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Less money, more problems

/ 04:58 AM January 28, 2020

Watching Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” made me realize two things. One, subtitles are worth it. Two, eat the rich.

The Korean director’s recent opus has acquired a “go into it blind” notoriety, because that’s the absolute best way to watch it. In a nutshell, “Parasite” is the tale of two families, one poor and one rich, intertwined for a moment when the poor Kim family infiltrates the rich house by slowly replacing the employees of the Park family. Mayhem, comedy, and lots of walking up and down stairs ensue.

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“Parasite” ends with our main character vowing to buy the house he has lived in under the nose of the rich family by earning enough money. On paper, it’s a sweet and optimistic ending to such a tense film. Watching it, though, is a completely different ballgame as the feeling of dread sinks in. How much money does that house cost? Can he really earn enough money for it? Would I be able to earn that much money, too?The answer to the first one is, a lot; the answer to the last two is a resounding, generations-old “No.” Enter social mobility, or the lack of it. Social mobility is the movement between social classes of individuals or groups within a society. In the film, social mobility can easily be represented by the “scholar’s rock,” a gift by a family friend of the Kims that brings material wealth to them. In the flood that wipes out everything the Kims hold near and dear, the rock floats, hollow, without any real deeper substance to it. It’s a fake. Social mobility is possible; the problem is that it’s becoming harder to achieve.The whole point of the movie’s ending isn’t that the son is going to buy the house back; the point is that he won’t be able to. No matter how hard they try, they can never get the subway stench off them. As the film’s credit song says, it’s going to take them 564 years to take the house back. According to less lyrical and more research-based sources, it takes at least five generations for an individual to move up the social class ladder. That’s more realistic, yet not at all helpful.The film is rich with meaning and substance pertaining to the topics of social class and the divide between rich and poor. The film’s sentiments, and pondering on such issues, echo struggles faced by Filipinos in the past, in the present, and inevitably in the future. Under the Marcos regime, the Philippines saw rich families and cronies thriving, oblivious of and untouched by the brutality brought upon those in less than ideal circumstances and those who fought against the government assault on the masses. Generations down, the descendants of these families not only throw their hat in the ring, they also continue to stand behind the Marcoses and their ilk. Nowadays, Mayor Isko Moreno is the talk of the town, evicting street vendors from their only livelihood due to the trash they bring along. But the fight isn’t rich against poor; the rich couldn’t care less. It’s a war at the bottom of the food chain to see who gets to climb up first.

Social mobility is survival of the fittest, while the wealthy merely watch. The bane of poor people’s existence equates to mere inconvenience to the rich, and the only way up is some help from the top.

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Rich people don’t need social mobility; why would they? The only way to go when you’re at the top is to the bottom, and the more people on top, the more likely some of them will get knocked down the chain. The whole film sees the one-sided class war of the Kims’ savvy in integrating themselves into the rich household, and the Parks, oblivious to their surrendering to the Kims. Ultimately, the Parks still win, not because they are smarter, but because the Kims would meet their match in the other parasites that exist in the house.Ultimately, “Parasite” is the envelope for a message, twisted yet true for all walks of life, especially in times like now. For people like the Kim family, the battle up the food chain rages on. For people like the Park family, it’s just another weekday.

—————Francis Ampil, 16, is a Grade 10 student at the ‍‍

University of St. La Salle-Integrated School.

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TAGS: “Parasite”, Bong Joon-ho, Mayor Isko Moreno
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