“Parasite” and “The Lesson”: Is Society Really a Democracy?

A couple months back, I watched the film Parasite. The director, Bong Joon-ho, constitutes a story about a poor family living in South Korea that try to climb the social ladder by leeching onto the Park family — getting their taste of wealth. (This movie is a masterpiece and I highly recommend you watch it if you haven’t).

This film, I’ve noticed, has a lot of parallels with the short story, “The Lesson”. Though I can’t think of a scene in Parasite in particular, the ideologies in “The Lesson” are akin. Throughout the film, there is a common theme of poverty and the inequality between the rich and the poor. The Kim family were destitute basement dwellers who worked just as hard if not more than the Park family, but the Kims were still low income. The Kims worry about money, the extravagant Parks worry about poor people’s unpleasant smell. Similarly, the eight children in “The Lesson” go on a short trip, arranged by Miss Moore, outside of their oppressed community which leads them to encounter items they have never seen, items that are far beyond their economic means. Miss Moore wanted the children to realize that wealth is unfairly and unequally distributed. At the end of the short story, Miss Moore asks the children what kind of society it is in which some people can spend more on a toy than others have to spend on food and housing. Sugar replied, “…this is not much of a democracy if you ask me. Equal chance to pursue happiness means an equal crack at the dough, don’t it?” (115). Sugar believes that it’s not a democracy because some people do not have an equal opportunity to earn money. There are people, both in Parasite and “The Lesson”, that don’t have to worry about the almighty dollar. Both pieces unveil that there was no “equal crack at the dough,” ultimately concluding that both societies are not a democracy.

One thought on ““Parasite” and “The Lesson”: Is Society Really a Democracy?

  1. Aaron Q.

    This is a cool comparison; I would say the two differ in the main characters’ perspectives towards the bridge between upper and lower classes. In “The Lesson”, Sylvia is completely oblivious to the lesson that Miss Moore tries to teach her, and intentionally tries to avoid it because she doesn’t like the woman. She notices the price tags but her mind defaults to swimming. In Parasite, the poor family attacks the rich family straight on, taking everything that they have for their own, until halfway through the movie they start to lose it all. And in the end, the main character has a dream-like sequence in which he gets a potential happy ending, but for every happy ending, there is a story like Sylvia’s that goes nowhere. So they tell different stories that expose a flawed system.


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