How the Movie ‘Parasite’ Confronts Native Stereotypes
Although director Bong Joon-ho wants to expose naivete toward Native American history, the representation is unevenly handled
Editor’s Note: This piece contains movie spoilers.
Everyone is talking about Parasite. For weeks, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances who know I’m into movies would excitedly ask, “Have you seen Parasite?” then give a disappointed sigh when I answered with a polite, “No.” It wasn’t until a few pals asked how I felt about the use of Native American imagery that the film really caught my interest. The first time this occurred, I paused. I hadn’t seen any trailers or read any reviews so I had no clue what Parasite was even about but I definitely wouldn’t have guessed that there would be any mention of Native Americans in a South Korean thriller.
Now that I’ve seen it, I get the hype. Parasite’s plot focuses on two families, the Parks and the Kims: The former is extremely rich while the latter is overwhelmingly poor. The Park family is gullible yet wealthy, making them susceptible to the unfortunate Kim family’s clever scheme to take over their lifestyle. The Parks are not only ignorant to hardship but they detest it, complaining about everyday tools utilized by the working class, such as public transportation, while the Kims huddle around in their tiny basement apartment, hoping to leech a Wi-Fi signal off a nearby neighbor. Since its release, Parasite has won the Palme d’Or — the top prize — at the Cannes Film Festival, received incredibly positive reviews, and broke box-office records worldwide. This globally successful blockbuster proves that the entire world is hungry for a clever critique of social issues, especially surrounding the class experience.
One major symbol that Bong places in the film to illustrate the absolute ignorance of the upper class is the young Park boy’s obsession with what the film calls the “American Indian.” As Da-song runs around the Park’s home, he wears a cheap replica of a Native American headdress and shoots arrows all around, while imitating a war chant. His mother explains that he has a “fanboy personality” and probably inherited this obsession with Native culture from his Cub Scout instructor, who is also a fanatic…