Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite has garnered traction both critically and in popularity due to its wit in the storytelling of two families exploiting one another for their benefit. On the surface level, the film acquaints the viewers with questioning who the real ‘parasite’ is throughout. Yet, it guides us to conclude that it is foremost a depiction of class struggle, inequality, and of power of privileges where hard work is not the ultimate key to a better life.
Such an idea is already quite undeniable given that the story ends with a frustratingly realistic portrayal: the son dreams of not only buying the house that their former bosses once occupied but also the freedom of his father trapped in the basement. But, unknowingly slapped with the reality that it would take him 564 years before he could purchase the same property (as mentioned by the director in an interview), the movie reaffirms wealth inequality.
Given the overview of the theme, it is not absurd to call the film dystopian, which according to the Cambridge Dictionary, relates to "a very bad or unfair society in which there is a lot of suffering..”. Often, we hear this word represented in sci-fi movies of a future society in distress, but given such a definition, it is still appropriate to call it one as its meaning does not depend on a time frame, and inequality is heavily preached in the movie.
The only questions are: what other parts of the movie hit such a message of dystopia home the most, and what makes such a depiction reflective of our society?
In the last 30 minutes of the plot, the Kis (poor family) infiltrated the house of their bosses, taking advantage of the emptiness as the latter were on a family trip. With the owners (the Parks) arriving prematurely than the intended schedule due to the heavy rains, the infiltrators hurriedly exit not only to get away from being caught but also to check up on their own house. Arriving with their basement flooded, the family strived to save their items in any way they could despite the gravity of the damage. In the fight against a natural calamity, the daughter sits on their toilet lid to stop the sewage from leaking, yet unsuccessfully doing so.
What hits the message of dystopia being realized in Parasite is the direct yet brilliantly tucked emphasis on the level of impact of climate change on society, especially on differing socio-economic classes: the crisis of the climate affects the rich and poor differently. A factor of a great movie is the story’s ability to reflect its theme and message upon reality and our humanity as said by video essayist, Evan Puschak. Such a statement holds this movie in its clutch.
While the rich wife, Yeon Kyo (played by Cho Yeo Jeong), remarked that the rain was a blessing in disguise as it made the skies blue, thousands of people lost their homes to the same rainwater. Unaware that as she carefully chose what to wear from her walk-in closet, and spontaneously grabbed items from the grocery aisles, people were fighting for clothes and resources where the Kis evacuated. It visualized such emphasis by using it as a depiction of inequality and unfairness, leading to a society in utter distress.
And these scenes are quite literally not only realistic according to numerous research papers such as S. Nazrul Islam’s and John Winkel’s (2017) on the correlation of Social inequality to Climate Change or books by Sharon Harlan, David Pellow, and others entitled Climate Change and Society: Sociological Perspectives in the section called Climate Justice and Inequality (published in 2015 and edited by Riley Dunlap and Robert Brulle) but we can collectively agree of its accuracy according to what we have experienced currently in the last few years.
During Super Typhoon Yolanda and the recent tropical storm Paeng, thousands of families were distraught as they lost their properties and their assets from the floods and winds. Perhaps it is taboo to mention that while we may not only have an unequal share of trauma and grief, we also have experienced the difficulty of arising from the situation unequally. A part of the population may have the capability to quickly tap into critical resources during those times, but a larger portion of our communities lose their only available assets with no other backup. While some may deem the recent rains and past super typhoons as distressing, others may see it not only as that but also traumatizing financially, emotionally, physically, and mentally. All of these are unashamedly replicated and depicted in Parasite.
Unfortunately, with 2030 being the deadline for flattening carbon emissions before greater catastrophic events occur intensified by the climate crisis, the similarities of the story and our reality will soon meet nearer than already currently. The dystopia of our reality will be exacerbated. Parasite (2019) would no longer be known in the future as a highly celebrated movie nor be used as a case study for analyzing our reality. But rather, it will be known as a depiction of our past, a reminder of what was once our reality, and an avenue to ponder upon what we could have done when there was still time to act.