Parasite against Hollywood xenophobia

The Golden Globes welcomed Bong Joon Ho’s comedic thriller, Parasite, as the winner of the Best Foreign Film title last Sunday, marking an astonishing achievement for the first Korean film in the award show’s history. 


This addition to the South Korean film’s massive list of successes, which are defined by its Palme d’Or win at the Cannes festival in May of 2019, the film festival’s most coveted award and its worldwide box office total of 129.7 million dollars (Forbes), among other notable achievements, paves the way for an inclusion of and higher appreciation for foreign films in Western culture. 


The film is based on an impoverished family, the Kims, as they manipulate their way into lucrative positions around the affluent Park household through elaborate and comedic schemes. Though the premise seems lighthearted, there is a point where the plot turns tragically against the destitute protagonists and launches the audience into a horror-filled depression that leaves viewers speechless. 


This blatant attack on the xenophobic view that Hollywood holds regarding its stingy nature in its favor for foreign films certainly brought attention to the issue. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, xenophobia is defined as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” Debilitating laziness and general lack of interest have more or less degraded the concept of foreign films in the eyes of the public.


“Even though I think reading subtitles is kind of distracting, that iconic quote at the Golden Globes actually motivated me to watch more foreign films,” junior Samantha Mansueto commented. 


While accepting his first Golden Globe, Bong commented, with the help of his translator, Sharon Choi.


 “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,”Bong said.

Indeed, the genius feats of directing by Bong, which include a mastering of light technique that illustrate the dichotomy between the darkened Kim basement and the airy Park mansion, might have been forsaken only for the obstacle of subtitles. 


It is not only for the common language of brilliant directing but also for the inherent Koreanness the movie possesses that highlights the need for American attention.  For example, the reference by Ki Jeong to the popular Korean children’s rhyme or the laborious artificiality of politeness demonstrated by high society among other aspects contribute to the overall tone of Korean culture. 


Nonetheless, the alien aspects of a culture unknown to Western society demand to be seen and heard as Bong suggested at the Golden Globes in his comments. 


“When I was watching Parasite I definitely could see the emphasis on the culture, like some scenes and imagery that are very much Korean in their nature,” junior Yemie Woo said. 


This exposure to different scenes of Korean life and culture in foreign films such as Parasite is of paramount importance to the average American. Bong wants to see Westerners acclimated to the culture of the East instead of staying rigidly inside of restricting cages that dictate the popular movie of awards season mania. 


Many of Bong’s fans hope for an Oscar nomination for the film that has been sweeping previous award shows; a nomination might further Bong’s cause in popularizing foreign films in America and create a path for up and coming foreign directors hoping to find success in their native languages as Bong victoriously accomplished.