This piece is about my experience watching Parasite, and why I think it's an important movie.
The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the world is divided. Not by opinions, race, or religion, but by wealth. The gap between the haves and have-nots is widening, and the less fortunate are prevented from even approaching the ladder of success. A new aristocracy is emerging, where the rich hold all the power, and the poor are reduced to fending for themselves.
Parasite embodies this stark reality with its portrayal of the social and economic divide in modern society.
The huge, luxurious mansion furnished with expensive pieces and lavish amenities like swimming pools, theaters, and gardens owned by the wealthy Park family is where the majority of the story takes place. Compared to the small, dark, and cramped semi-basement apartment that the Kim family lives in, the Park palace looks like it comes from a different world. But this is not a foreign concept. Our society has two spheres as well. One where a small minority of wealthy people have the majority of the power, and another where the huge majority of poor people struggle to survive.
The destitute Kim family’s attempt at tricking their way into the Park family’s home parallels the American dream of opportunity, a desire to ascend one’s socioeconomic conditions. But their eventual failure at the hands of another poor family vying for employment parallels the death of this ethos. What was once presented as a game of hard work and perseverance is revealed to be about the simple luck of being born to the right family with the right connections. The notion of anyone being able to achieve wealth is revealed to be pure myth. The rich focus on preserving their fortune while the poor struggle to maintain their basic needs.
The violent struggle between the Kim family and the former housekeeper in the Park family basement represents the desperate fight for survival and upward mobility that characterizes the lives of many people living in poverty. The wealthy Parks, meanwhile, remain blissfully unaware of the conflict taking place at their address, but 30 feet below, as they enjoy their garden party without a care in the world.
While Parasite is a South Korean film, it nonetheless speaks to the relevant issue of wealth inequality in the United States. It is a microcosm for the dehumanizing struggles of the poor, and the clueless, carefree conditions of the wealthy. For this moment in history, Parasite highlights the aspects of class in our society that we are too close to to truly acknowledge.
It doesn’t have any A-list actors, huge explosions, prolonged fight scenes, or any of the other concomitants of big-budget blockbusters designed solely for financial gain. But that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t bother with retaining viewers through flashy effects because it has a thought-provoking story that resonates with today’s audience, an audience seeking equality in an era where it is disappearing.
We are becoming increasingly aware of the growing disparities between the wealthy and the poor, and Parasite encourages us to question the systems that perpetuate this unfairness. The movie's blockbuster success speaks to this societal moment. In the face of growing inequality, we are a generation that is becoming more socially conscious and politically active, demanding stories that reflect our values and beliefs. Parasite is not just a movie; it is a cultural milestone that signals a shift towards a more aware and equitable world.