Mr. Kim's actions at the end of Parasite were completely understandable.
***MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR PARASITE FOLLOW***
Even amidst a finale full of shocking moments, no scene in director Bong Joon-ho's Parasite comes close to the emotional gut punch of Mr. Kim stabbing Mr. Park. But what exactly led the mostly affable Mr. Kim to snap in such a brutal manner? The answer lies at Parasite's very core.
Parasite's main thrust revolves around the vast class dichotomy between rich people and poor people, as represented by two families––the Kims and the Parks. But more specifically, Parasite explores the deep conflicts that arise from the necessary dependence both classes have on one another in a society plagued by overwhelming stratification.
For the Kim family, who live at the bottom rung of society and are perpetually unemployed in spite of their varied talents and who scrape pizza boxes together to survive, latching onto the wealthy for job opportunities (by any means necessary) is their only opportunity to move up in the world. For the Park family, who live in such resplendent wealth that they can afford any luxury at a moment's notice, they still rely on the underclass to do their bidding––cooking, cleaning, driving, etc. And no matter how elaborately the Kims lie to the Parks, or how nice the Parks might act towards the Kims, the lopsided power dynamic is forever in favor of the Parks. After all, they hold the money, so they always hold the power.
While the Kims and the Parks enjoy relatively amicable relationships with their counterparts––Ki-woo and Da-hye are romantic with one another, Ki-jung is significantly older than and in an authoritative position to Da-song, and Chung-sook mainly stays out of Mrs. Park's way as the housekeeper––Mr. Kim's relationship to Mr. Park as his personal driver is more complicated. Mr. Park holds the most rigid views of class boundaries. He's amicable and friendly to Mr. Kim but quickly shifts to annoyance anytime he feels like Mr. Kim comes close to a conversational boundary (like mentioning Mr. Park's relationship with his wife). Unlike the other Kim/Park family relationships, the relationship between Mr. Park and Mr. Kim could be deemed subtly adversarial.
Of course, Mr. Kim doesn't just stab Mr. Park out of nowhere due to an ill-defined resentment. Mr. Park's murder stems from the build up of a few distinct events.
The first is Mr. Kim's body odor and the unfortunate circumstances that lead him to overhear Mr. Park complaining about it to Mrs. Park. After the mid-movie twist whereby the former housekeeper returns and the Kims lock her and her husband in the underground bunker, Mr. Kim finds himself trapped beneath a table, unbeknownst to Mr. and Mrs. Park while they canoodle on the sofa. During this time, Mr. Park vents about Mr. Kim's scent to his his wife, saying that when they're in the car together, he can't escape Mr. Kim's smell. "People who ride the subway have a special smell," he says.
Then comes the flood during which the Kim's basement apartment in the slums gets overrun by dirty sewage water. After spending the night sleeping in a gym with his children, the Kims need to return to the Parks for an impromptu Indian-themed children's party for Da-song. Immediately after losing everything he owns to the storm, Mr. Kim is forced to silently listen to Mrs. Park lightly muse about how fortunate it is that the rain cleared out the air before their party. Mr. Kim also notices Mrs. Park cover her nose at one point during the drive, likely exacerbating his bubbling anger at Mr. Park.
But the proverbial nail in the coffin comes when, during the party, the housekeeper's husband escapes the bunker and stabs Ki-jung. The shock of the scene causes Da-song to faint, and as Mr. Kim attends to his bleeding daughter, Mr. Park insists that he leave her to help take Da-song to safety. In fairness to Mr. Park, he doesn't realize that Mr. Kim is Ki-jung's father. But at the same time, Mr. Park's blatant disregard for the life of an employee stands in stark contrast to his heightened concern for his own son who's completely unwounded.
It is in this moment, tinted by unimaginable grief and sadness, that Mr. Kim's rage bubbles over––channeling the overwhelming rage of the underclass whose very lives are viewed as less than––and he stabs Mr. Park in the heart.
While Mr. Kim's actions may be brutal and wrong, it's easy to empathize with him. One can only take so much derision before snapping, and when faced with the cold reality of Mr. Park devaluing his daughter's life, Mr. Kim's snap seems natural. History has proven that when the uber-wealthy feed off the poor for so long without ever considering their hardships or humanity, violence will always be the outcome.
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Breaking down the bias of comfort films.
With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.
Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.
Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.
As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.
My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.
Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.
In high school, it wasn't uncommon to use "gay" as an insult or for girls to tease each other about being "lez." While many of us, if asked, would have said we were in support of gay marriage and loved The Ellen Show, being gay remained an undesirable affliction.
Even more insidious, I was instilled with the belief—by my church and my peers—that if gay and lesbian people could be straight, they would. But since they were simply incapable of attraction to the opposite sex or fitting into traditional gender roles, we should accept them as they are as an act of mercy. At the time, this kind of pity seemed progressive and noble. Those in my close circle of family and friends weren't openly dismissive or condemning of gay people, but we saw homosexuality as a clear predisposition with no gray areas.
Specifically: Gay men talked with a lilt, giggled femininely, and were interested in things that weren't traditionally "masculine." Meanwhile, gay women dressed like men, had no interest in makeup or other traditionally female interests, and probably had masculine bodies and features. In my mind, before someone came out as gay, they did everything in their power to "try to be straight" but were eventually forced to confront the difficult reality that they felt no attraction at all to the opposite sex. I viewed homosexuality not as a spectrum, but as a black and white biological predisposition that meant you were thoroughly, completely, and pitiably gay.
As a child, when I began to experience stirrings of attraction for other girls, I would reassure myself that not only had I definitely felt attraction for men in the past, but I also liked being pretty. I was a tomboy as a child, sure, but as I got older I recognized that my value was increased in the eyes of society if I tried to be a pretty girl. As it turned out, I even liked putting on clothes that made me feel good, I liked applying makeup, and I liked some traditionally "feminine" things. In my mind, this meant that I couldn't be gay, because gay women didn't like "girl" stuff.
As a teenager, I began to learn more about the difference between gender and sexuality, and the fluidity of both. I began to let myself feel some of the long-suppressed feelings of queer desire I still harbored.
Still, in the back of my mind, the instilled certainty of sexuality as an extremely rigid thing sometimes kept me up at night. What if I was gay? Would I have to change the way I looked? Would I have to give up some of the things I liked? In my mind, being gay meant your sexuality was your whole identity, and everything else about you disappeared beneath the weight of it.
But then, Santana came out as gay on Glee.
GLEE - The Santana 'Coming Out Scene' www.youtube.com
If you didn't watch Glee, than you might not know the importance of Naya Rivera's character to so many queer young women like myself. Santana was beautiful, she was popular, she had dated boys, she was feminine, she was sexy, and she was gay. There's even evidence that Santana had previously enjoyed relationships with men.
But the character came out anyways, not because she had to or because it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gay, but because her attraction to women was an aspect of her identity she was proud of. It wasn't an unfortunate reality she simply had to make the best of; it was an exciting, beautiful, aspect of her identity worth celebrating.
Before Santana, it had never really come home for me that being gay wasn't an entire identity—that it wasn't an affliction or disorder, but just another part of a person. She also didn't suddenly start wearing flannels or cutting her hair after coming out. She was the same feminine person she had always been. I had never realized that being a gay woman didn't have to look a certain way. Santana and Brittany's gay storyline showed two femme-presenting women in love, and for me, that was a revolution.
If it wasn't for Naya Rivera, we may never have had that important story line.
"It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives," Rivera told E! News in 2011. "So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that."
While Rivera herself wasn't gay (the importance of casting gay actors in gay roles is a separate conversation), she understood how important her character was to the queer community. "There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," Rivera told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."
Rivera wasn't just a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. In 2017, she wrote a "Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community" for Billboard's Pride Month. In it, she wrote, "We are all put on this earth to be a service to others and I am grateful that for some, my Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays may have given a little light to someone somewhere, who may have needed it. To everyone whose heartfelt stories I have heard, or read I thank you for truly enriching my life."
Now, as we mourn the loss of Naya Rivera, at least we can take comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on—that the light her Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays gave us won't go out any time soon.
Excuse me, I have to go weep-sing-along to Rivera's cover of landslide now.
Glee - Landslide (Full Performance + Scene) 2x15 youtu.be
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