I saw this brilliant film last weekend. I spent some 2,000 bucks (net-net) on watching it. There was good company and some fancy food involved along the themes of “oh, I work so hard I’ve earned it”. But there was something else going for it. Parasite is a film that has – apparently – bested all of Hollywood paraphernalia this year at the Academy Awards. And old habits die hard: You think if the Oscar likes it, it must be good.
And it was. You see a creepy trend of Hollywood swiftly running into the arms of dystopian thinking, attitude, even art [Why say ‘even art’? – I’ll come back to this later I promise]. Since Hollywood thinks it makes the highest form of art, which is just as well for Hollywood, Hollywood knows it must be true, and so imagine Hollywood’s shock that someone beat Hollywood at its own game and raised the bar. For Hollywood.
Hollywood was left awed and amazed in a much publicised moment at the Oscars – a moment that we were, at last, privy too. It has infected us all, which is the very purpose of the Oscars. A sort of a proliferation platform for ideas that Hollywood props up for us to like, admire, buy into, because wherever goes Hollywood, marketers follow. This time though, that idea is dystopia. It’s one thing to want more of feminism, freedom, education, equality. It’s quite another to want dystopia.
The film’s protagonist is a whole family whose entire talent and enterprise is a concentrated form of con art. They’re talented and enterprising, let’s give them that. They’re poor, however, very grudgingly so and they don’t very much like it. They like working hard even less and working honestly even lesser it appears. Don’t think me biased and judgemental, the film allows you enough sunlight. It’s very documentary-ish in that way. Stealing neighbour’s wifi, lying and scheming to get jobs, cheating others out of their jobs, forgery, you name it. The depiction of it all is quite witty, however, so you can’t help but be entertained and think: wow, how smart!
So this lovely family of four living out of a dirty, grubby basement cons another lovely family across town, housed in a legacy designer home, all swanky, shiny, and posh. And that’s what’s pathetic about them. How dare you.
How dare the rich mom love her kids and want them coached in their school curriculum and expect them to perform well. How dare she live in a big house with a housekeeper, chauffer, and a successful husband. How dare they all have their personal rooms and effects, how dare her little boy be a ‘special’ child and need more focused care. How dare they dress so well, look so well, travel and try to enjoy their lives, while the grubby ones are left with playing nothing but con.
So the grubby four con the posh four. In the process, they push out their chauffeur, housekeeper out of their jobs and take their place. You can see later that the housekeeper they’d pushed out of work is no better off than they. They brought no compassion to her when they had the chance to, by the way. They end up killing her. And her husband. Not for the job. But out of spite. Yes. Lovely story. Extremely entertaining.
The idea probably is that life is a zero sum game as long as you must fight for a place, be it in the society, job market, etc. Now why won’t someone just hand us out a swanky home, car, wardrobe, girlfriend (s), latest gadgets…? It’s probably another way for a dystopian anarchist to say “why won’t you just love me?” And we, the audiences, must empathise with them. Because this sham of someone having a better idea, a better organisation, a better way to live, a better culture, a better upbringing, has just gone on too long and it must be dismantled. It must make way for true transformation. Like the posh four’s poor old down-in-the-dumps housekeeper was replaced by the mother in the grubby four through a con. And what a transformation it was.
A drunken brawl late in the night, where the grubby four were trespassing the posh four’s property, resulted into a fight that sent two people their bloody deaths.
Still, we, as audiences, should know that none of this would have happened had the posh four not existed as posh. It’s their poshness that drove these six people to fight. Had the posh four not been posh, would they have had the need to hire the grubby six? Had the posh four not been posh, would the grubby six have needed employment?
I quite doubt it.
Had someone not invented how to create a fire, would we all have had the need to cook or hire one?
No. Blame the guy who did want to live better. And did.
As far as Hollywood is concerned, it takes the place of the posh four for a large majority of us. We’re the grubby six. So HollyWOULD send us down this little piece of ‘Parasite’ to tell us that they empathise with us. And that should we feel like conning others, or even killing , then they’re letting us know that it’s cool to want to do so. A Korean director has managed to shoot their message even better than their locals and that’s all quite well because Hollywood can be magnanimous too. Unlike the posh four in the movie, who, apart from giving people work and paying them timely, and respecting them and inviting them to their kid’s birthday party, can do no more.
“You should have loved me more”… you can almost hear in the echo.
If Hollywood had their way in real life, the posh four should give up their homes to the grubby six and live like the grubby six. But since they can’t do that and make these movies – because, silly, making movies takes money, looking good takes money, hosting the Oscars takes money – they’ll leave that job to their elected politicians. But, they will help the politicians market their ideas better. Through films like parasite.
And because there’s something so hateful about wanting clean clothes and smelling good – a big point in the film, if you have / have not watched it… The posh dad so hates the way the grubby dad smells. But he doesn’t kill the grubby dad. The grubby so hates the way the posh dad hates the smell of a man who’s been holed up in a basement for 2 years, he kills the posh dad.
Finally, hiding from law and society, when the haze settles and the grubby ones decide they’ve had enough of their enterprise, the son has a letter from the father, who tells him how much he loves him and the son decides he’ll work and make money and one day buy the house.
No one will tell Hollywood that a parent’s love is not only about saying the words but rather toughening it out, teaching their kids to learn to steward their lives productively, with values and all that is so boring in the old, conservative world of the yore. Before all the rave parties became a thing.
The confetti falling around Parasite will not let anyone see that the son finally has to come around to accepting the idea of working hard to make money to buy the house. The exact same thing that the Posh dad must have done. He probably had some advantage but well, one must accept life the way it is if one wants to make something of it.
Anyhow, Parasite is a black comedy and so political overtones and undertones are to be laughed at. It’s just a film, it’s entertainment.
You see, in the same vein, if you played advertisements from the early 60s and 70s with their blatant racism and sexism, that wouldn’t be marked black comedy.
Well, know this, dear marketing gurus, and politicos, and I daresay Hollow-as-wood but you guys don’t matter when it comes to profundity; any communication has a purpose. And a film is a form of communication. Your purpose behind Parasite is a despicable one.
Your work would be art if it could uplift and inspire to do better, brought solace to lost souls, helped the young find a better way.
You are the parasite here. You feed on a society causing harm within, attacking its integrity. It’s a black comedy alright.