Rebecca Liu on Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite

Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019) is an upstairs-downstairs tale of contemporary class inequalities, as a poor and a rich family become close. Bong was interested in this as a premise, according to Parasite’s press kit, because he wanted to examine relationships under capitalism and ask whether peaceful co-existence might be possible within them.i (The answer appears to be a resounding no.) It is only recently that such queries could be received in good faith by members of polite society, who just a few years ago were basking in the afterglow of end-of-history market liberalism, backslapping one another from within their boardrooms about the beauty of endless economic growth and the business “win-win”. Now that this world-that-never-was has come crumbling down, Parasite offers a parable on the rot at the foundations of the proverbial house. What allows these two South Korean families to comingle comes by way of the private tutoring industry, which has given many an underemployed millennial with a lack of other skills some semi-steady work. When twenty-something drifter Kim Ki-woo is offered a job teaching English to the teenage daughter of Mr. Park, a celebrated tech entrepreneur, he jumps at the chance. There is definitely something vampiric – parasitic – about the elite tutoring world, which has grown from being a folksy after-school job to a global $96 million-dollar industry: lease your brains and unspool your unspent promise to our wealthy children, young underemployed graduate, because your future is already dead.

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