‘Parasite’: insightful critique of wealth, celebrity privacy

Joon-Ho's masterpiece makes history, first foreign film to win Best Picture

The Oscar-winning movie “Parasite,” by filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho is well worth its raving reviews and remains, in my mind, a phenomenal movie. Its subject matter cuts right to the heart of the economic class division in South Korea, in a way that appeals universally to income disparity worldwide.

I honestly feel bad for those who are wealthy and affluent. And, I feel only pity for the rich and famous. Because you lose something when you reach your dreams and live on top of the mountain of your achievement; this separates a person from what it is like to actually live. Failure gains a new connotation when it is no longer synonymous with homelessness or poverty, as wealth becomes a safety net to correct mistakes.

Not to say that money is a bad thing — far from it. Money is necessary for exactly this reason, beyond meeting our basic needs money frees us to live fuller lives, pursuing individual interests. But money has a price to itself as well, in that extreme realm of the celebrity where privilege is lost for privacy.

In our reality, there are things a celebrity will never have. The chance to walk down the street, go to the store. Ride a bike, even be in a public place. Funny, that our most public figures can’t use public spaces. If they did, they’d be mobbed by fans for pictures or autographs. The phenomenon is like a reply to the old retort, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” That when a thing becomes available to everyone is precisely when someone will come along to break it. Hence, we break the people we follow.

So a celebrity will never have that love of a stranger meeting a stranger and talking of something inconsequential. The weather, an object of curiosity in the surrounding, only that it be something besides themselves. Having a world not interested in them, because once fame digs its fangs in, there is no going back beyond losing exactly what it has bitten.

And so celebrities will continue to pay more and more to give themselves the security that they lost in their anonymity. Ironic, that the more influential a person becomes the more they have to spend to put a facade over the fact. Money, what comes with fame and success, becomes a necessary commodity to maintain a barrier between the celebrity and the pedestrian. Similarly, an economic line is drawn when this occurs, one that distinguishes the wealthy individual from the lower class. Hence, a type of elitism is born.

As part of this elitism, the ultra-rich are no longer able to interact with others in a peer-to-peer environment. A celebrity loses that similar connection that can come from people with a similar history or background. As Chung-sook says in “Parasite”: “Rich people are naive, no resentments. No creases on them. It all gets ironed out.

Money is an iron.” With the increasing gap between the rich and poor in South Korea and other nations abroad, the wealthy class disconnects from its poverty-stricken, lower-class neighbors.

With wealth you don’t need to be nice — you can be a pretentious and arrogant and people will still love you for your money. And yet for the wealthy people who are nice, I can only think of the freedom that money gave them to be that way. A “plan B,” where if they were faced with tragedy they could still grin and bear it for remaining financially unaffected by the loss.

Nobody plans for complications or stumbling blocks, and yet they happen. Misfortune can happen at any time — storms, earthquakes or floods. In natural disasters alone, without a financial safety net, the lives of the people affected by these events are devastated. Imagine: a man has a heart attack at the wheel of a car and smashes into an oncoming car. If you’re the oncoming car, how can you plan for that event? You can’t, and so the only argument that holds sway is to say that nothing matters. In the words of the impoverished father in “Parasite,” Ki-taek, “With no plan, nothing can go wrong. And if something spins out of control, it doesn’t matter.”

At this point, the film industry as a whole leaves me feeling jaded. Between the viewers who become obsessed with artists and their work, and the wealthy class of individuals that cannot blend into that viewership for their cult-like following, it paints a crass picture of the economic disparity on both ends.

Simultaneously, Allegheny College sponsored a concert featuring Bryce Vine for its student population this month, to rousing student applause and widespread community approval. In our upper-class climate, it’s seen as money well spent.