Parasite (2019) is a world-renowned film, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture and Palme d’Or. However, it presents an interesting philosophical outlook that is worth analyzing, especially as it relates to pervasive societal issues and inequality. The purpose of this post will not to be to give a summary of the movie but to discuss the philosophical background behind the film and the themes it concerns.
The main philosophical issues displayed in the film are class conflict, social inequality, and wealth disparity. As the film progresses, it is easy to notice how capitalism and the exploitation created by it affects the film’s constituents in a variety of manners. The hell unleashed within the film reflects the lived reality for many people in South Korea as they grapple with the crisis of home affordability, high rates of youth unemployment, the intense demands of pursuing higher education, and the increasing socio-economic gap between the wealthy and poor. Yet, it’s silly to say that these problems are unique to South Korea. The United States as well as a multitude of countries around the world struggles with the same issues regarding capital.
The name “Parasite” itself can be connected to Marxism and Marx’s critique of capitalism. According to Marx, “The capitalist… is only capital personified. His soul is the soul of capital. But capital has one sole driving force, the drive to valorize itself, to create surplus-value, to make its constant part, the means of production, absorb the greatest possible amount of surplus labor. Capital is dead labor which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.” Thus, capitalism acts as a parasite as it “sucks the living labor” out of their vitality.
There has also been discussion of the themes of colonialism and imperialism within the film. These themes are intimately tied to capitalism as the need for money and acquiring capital can be tied to infiltrating foreign countries for raw materials and markets. Family members owning Native American-themed toys and the colonial occupation of Korea both demonstrate this claim about colonialism, becoming intertwined within the daily lives of the Park Family.
Finally, the importance of working-class solidarity becomes heavily emphasized in the film. The lack of class solidarity between the Kims and the Geun-sae and Moon-gwang proves to be troubling for all. Without solidarity, it will be impossible to tackle these large economic issues that demand our attention in the years to come.