Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate systemic inequities drawn along racial and socioeconomic lines,1 we may turn to the arts as a means of escape—or as a point of entry. Parasite, the 2019 social thriller from South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho and winner of Best Picture at the 92nd Academy Awards, provides a unique study of class-based inequities, viewing wealth and poverty through a topographical lens.
The film portrays the slow-motion collision between the destitute Kims, who at the film’s start reside in a Seoul semi-basement under harsh fluorescent lighting, and the affluent Park family, who live in a hilltop mansion with open access to sun and sky. We witness the Kims’ attempts at upward movement, in an early scene by reaching toward the ceiling in search of a public Wi-Fi connection, then by strategically—and mostly underhandedly—supplanting the Parks’ entire household staff to gain access to their resources and elevated status. Bong referred during production to Parasite as his “staircase movie” and indeed, staircases are a central motif, representing the bidirectional freedom of upper class mobility while constraining the lower class to perpetual descent. Not only do the working classes have further to climb; they must start at the proverbial bottom each day.
Identify all potential conflicts of interest that might be relevant to your comment.
Conflicts of interest comprise financial interests, activities, and relationships within the past 3 years including but not limited to employment, affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speaker's bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment, or patents planned, pending, or issued.
Err on the side of full disclosure.
If you have no conflicts of interest, check "No potential conflicts of interest" in the box below. The information will be posted with your response.
Not all submitted comments are published. Please see our commenting policy for details.
Hu NY. Who Is the Parasite?—COVID-19 and Structural Narratives of Health Inequity. JAMA. Published online December 21, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.21450
Create a personal account or sign in to: