Muse Reporting on the arts and culture

The common sin of the rich and poor

Media | The movie Parasite is popular for some of the wrong reasons
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 1/24/20, 04:53 pm

Celebrities love the independent film Parasite despite its less-than-flattering portrayal of the rich. Actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Laura Dern and directors Jay Roach, Noah Baumbach, and Rian Johnson have shown up at awards season parties to meet Bong Joon Ho, the movie’s South Korean director.

“I’m such a fan,” Johnson, who directed Star Wars: The Last Jedi, told The New York Times. “I even awkwardly introduced myself to him on an airplane once.”

Bong’s latest Korean-language film tells of the collision of two families, one effortlessly affluent and the other exhausted and poor. It opens on a Dickensian note with the young adult Kim Ki-woo going to work as a tutor for the wealthy Park family. But unlike in a Charles Dickens novel, poverty does not make one a saint in Parasite, nor do riches make one a sinner.

The film won the highest honor at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and is nominated for six Academy Awards, including for best picture and best director. Many reviewers have described it as a story of class struggles, but the movie goes deeper than the conflict between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”

In a pivotal scene, the impoverished Kim family lounges in the living room of their employers, the wealthy Parks, who are on vacation. While sipping their bosses’ expensive liquor, the Kims weigh their appreciation of the Parks’ benevolence against their resentment of their seemingly unearned fortune.

Mr. Kim sizes up Mrs. Park, saying, “She’s rich but still nice.”

“Not ‘rich but still nice,’” his wife responds. “Nice because she’s rich, you know? … If I had all this money, I’d be nice too!”

The rest of the movie dives deeper into the question of how much one’s circumstances define one’s character and vice versa. Each family member faces his or her own moment of decision and has to live with the consequences.

Bong pays Hitchcockesque attention to tension-building details. But unlike so many other modern movies that make you think, watching Parasite doesn’t feel like work. It’s rated R for language, themes, violence, and one sex scene.

Each character in Parasite shares the flaw of being unable to see the inherent value in others. Their relationships fall apart as soon as one person stops being useful to the other one. Maybe that is why the movie’s indictment of selfishness and greed sails over the heads of some celebrities. The transactional culture of Parasite is so familiar to them that they don’t view it with a critical eye. But the conflict in the movie is more than just a cute game of cat and mouse that ends in disaster. Parasite shows the horror that can happen when people stop treating each other like people and start treating each other like things.

Associated Press/Photo by Kathy Willens Associated Press/Photo by Kathy Willens Actress Annabella Sciorra (left) leaves Manhattan Criminal Court after Harvey Weinstein’s trial on Thursday.

Weinstein’s reckoning

Jurors in New York heard testimony this week from one of the actresses who accused Harvey Weinstein of raping her. Annabella Sciorra, best known for playing a mob boss’s mistress on The Sopranos, described how Weinstein forced his way into her apartment one night in 1993, held her down on the bed, and assaulted her.

Sciorra did not go to the police at the time because she did not understand the definition of rape, which she thought of as only a random, back-alley attack. “I thought he was an OK guy,” she said. “I felt confused.”

Six women are scheduled to testify at Weinstein’s trial, though prosecutors have only charged him with assaulting two of them. Statute of limitations laws have forced prosecutors to get creative in how they present charges against alleged serial abusers. The four other women at Weinstein’s trial will testify in an attempt to bolster the believability of the two main victims by showing that the accusations follow a pattern of behavior.

That tactic worked in the second trial of comedian Bill Cosby, at which the judge allowed testimony from five more accusers in addition to the victim in the case. Cosby’s first jury could not reach a verdict, but the second one declared him guilty. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office will also use the approach in the misconduct case against actor Cuba Gooding Jr., who is charged with groping three women. Two additional women will testify about their experiences with Gooding at the trial, a judge decided this week.

Meanwhile, after Weinstein’s trial wraps up in New York, he will face additional charges of rape and sexual assault in Los Angeles. —L.L.

iStock.com/Nastco iStock.com/Nastco

To catch a predator

As parents realize virtual-gaming puts their children in real-life danger, Microsoft is feeling the heat.

In multiplayer games such as Fortnite or Call of Duty, players compete or collaborate with strangers over the internet. Estimates vary widely, but in the United States, about 28 percent of the 211 million gamers are 17 years old or younger. Most girls (83 percent) and nearly all boys (97 percent) play video games at least occasionally, the Pew Research Center reported.

Child predators use these multiplayer systems to befriend, groom, lure, and assault young players. Last year, police arrested a 41-year-old Floridian for allegedly abusing more than 20 children whom he met and targeted online. “These virtual spaces are essentially hunting grounds,” cyberpredation expert Mary Anne Franks told The New York Times.

Xbox maker Microsoft on Jan. 10 launched Project Artemis software that monitors all conversations within games that use it and recognizes those consistent with an adult grooming a child. Once it flags a danger, the program alerts a human who then reviews the conversation to determine whether to alert authorities.

Microsoft is leasing the patented technology to Thorn—a nonprofit group dedicated to fighting online sex predators—which is making it available to online service companies at no expense.

The FBI labels as “sextortion” the exploitation of others online for sexual purposes. It’s so common that no software can be a panacea. While the tool alone can’t make multiplayer gaming safe, parents hope it can at least make it safer. —Dustin Messer

Man knows not his time

This week saw the deaths of two classic entertainers. Nashville songwriter and musician David Olney died Saturday from an apparent heart attack while performing at a festival in Watercolor, Fla. Olney, who was 71, released more than two dozen solo albums and wrote hits for Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. Terry Jones, one of the stars of the British comedy group Monty Python, died the same day as Olney from a rare form of dementia. He was 77. —L.L.

Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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