[2/17/20] – Parasite Oscar Win

Every year Hollywood elite gather in Los Angeles to recognize and celebrate (mostly) American cinema at the awards ceremony for the Oscars. In 2020, a film named “Parasite” dominated the evening winning four Oscar Awards, including Best Picture of the Year. Bong Joon-Ho, director of Parasite (and a sociology major!), wrote a genre-defying feature about class inequality and the depravity of humans when presented with that which is just out of their reach. Critics rave about the range of performance from comedy to drama to terror. The audience at the screening of Parasite at Cannes Film Festival gave an 8-minute standing ovation. This is the first foreign language film to ever win Oscar for Best Picture overall. Parasite did what no other film in the history of cinema has done, and now the door is open for more international films to enter into the running. This week we explore cinema through the lens of globalization, class conflict, and how the success of a film augments the view of a tarnished brand.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Parasite Oscar Win

Learning Objectives

LO1: Explain how globalization trends influence the spread of culture across populations through media.

LO2: Discuss what the meaning of social class is and the universal cultural quality of greed.

LO3: Explain why the class conflict focus of the film might resonate with so many critics and audiences leading to its wide acclaim.


Parasite: Bong Joon-ho’s historic Oscars win celebrated in South Korea

South Korean film Parasite dominated the Academy Awards with its haul including best picture and director for Bong Joon-ho. The comedy-crime-drama also won the original screenplay and international feature film awards. The moment Parasite was awarded best picture – a first for any non-English language film in the Oscars’ 92-year-history – prompted outpourings of joy in Bong’s native country. Many were glad the film propelled South Korea – and reflection on its gaping wealth gap – into the global spotlight

Why Parasite Winning the Best Picture Oscar Matters

Parasite won big at the Oscars. In this video I examine why it’s the most important Best Picture win in Oscar history. Why do you think it matters? Let me know in the comments below!

Korean Film Critic & Parasite Translator Says Oscar Nomination is ‘Something Nobody Imagined’ | TIME

Parasite racked up six nominations, becoming the first South Korean film to be nominated for both Best Picture and Best International Feature Film.

Discussion Questions

What is the relationship between capitalism and globalization? What culture is most responsible for the diffusion of the capitalist culture throughout the world? How has this influenced the spread of globalization and the growth of capitalist gain?

Why might Karl Marx be interested in watching the film Parasite? Why might Marx not be surprised that over 100 years after his death, we are still dealing with the same capitalist influence on social order…and in many ways conditions have worsened for millions?

Parasite is set in a South Korean community, and yet audiences in the United States are able to immediately connect with the plot line. What are the universal qualities of living in a class-based culture? Will the “wokeness” of Hollywood last?

In your own word, what is the American dream? Where did this idea come from? Which agent(s) of socialization are most responsible for the development of this concept in your mind? Is it achievable for everyone? How might some cultures work to incorporate the idea of the American dream into their cultural fabric? How is this related to the idea of meritocracy?

Describe the process of social mobility in American society. On a macro scale, what mechanisms work to advantage some and disadvantage others? On a micro scale, what interactions are supportive and unsupportive of advancement for human beings in American society? Do you believe that everyone has the same chances to rise to the top? Why or why not?


Americans who are opposed to watching movies because they are not in English and they are unwilling to read subtitles could be described, sociologically, as being…
a. deviant
b. culturally relative
c. ethnocentric
d. capitalist

_______ is the economic ideology that resources, status, and access on has to advantage in social class ranking is allocated based on the achievements (or not) of every individual in society.
a. meritocracy
b. capitalism
c. assimilation
d. material wealth

With regard to social class inequality in American society, a functionalist may argue that…
a. class conflict is stabilizing for society because those with the best skills rise
b. decision-making among individual parents is driven by definitions of money
c. schoolchildren are less likely to be friends with other students who are poorer than them
d. powerful forces work to maintain the system of oppression they benefit from

Photo credit: Rachel Luna/Getty Images

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