Sunday, November 17, 2019

Parasite is Great: Massive Spoilers


It’s been said that human civilization is only nine meals away from anarchy. That sounds like a thesis statement for Parasite.

Parasite is ostensibly the story of how a poor family gloms onto a rich family, and in one reading of the story, bleeds them dry. There’s another family that’s living in the rich family’s house, and this family too bleeds the rich family dry, right? The poor are the parasites, QED.

Except that’s not what really happens. Bong Joon-ho doesn’t seem to like capitalism or the ultra-wealthy, and he draws a very clear distinction between normal, everyday people and the ultra-wealthy.

The Park family has a beautiful home, seemingly happy family, and servants to meet their needs. It’s not that they’re more hardworking than other families, as the wife does nothing. The daughter doesn’t get good grades. The son is a wild child. They’re nothing special, but because the husband has a company, they have a lot of money and can live a life of complete leisure.

The son’s big “trauma,” for example, is that he saw a ghost when he was small and then had a seizure. The daughter’s big problem is that she’s not good at English. These are not big problems. Everyday people run into these problems all the time, but they have very little in the way of support to solve them.

The Park family, however, has money for drivers and money for tutors and limitless resources for art therapy. Even with two families under their roof, they never worry about not having enough food or wonder why their electric bill is so high.

Meanwhile, the Kim family actually does work hard. The daughter is an accomplished artist who’s so good that she can forge documents and teach art therapy without being licensed. The son is smart enough to pass as a university student and English teacher. The mother is gifted enough to throw together a meal on eight minutes notice that she’s never heard of. The father is skilled enough as a driver to look at a BMW at a dealership and understand how it works. He knows the roads and can corner with ease.

Meanwhile, the previous driver and housekeeper all have skills of their own. They’re respectful and good at their jobs. They’re the kind of hard worker you would be proud of. Even the housekeeper’s husband who’s trapped in the basement of the home works, acting as the “sensor” that turns the lights on and off for the house.

Yet, they’re all fighting over scraps. They’re fighting over the same couple of jobs, the same food resources and even the same living space while the Parks have an overabundance.

For the Kims and the housekeeper, just one chance to momentarily bask in having a nice house and a moment of peace in the sun is a moment they’ll cherish. For the Parks, it’s just another day.

Much will be made of the shocking ending of Parasite, with its bloody, horrifying end, but we see that for the home, nothing really changes. Another ultra-wealthy family moves in, the world keeps turning, and the poor are still on the rim, hoping for a big break.

Especially heartbreaking is the end. The father sends a letter out, hoping that his son will see it. If we recall, the last time he saw his son he was lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood. The father’s gesture is so futile-seeming that it’s a miracle the son has seen it. The letter he writes back will never reach his father. He will never be able to buy that house and rescue his father. For people on the bottom, class mobility is fleeting and comes at great sacrifice.

For the Park family, they’ll be fine. Yes, the father is dead, but they have money. They have power. They have the ability to get better and move past this awful, awful tragedy. They’ll never understand what they did to these people because they simply can’t. This is just what they do, and they can’t understand why people would be upset.

A parasite is something that comes to a host, draining its resources of every drop of strength that it has, then moves on to the next host and repeats the process. They’re not evil, they just are.

Bong’s argument isn’t that the poor are the parasite, it’s that the wealthy are. They take the resources that could go towards making things better. They have so, so much and the people on the bottom live in shit-covered basement apartments. The wealthy use those people, spit them out and find another few bottom-dwellers to use. Rinse and repeat.

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