Food for the Dogs: Consumption and Wealth Inequality in Bong Joon-Ho's Parasite
Bong Joon-Ho’s film Parasite was remarkable for being a foreign film that took home multiple Academy Awards in February of 2020, making waves for its potent message about class divide and wealth inequality in South Korea. Bong Joon-Ho makes a very clear point throughout the film of emphasizing this class inequality, especially through the production and consumption of food by either party. In this essay, I analyze the ways in which food throughout the film symbolizes the divide between rich and poor, then take these scenes and use contemporary research to further build on how food is a signifier of class and wealth universally. From the Kim family sitting around a small kitchen table eating what looks like food from a vending machine, to using a fruit someone is allergic to as a weapon against them, there is a clear indication consistently throughout the film of food as a signifier of status and class. From this point, I will take this divide and analyze its significance to the modern culture and society of South Korea, then further apply this to its relevancy in a modern United States wherein this current wealth gap is also increasingly apparent. Parasite was a foreign film that flourished in American society—both are countries wherein a capitalist ‘meritocracy’ rules for the most part, and an analysis of the culture around the film will show the ways in which the cultures that consumed this media are similar in their class divides.