The Shell Game: From ‘Get Out’ to ‘Parasite’

Monday, Feb 24, 2020

Anne Cheng, professor of English and American studies and director of the Program in American Studies, writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, compares Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019):

We might think of Parasite as a South Korean rewrite of Get Out. They share some apparent thematic echoes: the tropes of spatial and psychical verticality; the theme of ghosts and hauntings; the revelation of intimacy that harbors violence; even elegant garden parties that tend to go awry. The comparison threatens to elide some of the films’ differences: Get Out gives us a story of contemporary American racism as the product of the longue durée of American slavery; Parasite tells the tale of contemporary classism against the backdrop of South Korean independence and capitalist rebirth after generations of ravaging warfare and occupation. But race and class are, of course, inseparable: the privileges of the Armitage family in Get Out derive from generations of white wealth; the nouveau riche Parks in Parasite aspire to and mimic white American ideals from their faith in the durability of American-made products and the superiority of an American education, to the ideas of masculinity and empire embedded in a game of cowboys and Indians. Juxtaposing these films raises uneasy questions about how we as American audiences process racial injury versus economic injury, a tension that gets mapped onto questions of psychical damage versus material damage. Having your body stolen is surely more traumatic than having your house stolen … or is it?

Read the entire essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books.