A Social Justice View on Parasite

Parasite Paints a Stark Social Justice Picture

It’s Oscar season and the nominees for this year have been announced. As always, it is a time for me to hit the cinemas and see as many of them as I can before the awards night. For me, one of the top movies I considered a “must see” was Parasite. First, it is a foreign film. I always welcome being transported to a different place in the world to take in the view from there if only for ninety minutes. Second, it has Oscar buzz. Finally, I kept hearing from people that this movie is about our socio-economic times across the world.

I loved the film — the writing was excellent, the setting incredible, and the interplay between all of the characters compelling.

It also broke my heart. And I mean that literally. I walked out of the film like I had been side swiped by the socio-economic injustice that plagues societies all the world over. It hit me fast and hard.

As a therapist who looks at issues in society from an anti-oppression and social justice lens, this film spotlighted how being poor and being rich and the great divide in between can simply not be breached. Not only that, but people within classes will also cut one another down before helping the other to rise due to scant resources. Parasite does not get to this point with the rich in society, but it certainly also exists alongside the poor.

No jobs, no money, no luxuries, climate crisis that destroys homes and livelihoods – these are all situations that plague the poor in America and beyond. When one such poor family latches on to one rich family – as a parasite would do – now they are able to feed off their crumbs and do a little bit better for themselves. Just a little bit though. They are still living in their smelly, basement apartment and struggling, but some of it has eased.

The rich family is painted as naive and innocent. The mother has no need for sharp wits and is gullible. Having money for her equates to trusting those whom she thinks are more naive than she because they are poor, but the exact opposite is true as they play her like a fiddle to get what they need. I am not so sure all rich people are naive and innocent because of their protection from economic issues.

When these two families begin to interact, it gets messy and smelly. I will leave that latter word for you to gain more understanding when you watch the film – no spoilers here! There are surprises that drive home the divide and tragedy that makes you wonder if social justice can ever be found between the economic classes.

Can the rich give up a bit so that others can do better for themselves?

Can the poor have access to opportunities that do not involve milking the rich?

With the divide ever widening between the rich and the poor in America I am not at all certain that the bridge between can be crossed. It is scary and tragic. The ideas that the movie brought up within me feel like a parasite that has taken hold and overwhelmed me.