[Marxism] Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Parasite’ Stops Short of Class War | The Nation

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Nov 5 17:55:30 MST 2019

Here, then, is where Parasite takes us: not to the ledge of class war 
but to a shrug over inequality. The parasitic family members of his film 
have embraced a long con because the system itself is a con. Yet their 
suffering, in housing and work, is rationalized by their vulgarity and 
unscrupulousness. The rich family’s lifestyle, meanwhile, is never 
questioned. What bothers Bong is not the fact of poverty and unjust 
distribution; he only wants our social arrangements to feel a bit 
kinder. Never mind that a truly mixed society would demand slicing off 
the extremes.

This is not to plead for agitprop. Bong is too good a filmmaker for 
that. It’s simply to temper our political expectations of Parasite. If 
anything, his earlier movies offered more in the way of straightforward 
social critique. The Host, for instance, which introduced him to Western 
audiences, is a monster flick partly about American militarism and 
environmental crimes. Caricatures of capitalism and state power run 
through Snowpiercer, a postapocalyptic allegory set on a segregated 
train, and Memories of Murder, based on an unsolved string of real-life 
rapes and killings in a rural area of South Korea. (Last month, the 
police announced that they located a likely perpetrator in that case.) 
These films put humor and overstatement to more provocative use.

South Korea’s best filmic interpreter of class and social inequality is 
not Bong but Lee Chang-dong, who made last year’s elegiac Burning as 
well as Poetry (2010) and one of my all-time favorites, Peppermint Candy 
(1999). But Lee is too understated to draw the kinds of audiences that 
Bong can. Asked about his hopes for Parasite, Bong said that it “is in 
parts funny, frightening, and sad, and if it makes viewers feel like 
sharing a drink and talking over all the ideas they had while watching 
it, I’ll wish for nothing more.” Which ideas does he have in mind? 
Inequality, betrayal, and a kind of we’re-all-doing-our-best 
both-sides-ism are most apparent. The film doesn’t push us further—to 
mull Korea’s crisis of affordable housing, discrimination against the 
poor, fetishization of English and Western commodities, and glut of 
overeducated, underemployed youth driving the parasitic family’s scheme.

full: https://www.thenation.com/article/parasite-bong-joon-ho-review/

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