Film Response Response #1 – Parasite (2019)

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In an effort to practice my current-day teaching of understanding counter-arguments, I found a review by an unimpressed individual named John Tamny, whose platform, a web site previously unknown to me–RealClearMarkets.com (hereafter RCM)–provided him space to dispel his explanation of what makes Bong Joon-ho’s 2019 Parasite “overrated…nonsense.” 

Notably, Tamny contextualizes his disdain for the fictional narrative of the film around the real-life Korean economy of the past seventy years. Citing the forlorn condition of South Korea at the middle of the twentieth century, Tamny sneaks in a few complimentary passages about the once war-torn country, and he flexes his academic muscles by citing someone named “One US official” who evidently once predicted that “Korea can never attain a high standard of living” due to its inept citizens. Tamny concludes this highly researched anecdote by deflating One US official’s prediction, noting for the reader that smart-tech companies LG and Samsung have been key components to South Korea’s unexpected economic success.

Evidently remembering that he was writing a film review, Tamny then shifts the focus to Parasite, the South Korean film that  in his highly intellectual opinion was a “longshot but trendy pick” to win the Academy Award for Best Picture later that week. Prefacing his cavalcade of implausible plot points, Tamny reminds us that a South Korean film earning an Oscar nomination is itself a “reminder of how politicized everything’s become.” 

In his explanation of how Ki-Woo is lucky to know someone who wants him to substitute as an English tutor, Tamny’s fingers probably couldn’t pound out his rage fast enough to meet his RCM deadline. Based on his clearly substantial experience of being a South Korean citizen, Tamny is flabbergasted by the ridiculousness of someone who possesses the “rather lucrative skill” of English to resort to fold pizza boxes for money. Tamny’s take is that any South Korean who is fluent in English would, as we all know, realistically be automatically employed by any of the high-rise businesses in Seoul. 

Tamny powers through the parade of Kims who invade the Park house and uses the word “implausible” before acknowledging that “movies are supposed to be escapist to some degree.” But all four Kims getting jobs at one house is how Tamny believes director Bong Joon-ho “is thoroughly insulting the intelligence of his viewers.” Crafting a Lincolnian cadence, Tamny’s core argument becomes nothing short of air-tight, and it reads as if he’s still standing at the ticket counter of his hometown theater pleading his case to the overwrought manager whose three previous attempts to explain that refunds are not given after the film has ended have fallen on Tamny’s (presumably sweaty and) deaf ears.

It’s clear that Tamny’s experience as a South Korean film student was sought out by RCM in the central paragraph when he finally reveals that the director’s sole purpose in making the film was to “make the rich, for being rich, look awful.” His previously academic tone shifts here, however, to one that some might deem to be frank, and others might decry as whiny. The clout Tamny has enjoyed as Vice President of something called FreedomWorks provides him license to unveil what yours truly believes to be his absolutely-fed-up-with-poor-people-as-victim venture down Sarcasm Boulevard. It seems preposterous that the rich Parks are “wholly duped” as a result of their materialism, and it’s off-the-charts bonkers for Tamny–and evidently a hefty chunk of the eighteen readers who, at the time of my own reading, had commented on his article –to believe that the “[p]oor and unemployed…are naturally very wise and street smart [because, goddammit] their economic situations (sic) wholly a consequence of their birth.” Tamny produces another item from his bottomless deck of wealthy-as-victims cards by poignantly remarking that half a century ago, there would not have been a Korean market audience for this type of narrative, primarily because they were so destitute. In other words, he villifies the director for overlooking the “migratory patterns” of poor people who choose to live in major cash-cow metropolises like Seoul or Los Angeles instead of places like East St. Louis or Buffalo.

For anyone who doubted that Tamny was ill-equipped to tackle an objective review of Parasite, allow me to reveal what, to yours truly, is a masterful sequence of ideas. Carrying the theme of implausibility in reference to the birthday party scene toward the end, Tamny proffers that the film “is at least ½ hour too long”, which he rationalizes to be the central reason that it should not have been considered for “Best Foreign Film, Best Picture, or any kind of serious award” (emphasis mine). Citing again its worldwide popularity and nomination as nothing short of conspiratorial toward upstanding citizens like himself, he drops his empathy-riddled mic with this final statement: “That it’s a trendy prediction for some speaks to how much politics and polemic statements within films have replaced good moviemaking as all-important in the eyes of critics and awards’ voters alike” (emphasis definitely mine). Tamny’s choice to use the universal term “good moviemaking” is not just the right professional decision, but it serves as a tremendous and succinct way to advertise and showcase his depth of cultural and film knowledge. As a budding film critic myself, I have elected to print and frame his review and place it beside this image:

Academy's International Membership May Have Boosted 'Parasite ...

Work Cited

Tamny, John. “Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Parasite’ Is Overrated, Implausible, Class Struggle Nonsense.” RealClearMarkets.com. RealClearMarkets.com, 6 Feb. 2020, https://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2020/02/06/bong_joon-hos_parasite_is_overrated_implausible_class-struggle_nonsense_104067.html (Links to an external site.) Accessed 31 Mar. 2020.

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