FILM

Yes, "Parasite" Is Even Better Than You've Heard

Bong Joon-ho's Parasite is easily the best movie of the year, and probably of the decade, too.

NEON

In all my years of studying and watching films, I've never come across anything quite like Bong Joon-ho's Parasite.

Parasite is one of those exceedingly rare movies that seems to exist beyond categorization. It's a satire, oftentimes a very funny one. It definitely could be called a thriller, full of incredible twists that feel both surprising and earned. But at its core, Parasite might also be deemed a tragedy or even a dystopian nightmare, at least to the extent that our modern society has become dystopian for its underclass. It's a movie that stays with you and makes you think long after the credits roll.

Spoilers follow, so for anyone who stumbles upon this without having already seen the movie, I'll simply say that Parasite is a near-perfect film, easily one, if not the best, of the past decade, and you'd do best to go in blind and form your own opinions.

Parasite movie NEON

***SPOILERS BELOW***

Parasite is the story of two families in Korea, the Kim family and the Park family, who are separated by a rigid class divide. The Kim family is representative of "dirt spoons," a recent slang term in Korea for people born into poor families with little hope of social mobility. The family of four––father, Ki-taek; mother, Chung-sook; daughter, Ki-jeong; and son, Ki-woo––live in a cramped basement apartment in the slums where they scrounge for bathroom corners with unprotected Wi-Fi access and fold pizza boxes to barely make ends meet. Both Ki-jeong and Ki-woo are incredibly smart––Ki-jeong is talented at graphic design and Ki-woo is fluent in English––but neither have the means to afford any further education.

The Park family lives in stark contrast, inhabiting a gated mansion atop a hill overlooking the city. Mr. Park works a high-paying tech job. Mrs. Park spends her days lounging and snacking on fancy foods, tended to by her middle-aged housekeeper, Moon-Gwang. The Park children, teenage daughter Da-hye and younger son Da-song, are free to pursue their studies and creative interests.

Parasite NEON


The families meet through a stroke of fate when Da-hye's English tutor, who also happens to be Ki-woo's childhood friend, recommends Ki-woo as a replacement before he travels abroad. Ki-woo lands the gig (with the help of his sister's graphic design skills to forge college documents), and after finding Mrs. Park gullible and easily swayed he begins the process of worming his family into the Parks' lives. First, Ki-jeong becomes Da-song's art therapist. Then Ki-taek becomes Mr. Park's driver. Finally, the Kims manage to oust Moon-Gwang and insert Chung-sook as the new housekeeper.

Bong Joon-ho is no stranger to directing movies that tackle class divides. His 2013 sci-fi action film, Snowpiercer, placed the rich and the poor in brutal opposition aboard a fast-moving train in a post-apocalyptic world. But in Parasite, Joon-ho takes a far more subtle approach to morality. The Kim family are clearly doing antagonistic deeds, not only lying to the Park family but also sabotaging the other lower class people whose positions they want to usurp. At the same time, even though the Kim family is arguably "bad," and not even necessarily likable, our full understanding of their severe poverty leads us to empathize with their actions and even root for them.

Meanwhile, the Park family remains sympathetic, too. Joon-ho could have easily made the wealthier family into cartoon stereotypes, but they're not. Mrs. Park, especially, is an incredibly good-natured employer. "They're rich but still nice," Ki-taek says to his wife.

"They're nice because they're rich," she replies. This sentiment seems to reside at Parasite's very core: Can we truly condemn the dubious actions of an oppressed underclass when the social hierarchy gives them very few alternatives?

The Kims' plan starts to unravel after Moon-Gwang, the ousted housekeeper, returns with a secret of her own. Like the Kims, she, too, had been taking advantage of her position with the Park family. For years, she had been harboring her homeless husband in a secret bunker beneath the Park home. By taking away her job, the Kims completely destroyed the lives of her and her husband. So upon discovering the Kims are related, Moon-Gwang threatens to expose them to the Parks in order to reinstate her position.

With this twist, Joon-ho illustrates how even though the major class divide is between the rich and the poor, it oftentimes plays out through in-fighting amongst the poor over scarce resources––in this case, jobs. While the Kims obviously took advantage of the Parks, they never actually hurt them (at least up until this point). They did, however, actively destroy Moon-Gwang, another poor person just trying her best to make ends meet.

In the ensuing struggle over Moon-Gwang's cell phone (with evidence of the Kim family's relationship), the Kims accidentally kill her and proceed to trap her husband in the bunker alongside her corpse. Moon-Gwang's husband's hatred and psychosis grow, culminating in his escape during Da-song's lavish birthday party, during which he attempts to kill the entire Kim family. He bashes Ki-woo's head with a rock and stabs Ki-jeong. Chung-sook manages to kill him, but not in time to save her daughter. Da-song faints amidst the chaos, and Mr. Park demands that Ki-taek drive them to get help without any regard for Ki-Jeong. Ki-taek snaps, murdering Mr. Park in a burst of oppressed rage.

Ultimately, Parasite ends in tragedy. Three families are destroyed. The Kims are split apart––Ki-jeong dies, Ki-woo survives with brain damage, and Ki-taek locks himself away in the underground bunker. Moon-Gwang and her husband are dead. The Parks flee their family home, minus the father.

Historically, ruined lives are always the end-game of vast income gaps, and nobody is truly safe as long as such inequality exists. The movie ends on Ki-woo devising a plan to become rich and buy the former Park house, so that his family can be together again. He fantasizes about this plan from the tiny, basement apartment in the slums where he now lives with just his mom. We know his plan will never come to fruition.

In Parasite, Joon-ho's paints a reality that, in a fairer socioeconomic climate, would have been entirely avoidable. Ki-woo and Ki-jeong would have been able to attend college––they were both more than capable––and bring their family up in society. Parents wouldn't need to fold pizza boxes just to make ends meet, and the wealth gap between rich and poor wouldn't be nearly as vast. But alas, in the world as we know it, the Kims' only hope of moving up in the world was to become parasites, and in doing so, they bled everyone else dry. Then again, when a family like the Parks can live so high on the backs of people so poor that they can't even fathom their struggles, maybe the Kims weren't the parasites after all.

5/5

Cats are polarizing. Non-cat people vehemently despise the entire species, readily listing the wrongs done to them and loved ones by felines. Meanwhile, cat people feel just as strongly, and are ready to tell you all the ways their cat is smarter, better, prettier, and more fun to be around than you'll ever be. But whether you love them or hate them, you have to admit there isn't anything much better than a funny cat video. So you don't have to waste your time filtering all the non-cat content out of your newsfeed, we've compiled a list of our favorite funny cat videos.


Keep Reading Show less
FILM

In Defense of Mr. Kim's Actions at the End of "Parasite"

Mr. Kim's actions at the end of Parasite were completely understandable.

Mr. Kim

NEON

***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.

parasite mr park Mr. ParkNEON

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.