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Parasite Is Great Cli-Fi

Parasite Is Great Cli-Fi

An opinion that I usually share at social capabilities, often with out provocation, is that Snowpiercer is among the greatest films of the 21st century. Most individuals appear to not share that view. Most individuals are incorrect. 

If you’re among the many benighted tens of millions who’ve by no means skilled Bong Joon Ho’s masterpiece, I recommend you rectify that shortcoming instantly. (It’s on Netflix — no excuses!) In the meantime, right here’s the wild premise. It’s 2031. A determined stab at geoengineering has backfired catastrophically, entombing the world in ice. The few survivors — Chris Evans and Octavia Spencer amongst them — are trapped on a prepare, a “rattling ark” that, y’know, pierces the snow because it circles the earth. The dirt-smudged hoi polloi rot in guidance, locked down by armed guards, whereas the über-wealthy (led by Tilda Swinton, enjoying a creepy mashup of Hitler, Gaddafi, Thatcher, and, um, Silvio Berlusconi) frolic in opulence on the prepare’s head, waltzing by way of vehicles crammed with orange orchards and saunas and celebration medicine.

The Snowpiercer haters I encounter, whose legions embody my spouse, complain that it’s too heavy-handed. Which, high-quality. (Maybe they like the nuance of Mad Max.) The prepare isn’t a metaphor for the way local weather change will exacerbate inequality, however a shamelessly literal manifestation of it. I concede the purpose: Snowpiercer ain’t refined. Well, neither are the Australian bushfires.

If you’re one of many individuals who thinks Snowpiercer is simply too crude a satire of our grim future, you would possibly choose Bong’s newest work of thinkpiece-inspiring brilliance, which is, after all, Parasite. If Snowpiercer was a film about international warming with overtones of sophistication warfare, Parasite is a film about class warfare that ingeniously backgrounds international warming. At its coronary heart are two Korean households, the rich Parks and the poor Kims. They’re divided not solely by social standing, however, crucially, by topography. The Parks stay behind locked gates in a large, spotless home designed by a famend architect, up a steep avenue within the Seoul highlands — a metropolis on a hill. The Kims, who resourcefully insinuate themselves into the Parks’ lives over the film’s course, squat in a cramped subterranean bunker in a low-elevation slum, tormented by crappy WiFi and pissing drunks. 

Bong regularly and cleverly emphasizes this altitudinal gradient. The Kims, it appears, are without end hustling up or down the vertiginous stone staircase that results in and from their downtrodden neighborhood, which is eternally forged in a sickly pall. Said the movie’s cinematographer, Hong Kyung-pyo, in an interview: “In terms of topography, if you visit the concentrated semi-basement area in the lowland and the rich area in the highland, the difference in the amount of sunlight is obvious.” The Parks’ shiny hilltop dwelling feels clear and salubrious, whereas the Kims’ nook of the town offers off a dirty, polluted vibe, smothered by Seoul’s unshakeable layer of particulate matter

The elevational distinction between the households isn’t only a image of their respective statuses, it additionally drives a crucial plot level. (Mild spoiler upcoming!) Near Parasite’s finish, a torrential rainstorm triggers a flash flood that submerges the Kims’ slum and backs up the town’s sewage; as Eileen Jones put it in Jacobin, “the shit literally flows downhill.” The flood inundates their condominium, forcing them to desert their few possessions and take shelter in an area gymnasium — a crushing humiliation that, partially, triggers the movie’s bonkers closing act.

This, I feel, is a reasonably savvy understanding of how social class and concrete geography collude to affect local weather threat. Disaster after catastrophe, we’ve seen that lower-income neighborhoods at decrease elevations are extra inclined to excessive climate occasions; Hurricane Katrina and the Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan are simply two top-of-mind examples. One latest examine that surveyed greater than 200 houses in Myanmar’s Bago City recommended that “poor people who live in fragile houses tend to live in flood-prone areas, where floods have the effect of trapping people in a cycle of poverty” — the exact predicament wherein the Kims discover themselves. 

An equally ominous 2018 examine, which examined round 800,000 property gross sales data from Miami-Dade County, investigated a phenomenon referred to as local weather gentrification. The authors discovered compelling proof backing the “Elevation Hypothesis” — i.e., in low-lying, climate-vulnerable cities, property values admire sooner at increased elevations, away from the rising ocean. They additionally discovered assist for the inverse “Nuisance Hypothesis”: that annoying flooding has suppressed the worth of low-elevation houses. Ultimately, the authors conclude, society’s rising desire for the protection of lofty heights “may lead to more widespread relocations that serve to gentrify higher elevation communities.” 

Parasite by no means explicitly mentions local weather change, nor have I seen anybody posit the film as cli-fi. But it doesn’t have to say local weather change to successfully deploy it — international warming, in each the movie and in life, is an inescapable reality, the backdrop in opposition to which we stand, the water wherein we swim, concurrently unobtrusive and omnipresent, like effectively, the climate. The greatest sort of cli-fi, for my cash, is the sort wherein local weather change has develop into such a fixture that it’s virtually unremarkable, inconspicuously setting the stage in opposition to which performs the drama of each day life. 

And that’s exactly the way it’s forged in Parasite — the wealthy, blithe Parks are oblivious to their local weather privilege even because it determines their expertise of the world. The morning after the deluge, the prosperous Park Yeon-kyo chats on the cellphone with a buddy from the backseat of her automobile. She’s dressed, as ever, to the nines; up entrance, Kim Ki-taek, her driver, seethes in his personal salvaged, ill-fitting garments. “Did you see the sky today?” Park chirps. “Crystal clear. Zero air pollution. Rain washed it all away.”

Photo of 2011 Seoul floods by 최광모.

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