“Parasite”: Is the award really the result of woke-washing?


Many still-shots from the film depict the emotional dilemmas the characters regularly face. Source: IMDb.

Braden Moss-Ennis, Opinions Columnist

On Feb. 9, the South Korean film “Parasite” won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, making it the first foreign language film to ever win the award. Most of the public reaction to the results was positive and many expressed happiness with the fact that the film’s win offered representation for the Korean community. However, other viewers have claimed that the film was undeserving, citing the film won merely to satisfy “woke” culture and that an American film should have won. 

  Having watched all nine films that were nominated for Best Picture, “Parasite” was completely deserving of the victory. The biggest win of the night wasn’t the award itself, but the representation which comes with it. 

  Without going too deep into the details of the plot, “Parasite” tells the story of a lower-class family that is struggling to find work until they come across a lucrative employment opportunity.  

 Though the film is South Korean, many of its themes are applicable worldwide. The film looks at the division of social classes and examines how different individuals from these classes view each other. It also looks at unemployment and the many willing, talented, and hardworking individuals out there who are struggling to find employment due to the lack of jobs available.

Still-shots from the film show the stress and fatigue faced by the film’s characters. Source: IMBd.

  The strongest part of the film is its ability to seamlessly weave two very different genres, going from lighthearted comedy to a thrilling drama. Some foreign films’ comedy will completely miss the mark for some viewers if they are not familiar with the culture and its type of humor. However, “Parasite” is one of the few foreign films that offers a comedic approach appealing to all demographics. 

  Another aspect of the film that should be appreciated is that it holds up well upon multiple viewings. While no other viewing can beat the first, one can appreciate the seeds that are planted throughout the film that aren’t noticeable upon the first time watching it. 

  The only real critique of the film is that while it is both cleverly and meticulously crafted, the film does flirt on the line of being too over the top at times. One of the main arguments brought forth by opposers of the film’s victory was that it is unfair for a film to be able to win both Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture. The issue with this argument is that Best Picture doesn’t merely mean best American film, it simply means best movie. 

  Another argument is that the Academy Awards are an America-centric awards show, so the nominees should be American. The issue with this argument is that they seem to have no issue with British-made films like “1917,” which also was nominated for Best Picture. Perhaps, the real issue individuals have is that the film is not in English, so subtitles are required for viewers to understand the dialogue. 

  The director of the film, Bong Joon-ho, discussed this issue earlier in the year at the Golden Globes. 

  “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” said Sharon Choi, translator of Bong’s speech.

  To go one step further, if viewers give more foreign films a chance, they’ll also be introduced to so many other cultures and beliefs. That is why the representation these awards can bring are so important. While some disregard films merely as entertainment, they can also be an introduction to different ways of life and the experiences of others all over the world. Films have an ability to be a device that can connect humans from different continents and show them they are more alike than they realize. 

  While the victory for “Parasite” is exciting, the Academy Awards still require many changes to become a more representative program. 

  In the 92 years that the Academy Awards have existed, only five women have been nominated for directing, no woman has ever been nominated twice, and only one woman has won. No woman of Asian descent has ever been nominated for the best directing award, according to Hollywood Reporter’s Katherine Schaffstall

“Parasite” English film poster. Source: IMBd.

  Other figures illustrating lack of inclusion show only 19 acting awards won by black individuals (two awards each for Denzel Washington and Mahershala Ali), five acting awards won by individuals of Hispanic descent, three awards for individuals of Asian descent, and one award for an individual of Arab descent, according to ABC News’ Deena Zaru.

  Even in this year’s Academy Awards, the acting categories were mostly dominated by white individuals. Only one black actress and one Hispanic actor were nominated out of the 20 acting nominees, according to the Oscars’ website.

  Making sure that nominees are diverse should not merely be an attempt to show inclusion at a bare minimum, but to recognize deserving individuals and let their voices and stories be heard by audiences who they might not otherwise reach.