father? Because the rich father held his nose at the basement dweller? But go back and watch the scene of the poor family the first time the enter the basement, Kevin holds his nose!

    Or, setting aside the climactic scene, take the initial scene that sets the whole plot in motion. Did "Kevin" need to lie to the rich family and take the job? In the scene prior to that one the food-delivery girl says she will think about offering him a job. So, again, I think the movie fails to establish that these people were deeply motivated, let alone forced, into doing what they did.

    In other words, societal structure is foregrounded in a way that undoes any simplistic individualist reading.StreetlightX

    What? The poor family being poor and the rich family being rich are obviously plot devices. My question is where is there any indication of a deeper critique of something like capitalism?

    If there's any notion that 'greed for money leads to tregedy', its very specifically clear that it does so under our specific societal arrangementsStreetlightX

    Where do you get that in the movie? Can you point to scenes or dialogue?
  • JohnRB
    30
    What do you expect? A character to turn to the audience and say "this is a movie about Capitalism"? This isn't a Marvel movie.Maw

    No, I guess that would be Okja... For this movie I expect people to be able to point to something in the movie and say "It communicates it in the following way..."

    The director has stated “Okja, Snowpiercer, Parasite, they’re all stories about capitalism," so that's probably a good indication to start with.

    Like I said, there is a difference between what we mean to say and whether we successfully communicate that message... intention, perlocution, etc. I already said that I agree with you that your take aligns with the director. So quoting the directors intentions at this point doesn't move the conversation forward. I'm interested in what the movie actually conveys.
  • ZhouBoTong
    837
    @JohnRB@BitconnectCarlos Good stuff :up:

    I would think that, like most art, it just doesn't communicate THE message anywhere near as clearly or obviously as those who love the work suggest it does.

    Pretty much every argument against you has been related to what the filmmaker intended...but your argument is more along the lines of "I know what they intended...I see no evidence that they accomplished that". And no one seems willing to provide details from the film to counter your assertion.

    If this were actually real the rich guy has given that family a huge pay raise and probably taken them out of poverty. But nah he's a parasite.BitconnectCarlos

    Just to add a little balance and argue against you for one point...Isn't the director really suggesting we are ALL parasites? I get that "parasite" is very extreme, but they may just be pointing out that we all rely on each other. All of us who are part of society rely on many other people (many of whom we have never met or never will), Parasite may just be emphasizing this reliance using a weak parasite metaphor? I still agree with most of your analysis though.
  • BitconnectCarlos
    663


    Isn't the director really suggesting we are ALL parasites? I get that "parasite" is very extreme, but they may just be pointing out that we all rely on each other.

    I don't feel comfortable extending his conclusion that far. I just don't think he's saying that all workers are parasites. I can't imagine he'd portray a man who makes an honest day's living as, say, a manual laborer as a parasite. Then there's people who just work for themselves who'd fall outside the scope of what he's saying here about parasitism. The poor family here was quite pernicious.

    If we go back to the director's quote: "But if you look at it the other way, you can say that rich family, they're also parasites in terms of labor. They can't even wash dishes, they can't drive themselves, so they leech off the poor family's labor. So both are parasites." - He seems to be saying that wealthy families who employs maid and drivers are parasites..... it doesn't make a lot of sense.
  • ZhouBoTong
    837
    I don't feel comfortable extending his conclusion that far.BitconnectCarlos

    Very interesting, as I am leaning toward counting that as a premise more than a conclusion. Perspective really changes things, haha.

    I can't imagine he'd portray a man who makes an honest day's living as, say, a manual laborer as a parasite.BitconnectCarlos

    Well they sure do leech off the doctors every time they get sick. And don't forget the way they just pile all their garbage on the curb once a week and expect the trash people to pick it up. Yes, I am exaggerating for effect...but doesn't this seem like the type of perspective the creator of this film may have had?

    Then there's people who just work for themselves who'd fall outside the scope of what he's saying here about parasitism.BitconnectCarlos

    Unless they are off the grid and 100% self sufficient, I think they still "rely" on other people. While reliance is not parasitic, I believe that is the leap the creator is making (not that he made a movie that impacted me in any way other than mild interest mixed with mild boredom).

    The poor family here was quite pernicious.BitconnectCarlos

    I definitely agree that they commit the more immoral acts in the film (both in quantity and severity). That is why I say the rich people parasite thing is more of a premise than a conclusion - and as you and JohnRB have pointed out, if it is a conclusion it is VERY POORLY DEFENDED BY THE FILM. Boon Joon and those who enjoy the film have already accepted that rich people are part of the problem. It doesn't matter that they don't do much that is immoral in the film, they MUST have done immoral deeds in the past or they would not be rich (I do not really believe this...maybe to a very limited extent - but it seems a clear premise of the film). Also throw in the Jesus perspective, and they are immoral for holding onto their wealth instead of giving it all to the poor (again, an extreme perspective).

    If we go back to the director's quote: "But if you look at it the other way, you can say that rich family, they're also parasites in terms of labor. They can't even wash dishes, they can't drive themselves, so they leech off the poor family's labor. So both are parasites." - He seems to be saying that wealthy families who employs maid and drivers are parasites..... it doesn't make a lot of sense.BitconnectCarlos

    I agree this is nonsense. Are the rich people actually incapable of washing dishes? Or have they decided they really don't like it so they would rather pay someone else? The director's use of "can't" instead of "don't" shows the warped perspective he is coming from (he seems to actually believe the rich CAN'T wash dishes or drive cars. Does he also believe that rich people CAN'T drink tap water? All evidence shows they never do it, so it must be the case that they CAN'T :roll:).
  • SophistiCat
    1.4k
    If you're just going to look at it from a marxist perspective then aren't all employers parasites?BitconnectCarlos

    But of course, that is one of the ideas that is lurking in the background: the unearned privilege of the upper classes. You don't need this to be speechified in the movie, nor do you need the director explain it to you afterwards. One doesn't come to a movie an innocent bank sheet; we have all been exposed to such ideas; whatever your particular take on them, you can at least recognize the obvious cues.

    But there are also more subtle (well, actually, not that subtle), non-verbal cues that communicate the idea of the innocent parasitism of the rich that puts one in mind of Wells's Eloi.
  • StreetlightX
    6.1k
    Without responding point by point, I do agree that much of what happens to the rich family is undeserved (yet the real question is about the structure and distribution of deserts to begin with). I also agree that the Kims were conniving, pernicious, and, at least in the fathers case, murderous even (but yet again, the real question is structural: how and why is morality engendered in the way it is, in the film?).

    But to say this and leave it at that is to (1) ignore entirely the cinematic elements of the movie and remain inadequately at the level of sheer narrative; and (2) ignore, as I said, the utterly obvious societal positions that inform the actions of the characters (which in turn is why the film - to anyone with a half-developed cinematic eye - acts as a commentary and critique of the existence of those positions, and their pernicious effects).

    --

    To begin with the second point (2): there's no doubt that the Kims are hustlers and will do almost anything do improve their lot. But this takes place against the backdrop of their terrible living conditions: they have shitty/no wifi, drunks pee outside their window, their house gets fumigated, etc. Their desire to improve their lot and their conditions of living cannot be treated in isolation, the one informs the other, and if you try and treat their individual actions without taking this into account, your reading of the film will be absolutely stunted. This doesn't excuse their behaviour, but it certainly informs and motivates it. It is, as people everywhere have been quick to recognise, core to the film's critique.

    This, in turn is contrasted with the exorbitant privilege of the Parks, whose needs are expressly not that of just survival, but of sheer excess. Without pointing out the obvious, it's clear their approach to the world is similarly informed by their position in life. The mum says it outright!: "She's nice because they're rich... If I were rich I'd be nice too - even nicer!". The ultimate confirmation of this 'structural' reading is of course the discovery of the man in the basement: not only was he (and his wife, the ex-helper) in a very similar position to the Kims, they too, are driven to do what they do by their terrible position in life. It's no mere coincidence that their lives are so parallel: this kind of thing is pervasive - it's happened before! That's part of the mixture of tragedy and comedy of the movie (Marx: "first time as tragedy, second time as farce"), where the whole situation is both incredibly sad - considering the lengths people are driven to to survive - and hilarious.

    A quick note, too on substitutability: not only does Mr. Kim 'substitute' the basement dweller by the end of the film, but so too is the entire film based on the substitutability and replaceability of the working class. Each member of the Kim family literally substitutes for a former worker, in a way that couldn't make the class dimension of this film any more obvious: we're not talking about good and evil, but structures which homogenize people along class lines. If not the Kims, then someone else - in this case quite literally another family (or couple, rather), in their place, sharing the same class predicament. Given the substitution of Mr. Kim in the basement and the arrival of a new German couple in the house at the end of the film, one can even imagine the cycle of substitution perpetuating indefinitely...

    -

    So the attempt to treat the characters' actions apart from their social conditions - and in turn, to not see the film as a critique of those conditions - is belied at every point in the film. This brings me to the first point (1), regarding the film's cinematic quality. Bong is on record expressly characterising the film as a "stairway movie", in the vein of a series like Downton Abby and it's precursor Upstairs/Downstairs, all situated in a genre well known to be social commentary. This is cinematically marked by the literal living orientation of the two families: The Parks live "down", their house is in an alley at the bottom of a giant stairway, while the Kims' house is up a hill, up a set of stairs. These spatial orientations are themselves markers of societal difference, brought out expressly in the storm, where the Parks' house floods, and the Kims watch the storm from the serenity of their living room, while their child - in yet another mark of utter privilege - 'goes native' in his little tent in the garden. Significantly, the Kims are not alone in their predicament, their entire neighbourhood ends up in emergency accommodation in a stadium(?). This is a story that goes well beyond mere individuals acting in 'good' and 'evil' ways - a reading reductionist beyond all filmic evidence.

    The second cinematic element to take into account is simply the fact that the story is told from the Kims' perspective! It's their successes and their failures which the movie tracks, and it's filmed quite obviously in such a way that we (are meant to) root for their successes and feel badly about their failures. Their eventual success at 'replacing' all members of the previous help is quite clearly filmed as triumphant (the sequence where they frame the previously maid is positively celebratory at the end), and the tension as they hide under the table is nail-biting because we are quite obviously hoping that they are not discovered. Then there's the fact that Bong goes to great lengths to humanize the Kims: we spend time with them, see them joke and laugh with one another (most obviously at the beginning of the film, and then again when they are luxuriating in the living room while the Parks are away). The contrasts in disposition between the Kims and the Parks are obvious too: the relationships among the Park family are cold and formal - even the sex is awkward and anything but passionate - while the Kims' relations' to each other bustle with warmth and joy. That anyone could think the Kims are meant to be villains is plainly ridiculous.

    --

    So some lessons to draw here: First, this is not a morality tale. The accent is heavily on social position, foregrounded everywhere throughout the film as informing action, which makes the film a political and not moral play. The Parks and Kims are, to a great degree, representative of class, and the tragedy that unfolds as much a commentary on the tragedy of class relations as it is the actions of individual people. Second, those who are looking to see the film portray the rich as 'evil' or 'immoral' and then faulting the film for not showing this ought to themselves be faulted for setting up false and unwarrented expectations that have nothing to do with the film and then complaining when those expectations are not met. The fault here is bad film comphrehension, and not bad cinema. The Parks' being overtly 'immoral' and 'deserving' (of what happens to them) would make the film worse, not better. It would make the story revolve around individual action, personalizing the story and undermine the fact that what matters is not 'who' the Parks are but, as it were, 'what' they are. It would undermine the story that Parasite is trying to tell.

    The same applies mutatis mutandis, to the Kims. Their desperation and the lengths they are willing go to is essential to the story: their being more morally pure would not make us 'side' with them, but also undermine the critique of class relations that the film is attempting. Those who think that Bong is not successful because the Kims are 'villians' (thus, presumably, not making us identify with them) miss the point entirely. It's almost as far from the point as one could possibly be. What they 'want' the film to show is exactly what it aims to resist: the personalization of class conflict. That 'the rich are part of the problem' is not the point. That a class structure exists in which there are distributions of polarized rich and poor to begin with at all, however, is (incidentally, this seems to be a point that many critics of the left seem incapable of understanding). The rich could be angels, the best people in the world. And still the critique of class would hold.

    Anyway, this was fun, I don't usually spend so much time on posts, but you asked for analysis rather than generality so there you go :)
  • Maw
    2.1k
    I'll post a longer response tomorrow or the day after, since I don't have time today, but for now:Maw

    Well I think @StreetlightX summed it up nicely and better than I would have, so I won't waste my time.
  • JohnRB
    30


    Thanks for the detailed explanation. I won't bother going piont by point either, because I think I would end up making the same point over and over since you keep making the same move over and over: you import marxist or leftist assumptions about classes and structures that simply are not conveyed in the film itself. Rather than go through your entire post, point by point, I'll just respond to the first several points and in this way you can see where I find your entire methodology misguided.

    But I can't help but think that this is playing out like the scene of Kevin and the rich wife staring at the painting. Kevin says "It's a chimpanzee, right?" and she responds "It's a self-portrait" and Kevin stares as if its profound and says "Amazing!" Objectively, the painting actually looks more like a chimpanzee than a self-portrait. If people need to import the artist's assumptions into the work, that's fine, but at some point there's a bit of absurdity to the whole thing of "Oh, yes... profound."

    the real question is structural: how and why is morality engendered in the way it is, in the film?StreetlightX

    The problem is that your explanation is external to the movie. In order to come away with this, we need someone like Bong Joon Ho standing by the way the rich wife stands by Kevin looking at the painting.

    Now maybe it's misleading or unfair to say this is a "problem"--I don't want to get into philosophy of art in that way. If someone wants to interpret the movie the way Bong Joon Ho most likely intended, that's fine. I don't have a problem with that.

    My point is that the movie doesn't convey these ideas, the same way Da-song's painting doesn't convey Da-song.

    (1) ignore entirely the cinematic elements of the movie and remain inadequately at the level of sheer narrativeStreetlightX

    The cinematic elements are underdetermined for the interpretation you want to give them.

    (2) ignore, as I said, the utterly obvious societal positions that inform the actions of the charactersStreetlightX

    Again, the social position of the Kim's is underdeterminative for the actions of the characters.

    (which in turn is why the film - to anyone with a half-developed cinematic eye - acts as a commentary and critique of the existence of those positions, and their pernicious effects).StreetlightX

    I have to admit this line is what brought to mind the Kevin staring at the painting scene.

    But this takes place against the backdrop of their terrible living conditions: they have shitty/no wifi, drunks pee outside their window, their house gets fumigated, etc. Their desire to improve their lot and their conditions of living cannot be treated in isolation, the one informs the other, and if you try and treat their individual actions without taking this into account, your reading of the film will be absolutely stunted.StreetlightX

    But the interpretation I gave doesn't require ignoring this. (Perhaps I didn't mention their being poor in my original post, but that's because I was viewing it as implicit to their envy.) And the fact remains that their being poor is underdeterminative for the actions they take. One could only arrive at the idea that the actions determined by their condition if they bring in something external, like dialectical materialism, to the film. But it isn't in the film.

    This, in turn is contrasted with the exorbitant privilege of the Parks, whose needs are expressly not that of just survival, but of sheer excess.StreetlightX

    Again, your over-interpreting the movie. The movie doesn't depict the Kims as being in a state just survival. Wifi is an excess, not necessary for survival. The Kim's don't have wifi and yet they act like parasites looking to latch on to someone else's excess.

    So what the movie actually conveys is not the Kims acting like parasites in order to survive, but acting like parasites in order to have more excess.

    Your use of the term "privilege" will also be misleading, since that is a key-term that carries a lot of baggage among the left and that isn't touched on in the movie.

    Without pointing out the obvious, it's clear their approach to the world is similarly informed by their position in life. The mum says it outright!: "She's nice because they're rich... If I were rich I'd be nice too - even nicer!".StreetlightX

    You see, when I heard that line I didn't think the audience was supposed to agree with it. And agreeing with it would, frankly, be absurd. If being rich is a sufficient condition for being nice, what explains Donald Trump :)

    Joking aside, I simply go back to the same point: the movie doesn't indicate that this line is supposed to be taken as accurate. (And frankly, any external philosophy you'd need to bring to the movie to assume it is accurate strikes me as navie.)

    Also, I don't think you're just over-interpreting the movie, but that at some points you're misinterpreting the movie. For instance, you mention the fumigation scene. This occurs not because of some class or structural problem--it's because the father intentionally leaves the window open.

    etc. etc.

    I will end by saying that I find you dichotomy between politics and morality to be false and oddly out of sorts with the entire motivation for a leftist critique of class and the like.
  • NOS4A2
    3.7k
    I think Bong Joon Ho also contrasted the effects of climate change on the rich and poor. When the river flooded and the rains started, the result for the Parks was a mild inconvenience—having to leave a camping trip earlier than desired. But for the Kims it was disastrous, flooding their home and neighborhood.
  • JohnRB
    30


    Another great example of how it seems some are unable to not view things through their assumed lense.

    The movie makes no mention of climate change. We might as well assume that since the flood doesn't play a major factor in the movie, the movie must be telling us that climate change won't be a major issue either. Since the family is only temporarily displaced by the flood, Bong Joon Ho means to communicate that climate alarmism is false.
  • NOS4A2
    3.7k


    Another great example of how it seems some are unable to not view things through their assumed lense.

    The movie makes no mention of climate change. We might as well assume that since the flood doesn't play a major factor in the movie, the movie must be telling us that climate change won't be a major issue either. Since the family is only temporarily displaced by the flood, Bong Joon Ho means to communicate that climate alarmism is false.

    I was trying to see it through Bong’s lenses rather than my own, considering his past films. It seems obvious to me that the flood was referencing the floods of 2014. But your take that it is a subversively conservative film, isn’t this your assumed lense? That might be the point of Bong’s all along.
  • StreetlightX
    6.1k
    I'm happy to leave it at that then. I doubt we're going to agree over this, and I don't think you've read what I've wrote particularly well.

    I will say though, the flood is there to quite obviously depit the differential effects of a weather event like that between classes.
  • BitconnectCarlos
    663


    What do you think of my idea that the inability in establish class unity was the downfall of the poor family?
  • StreetlightX
    6.1k
    Yeah I think that's absolutely a thing. The characters in the basement themselves even make appeals to their shared class position (I can't remember the exact lines) when each is threatening to expose the other. Apparently, this is a theme in Bong's films, where he explores different formations of class solidarity (this great vid is where I got that from). But yeah, it's another case where Bong attends to the viciousness of class, and how being poor and being in shitty positions engenders even more shitty situations.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.