Sunday, February 16, 2020

What can we learn from Oscar winning movie Parasite ?

Image result for parasite movie

English Literature in lower secondary school would be more interesting to me if my Literature teacher were to spend more time talking about how to make money and attract chicks.

There's actually plenty of financial inspiration from literary works - In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy value as a mate was tied to his $2000 GBP income from Pembroke estate. If students are taught that $160,000 USD in passive income would make them as eligible as Mr. Darcy, the value of English Literature lessons in Singapore would be much higher today.

I'm not sure what deserves more scorn - English Literature classes in lower secondary school, or the Oscars ? In my entire life, the Oscars has never chosen a respectable Best Picture, skipping movie greats like Inception to classics like Empire Strikes Back or Superman v Batman.

But this year, things are different. The Oscars actually picked a decent movie for Best Picture. 

Parasite is a wonderful riff off Ursula Le Guin's The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas and brutally explores the differences between the rich and the poor in Korean society. To really appreciate this piece, you need to understand the idea from Ursula's work that in every Utopia every  household has a child locked in the home basement and kept miserable so that the household and society can remain prosperous. If somehow this child were to escape, calamity ensues.

Parasite takes it one step further, proposing the idea that there is a basement within a basement and the movie climaxes by showcasing what happens if someone from this deep basement actually escapes. The movie leads to a satisfying conclusion that does not attempt to molly-coddle the audience with a good ending.

As my own literary criticism skills are stuck in Secondary 2 because my teacher could not teach me about making money or hitting on chicks, I am unable to provide that analysis that most RGS-Literature-Goths chicks can give. Reading that may cost your a significant portion of your life-force, instead this is what watching Parasite means to me :

a) The Rich will always attract Parasites

I think the things that freaked me out the most watching the movie is how easily the Rich attract Parasites. In the movie, a parasitical family eventually replaces all the staff supporting the wealthy. This is the same in real life - the middle-class are constantly harassed by commissioned financial advisors and real estate agents. As you climb up the ladder, the parasites change - they get replaced with private bankers and personal shoppers. It also recurses downwards as personal bankers also attract parasites of their own.

( Note : The idea that investment trainers can be considered parasites if they keep finding ways to monetise their students community is not lost on me. I think the movie's greatest weakness is that it did not portray the rich family also as parasites of something even bigger than themselves ! )

b) Tragedy comes from misunderstanding

Another thing that makes me glad is the the rich family was not portrayed as being callous or cruel. This is much unliked the viral Prince Ea videos that always had to portray the evil system as an old, white guy.  The rich in the movie behaved in a human manner, but questioned the lifestyle of the poor and criticised their smell only when they believed that the poor are not listening. In essence, they were less blameworthy than the poor family who had to scheme to be able to leech off their resources.

The real evil was the misunderstanding that comes from class differences. This is the beauty of the movie as even the instant noodles eaten by the rich has to be infused with top class steaks. My own take is that a person's wealth does not have to come with isolation. A millionaire can take public transport and fly coach. I think  with more exposure to ordinary people, it is easier to avoid situations like that in the movie. Conserve the money to solve real emergencies.

c) Compassion is a weakness poor people cannot afford to have

This is the kind of answer that will make the English Literature teacher hate my guts and why one principle I follow is to always avoid being examined on humanities subjects.

An important moral people may refuse to acknowledge is that for the lower classes, they simply cannot afford to be compassionate to others. The tragedy in the movie can be avoided if the parasite family did not grant access to a previous parasite access to the home basement premises.

If you want to displace others in the hierarchy, you need to be totally cruel and block access to the people you have just displaced.

Compassion is something only the wealthy can afford.

Anyway, I hope that some of you would be willing to brave COVID-19 to watch this movie that is still showing in some cinemas.

I will be replicating the Ram-Don instant noodles tonight. Hope I don't end up with Lao Sai instead !




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