On Feb. 9, 2020, Parasite, a South Korean thriller by director Bong Joon-ho, made history at the 92nd Academy Awards. The film became the first non-English language picture to win the Oscar not only for Best Picture, but also for directing, writing (original screenplay), and international feature film. Nearly two weeks later, President Donald Trump targeted the Academy’s decision to name an international film as Best Picture.
“What the hell was that all about,” the president asked the crowd at his Feb. 20 rally in Colorado. “We’ve got enough problems with South Korea, with trade. On top of it, they give them the best movie of the year? Was it good? I don’t know.”
What are the implications of Parasite’s historic win? Do Trump’s negative comments toward the film carry any weight? NBN Opinion investigates.
Nicholas Kinney (SOC ‘23)
On the evening of Feb. 9, Parasite won the Oscar for Best Picture, and all was well in Hollywood. Here was a phenomenal movie making film history with a win that no knowledgeable film buff would deem undeserved. For years, the Academy shied away from foreign language films for the main categories at the Oscars, but Parasite’s mastery over every aspect of film blasted open the door to international cinema in the U.S. Bong Joon Ho became a household name, and his precise writing and visual storytelling shone in his thrilling class drama. Nearly everybody seemed thrilled with Parasite’s win — and then, almost two weeks later, President Trump chimed in.
To an avid movie lover like myself, what makes Trump’s condemnation of the movie egregious is the fact that he has not even seen it. By his own admission, Trump has yet to see Parasite, instantly cementing the invalidity of his opinions on the film, and revealing the only motivation he had to publicly insult such a well-regarded movie to be his xenophobia towards South Korea. He went on to proclaim the type of films he’s looking for: 1939’s Gone with the Wind and 1950’s Sunset Boulevard. In its day, Gone with the Wind was legendary, but to the more politically correct eye of modern times, it is full of racist overtones. In short, it hasn’t aged well. Sunset Boulevard didn’t even win Best Picture, and both films are 70-plus years old — if Trump is seriously suggesting we return to how the film industry worked in the mid-20th century, he is only displaying a complete lack of credibility when it comes to film criticism while giving us a fresh whiff of his classic ignorance. Trump’s biting words aside, Parasite has enjoyed a healthy box office boost since its historic win, and will no doubt go down in history as one of the most righteous Oscar winners in the history of the Academy Awards. Maybe Trump didn’t latch on to Parasite, but the rest of the world did — and in this critic’s eyes, we are far more gracious hosts of Parasite than Mr. Trump will ever be.
Vaibhavi Hemasundar (Medill ‘23)
When Parasite won Best Picture, I screamed. I was thrilled to see a film produced in a foreign country win Best Picture at an American award show. As the daughter of Indian immigrants, it especially meant a lot to me in a time when our “leaders” have been using fear-mongering to demonize many marginalized groups. It’s been horrific to watch Trump continuously demean undocumented immigrants and Muslims by calling them rapists and terrorists. For me, a foreign film winning Best Picture felt like a top-down reminder to our country’s residents that as a nation, we come from a variety of backgrounds and owe it to our friends and neighbors to acknowledge the cultures from which their families originated.
Trump’s words on Parasite’s big win were incredibly frustrating to me because of their potential implications during election season. His comments could reignite fear-based propaganda in the same people who voted for him in 2016. While putting down the Best Picture winner, he mentioned America’s “problems with South Korea with trade” and mentioned his disappointment that the Academy Awards picked Parasite regardless. I’m terrified that his words will spark a refreshed fear of the cultural diversity that is America’s biggest asset.
Shruti Rathnavel (Weinberg ‘23)
In things I never thought I’d say about a foreign film: I kind of agree with Trump.
Parasite was an incredible movie. It is time that Americans start to watch and appreciate foreign films. But I don’t think the Academy is the way to go about that. When a foreign film wins an Oscar, it implies that Hollywood is a global institution. Members of The Academy, a great majority of whom are American, are given a certain jurisdiction or power over the successes of foreign movies. The idea of centralizing art and culture to the gilded specter of Hollywood is, for me, difficult to stomach. Let other countries and communities retain total sovereignty over their own creative expression.