Parasite’s 2020 Oscars Win: “Woke” America?

Bong Joon Ho’s 2019 film, Parasite, has captured the attention of many people internationally this February. Parasite’s win of four Academy Awards at the Oscars, Best Picture, Directing, International Film, and Original Screenplay, was met with mixed reactions. The film’s win marks a milestone for the Oscars, as it is the first non-English speaking film to receive an award for Best Picture. The film’s achievements were celebrated, but some people expressed anger and disappointment by how a foreign film won rather than its competitors.

The comedy-thriller touches on class discrimination in South Korea by conveying a relationship between two families; the penniless Kim family uses various deceptive methods to integrate each one of their household members to obtain a job in the household of the prosperous Park family.

Parasite’s four wins quickly sparked controversy within the audience, and criticisms were made against the Oscars for being too “woke” (or, in the standard English language, for “pretending to express great care or knowledge about a social issue”). The Oscars are known for lacking in diversity, for the majority of Hollywood is comprised of white and male Americans. In 2015 and 2016, the Oscars were met with #OscarsSoWhite protests for diminishing the representation of minorities. Shamed by the criticisms, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science began to nominate more minority actors and foreign films for the Oscars. In 2015, about 8 percent of the academy’s 8,500 voters were people of color. Now, the percentage of minority voters is around 16 percent. 

However, today, many people seem to still be dissatisfied with the Oscars’ presentation. Critics believe that the Oscars’ methods of acknowledging these racial and gender disparities are disingenuous and that they are simply putting up particular performances to please the audience. Certainly, it is an arguable claim to make. Nevertheless, this argument seems to be misused by people when a win does not go according to what they hoped for. This is the case for Parasite’s wins. 

“These people” are obviously not Koreans but those in Hollywood awarding a foreign film that stokes flames of class warfare over 2 films I thought were more deserving simply to show how woke they are.

– Jon Miller

In one tweet, Jon Miller, a reporter of the conservative news site BlazeTV, commented upon how Bong Joon Ho delivered his best-picture speech mostly in Korean, and that “these people are the destruction of America.”

Miller then followed up with another tweet, explaining that “these people” referred to were “obviously not Koreans but those in Hollywood awarding a foreign film that stokes flames of class warfare over 2 films I thought were more deserving simply to show how woke they are.”

It won Best Foreign Film. You know why? It’s a goddamn foreign film.

– Robert storms

Similarly, Youtuber Robert Storms created a video disapproving of Parasite’s win, and the obscene vlog went viral. In the video titled, “Oscars Goes Full Woke…..Parasite wins BEST PICTURE!!!!”, Storms maintained that the Best Picture award should have been won by “Joker”, Parasite’s competitor for the award, or even any other film but a foreign one. “It won Best Foreign Film. You know why? It’s a goddamn foreign film,” he says. He later adds in the video, “I am sorry, if you won Best Foreign Film, you should automatically be invalid to even be qualified to win Best Picture. You should.” Storms then begins to bash the Oscars for attempting to have a “woke” agenda, sarcastically commenting, “Pat yourself on the f**king back, Academy, go pat your woke-ass f**king self on the f**king back.”

Later, Storms defends himself with a tweet, once again placing the blame on the Oscars: “I did not criticize #Parasite like at all. My video was me being upset at the Oscars not Parasite.” 

Regardless of the negative responses, Parasite’s successes yielded positive reactions from South Korea. In the 92-year history of the Academy Awards, Parasite is the first non-English film to win Best Picture, as well as the first South Korean film to ever win an Oscar. The news certainly came as a pleasant shock to South Koreans.

Film club members of Yeonsei University in Seoul, South Korea celebrate as they watch Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite receive the award for Best Picture at the Oscars. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

The Oscars were broadcasted on TV Chosun, where notable South Korean film critic, Lee Dong-jin, co-hosted the show. After Jane Fonda’s Best Picture announcement, Lee Dong-jin’s “bizarre scream” could be heard, which he apologized for on his blog. He added, “I’m so happy to be an idiot who is incapable of predicting who would win despite analyzing the Oscars eleven times.”

The live broadcast of the Oscars on TV Chosun. Lee Dong-jin scream can be heard after the Best Picture announcement.

Even South Korean President Moon Jae-in publicly tweeted, “Parasite has moved the hearts of people around the world with a most uniquely Korean story.” He praised, “I am already curious about what director Bong Joon Ho, the actors and crew will be working on next. Congratulations once again on winning the awards, and I, together with the people, will always cheer you on.” 

(From left to right) Parasite actor Jeung Hyeon Jun, who plays Park Da Song in the film, and his mother Lee Min Jae celebrate as they watch Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite receive the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

While Parasite’s win has mixed reactions, it is still impressive to witness the start of something progressive in the film industries today. By the nature of social media, it is expected to see negative criticisms; yet, it is heartwarming to see such overwhelming congratulatory messages.

Author: Eugenie Min

Eugenie Min is currently a junior at SAS, and this is her first year as a reporter for The Eye. Eugenie is Korean but was born in Seattle, Washington. At the age of 5, she moved to Singapore and has been attending SAS since then. It is her 12th year in SAS and Singapore. Eugenie is an avid Stranger Things fan and, when she isn't sleeping for 10+ hours straight, loves to watch random movies and shows that she comes across on Netflix, regardless of ratings. Feel free to contact her at min34927@sas.edu.sg.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s