My partner and I finally watched this award-winning, international box-office, most-talked about film from 2019. However, unlike Jhois, I watched it from a clean-slate. I have no idea what it is all about. I haven’t read anything about it either. I have this idiotic hunch that this is maybe another sci-fi film which is fixated on aliens of some sorts because of its title. I think this is a good place for me to start as each scene unravels before my eyes.
I’d like to start with this quote which is very pivotal in appreciating the entirety of this film. We think that Bong Joon-ho is brilliant in placing this at the start. We think it is a subtle way of preparing the audience not to take everything that they see literally. Each scene has a symbolic attribute that you can have fun scrutinizing on for an in-depth appreciation. Here are the emerging themes we’ve perceived by far:
One: Quarreling with one another because of a problem at hand, creates additional problem for everyone to solve.
There is a loving tenderness from the wife while waking up her husband due to the absence of a wifi signal (a crucial economic component to the Kim Family). Her husband’s worth is not based on how useful he is to her or to the family. She simply loves him regardless of wherever he is in his life. Most wives would hurl disheartening comments by nagging their husbands on top of their lungs, holding dearly their contradicting intention of motivating them better to look for high-paying jobs. Husbands are objectified as mere financial providers and not perceived as human beings who also experience different life phases or crises, too. As a domino effect, the children show reverence to their father (Kim Ki-taek) which also overflows to their mother (Choong-Sook). Despite the impoverished condition that they are all experiencing, pointing fingers to one another won’t solve anything. There are life circumstances that are beyond our control and as the film progresses, we learn that the shutting down of the Taiwan Cake Shop has brought the family’s income to bits. It’s not a choice that their father can choose from, isn’t it? It just happened at a snap of the Owner’s finger tips (not Kim Ki-taek’s nor the other employees’).
Two: Not everyone has as many choices as you have. Some just cope with the only thing available right in front of them.
Before you label the Kim Family as a bunch of freeloaders chasing a password-less wifi, perhaps it is best to ask ourselves what available options do they actually have. Some self-righteous people would probably feel a hint of disgust which basically reflect the privileges that they hold. Having choices to choose from gives anyone a sense of control and power. Life becomes a malleable and easy-to-mold clay at the palm of your hands because you have a multitude of choices to pick on. If you are poor, chances are your choices are down to zero. Let’s cut them some slack, shall we?
Three: Real bonding happens in the most trying times.
Picture-perfect photos of reunions in the most scenic spots posted on social media are probably the icing on the cake of a relationship. Real bonding – the core of it all, whether it is familial, friendships, romantic, professional or communal is a by-product of everyone’s togetherness in the most difficult times. There is an undeniable soothing feeling of healing and renewed strength in coming together while working through the bumpy roads of life.
Four: Not all external influences are beneficial to personal growth.
I think Jhois and I are both old-fashioned and by that, I mean we prefer teaching our child by ourselves. If we cannot commit a full-time tutelage, at least we can participate half of it in a blended-learning context. The non-attachment or full delegation of parents in shaping the minds of their children to their tutors, also closes doors of opportunities in knowing first-hand the struggles that their children encounter. As their primary caregivers, it’s better to know your children through your time spent with them and not only based from the feedback of their secondary caregivers. Inasmuch as the results (grades) are significant, the process of getting there is also of equal value.
This also comes in parallel with placing enormous value for tutors who have earned Western recognition compared to those who are considered as their “finest homegrowns”. The Park Family believes this setup gives a strong foothold and a- step-ahead academic and social influences to the future success of their children. Colonial mentality is piercingly transparent here, wherein the Western World becomes a universal aspiration for status quo and supremacy. When tackling about life’s goals, most people are either talking about moving to another country or planning to do so. There is an insidious peril over time when we allow others to define what is superior and what is not.
This kind of mentality is deeply embedded in our society. We wonder whether as a race, we find it difficult to say no and create boundaries (not because we are extremely accommodating or hospitable, come on) but just because we have been conditioned long before by the colonizers that our role is to merely follow. If you do, you’ll be safe (in order to survive their regime, of course). Perhaps, some of the things we perceive as undesirable in ourselves (physically, behaviorally, etc.) are the generational recorded criticisms from Westerners which our ancestors powerlessly conceded into.