Movies & TV

Why Parasite’s 4 Oscar Wins Are So Powerful, It Makes You Want To Cry

Parasite just rewrote its film’s ending with its historic wins at the Oscars.
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The word “historic” is not powerful enough to describe the impact of Parasite’s four Oscar wins. “Powerful” might do, perhaps even “disruptive.” But like the way Parasite is a genre-bending film that can’t be synthesized into one phrase, neither can we find the right words to describe the milestones it achieved today after winning Best Original Screenplay, Best International Feature Film, Best Director, and *weeps* Best Picture.

Not only that, it’s South Korea’s first ever Best Picture and the first Asian film to win the big award in 92 freaking years.

Start of spoilers. Beware.

If you’ve watched the film, you know that Parasite symbolically paints an ugly, beautiful picture of a broken capitalist and class system. Critics classify it as a “dark comedy” because the film’s cruel comedy lies in its truth—society has made it impossible for the poor to climb out of poverty. The servant will never be able to buy the house it once served, the poor will never be able to walk freely out of the basement with dignity. And the fact that a film with this plot was catapulted to Best Picture means that there is at least a little progress against this struggle. 

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Parasite’s Best Picture win isn’t just “historic” in the sense that it’s the first non-English language film to win the biggest award of the night. It matters so acutely because the Oscars is the house that the elite built, and Parasite didn’t buy the house—it upended it, demolished it, and rebuilt it. These four Oscar wins to the mighty cast and crew behind Parasite just rewrote the film’s tragic ending.

It would have been poetic for Parasite to not win, fulfilling a prophecy laid out in its ending. But this is so much better.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.
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Cinema mirrors reality, and the Oscars is the main stage of cinema. Instead of voting for the old guard, the talented but overly-awarded veterans of the industry, the Academy actually chose the Best Picture for the Best Picture. The Oscars has long been criticized for its “safe choices” instead of the disruptive ones, and each annual event has become less and less relevant to the real world it’s trying to reflect.

But 2020 changed that. This is probably the best Oscars in years, pushing boundaries and challenging long-held patterns in award shows. Aside from Parasite's milestones, Jojo Rabbit's director Taika Waititi became the first indigenous person to win Best Adapted Screenplay and Joker's composer Hildur Guðnadóttir became one of only four women to win Best Score.

The fact that the Academy went against the status quo and let Parasite sweep four major awards at the Oscars proves that the gatekeepers of cinema are finally listening. And they’re listening not just to the underrated world of amazing foreign films, but to the message that films like Parasite are trying to send: the cruel world of late capitalism, the institutions in place that keep the poor in poverty, and how the world is built on the backs of the victims of social inequality.

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Of all the films to listen to, in a foreign language no less, this is the one.

The fact that the film is an Asian creation is just icing on the cake. Film transcends cultures if we only overcome the one-inch barrier of subtitles on the screen, as the wise Best Director (we’re milking this one) Bong Joon-ho once said. We’ve always known about the pure magic of Asian cinema, whether that’s in South Korea, Japan, Thailand, or the Philippines, and now the rest of the world will too. Some are saying Parasite’s victories are purely a “diversity” win, and to that, we invite you to binge on every great Asian—and non-English—film ever made. This isn’t fifteen minutes of fame—this is decades of quality cinema that the rest of the world will finally discover after Parasite proved the universality of cinema.

Unlike certain western films, Asian films have never, ever set out to win Oscars. Oscar buzz isn’t a thing here. Purely because we thought it would never happen. As Bong Joon-ho said in (one of his many) acceptance speeches, Parasite wasn’t made to represent South KoreaN cinema. It was made for the sake of cinema. And that’s the way it should be to make each victory even sweeter.

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And with that, we’re going to pull a Bong and drink (and weep) until next morning. Cheers to Parasite, its cast and crew, its producers and distributors, Korean cinema, Asian cinema, and the immortal Jane Fonda for announcing the best news of this otherwise crazy year.

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Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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