Sunday, February 23, 2020

Feminist Fox Force Five: A 'Birds of Prey' Review

Ever since Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, there has been an over-used phrase when talking about heroes, superheroes and pop culture in general. The phrase being “ It not the [blank] we need, but the one we deserve.” This phrase has been chewed over for so long and taken so far out of context, that it has come to mean nothing. However, in regards to Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn, Director Cathy Yan, writer Cristina Hodson and Producer/Star Margot Robbie break the boundaries of the (recently) conventional superpowered team up films to bring us an LSD flavored enthusiastically energetic empowerment (wo)manifesto. It is a film which rides the established line between Schumacher’s campy Neon filtered Gotham and the bone breakingly dower gritty realism of the Nolan films. At the same time, the film marks a shift for both DC franchise filmmaking and acts as the opening volley for the continuation of increased female participation behind the scenes in this genre. This is the film we need, but it’s so good, I am not sure it is one we deserve.

            After breaking up with The Joker, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) watches the immunity she had from the criminal underworld and police evaporate as everyone on both sides look to settle scores with her. To protect herself, she strikes a deal with Roman Sionis (Ewan McGreggor) to find Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) a young pickpocket who just stole a diamond from him. Meanwhile, Det. Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) is building a criminal case against Sionis and has planted Dinah Lance (Jurnee-Smolett Bell) in his employ to find evidence of the stolen diamond.  Tensions are raised when Sionis’ men start to end up dead due to a masked Vigilante (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Dinah Lance’s cover is blown exposing Montoya’s operation. The only solution is for all parties to band together against Sionis and his army in order to survive.   

In order to truly appreciate this film (including its badass title), we need to understand the journey of its characters both for Harley Quinn (not traditionally a part of the Birds of Prey) and the Birds of Prey themselves. Additionally, by looking at the character development (or lack thereof), the fraught production history and depiction of these characters in the comics over the years we can come to appreciate the perfect gem of a film this is, and how we (may not) get it again.  

Created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini for the seminal Batman The Animated Series Harleen Frances Quinzel was introduced as a Joker side-kick in the early 1990’s. Originally intended as a side character with minimal dialogue, her creation was inspired by a dream sequence on the show “Days of our Lives” in which the original Harley voice actress (Arleen Sorkin) appeared in a jester costume.
After appearing in a handful of episodes Harley Quinn’s backstory was finally fleshed out in the 1994 graphic Novel  The Batman Adventures: Mad Love  . This is where we learn that Harley Quinn was once Dr. Harleen Quinzel, a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who is manipulated and abused by the Joker until she has a psychotic break and develops a toxic, codependent, and violent relationship with The Joker. For a while, wherever the Joker was in the comics or in the animated series, Harley would be there too. Joker and Harley seemed like an inseparable pair. However, as the series began to run in syndication Harley’s popularity continued to grow[1].
 That popularity eventually culminated in the character of Harley jumping over to the comics. A feat that is rarely achieved especially for a character with the longevity of Quinn. Since her debut in DC comics in 2000, it could be argued that Harley Quinn’s popularity has exceeded her paramour ‘Puddin’. She has had a monthly comic since 2001[2] and she is regularly featured in several other “team” books namely The Suicide Squad, The Secret Six, Gotham City Sirens and Birds of Prey. According to Abraham Reisman (2016) Harley Quinn’s regular monthly title is only outsold by two characters: Batman and Superman[3] Comics artist legend Jim lee is quoted in saying that Harley Quinn is the fourth Pillar of the DC Comics Industry behind Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, this popularity is not without its drawbacks.
Since the comics has been an artform, female characters in comics have been unnecessarily sexualized and objectified. Starting with the smokingly sultry “feme fatale” of the 1930’s detective fiction, to the disproportional and scantily clad images of females that we see in a lot of mainstream comics today; women in the comics medium have been used as props, and reader bait. Often times these images pose women’s bodies in positions that are not humanly possible often referred to as “The Broke Back Pose”  

For Harley Quinn, the minute she crossed over into the comics she was hyper sexualized. That sexualization was either more intense or abated depending on who was writing and drawing her. Some male comics authors even feel compelled to bring the Joker and Harley back together in order to play out some misogynistic fantasies (more on this later). The problematic depictions of Harley culminated in "Break into comics with Harley Quinn! A DC comics fan contest to draw Harley Quinn in four scenarios of suicide; one of which was to depict her naked in the bathtub about to electrocute herself. At the time, it was close to the National Suicide Prevention week and thus drew the ire from many fans and news outlets. The art in question was never released for publication.

The Birds of Prey team has been in existence since 1996. Originally created by Chuck Dixon but brought into fame, fortune and fandom by comic Goddess Gail Simone[4] The Birds of Prey originally consisted of a Post “Killing Joke” Barbara Gordan who was depicted as a paraplegic genius tech guru calling herself  Oracle, Dinah Lance (Black Canary) and Helena Bertinelli (Huntress). Oracle would be the overseer and mission lead, while both Black Canary and Huntress were field agents. The personalities and motivations of each of these characters created a balance on the team. This was one of the first comics in DC to show dynamic female personalities together without a main male character. Unfortunately, once Simone was off the book, the title was eventually cancelled in 2009.  However, over the many reboots and comic event relaunches (New 52, Rebirth) The Birds of Prey have always come back. While they may never reach the heights of popularity under Simone, the Birds of Prey is always a well on which to draw.   


On the set of David Ayer’s abysmal Suicide Squad (2016) Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn)[5] had the idea for an all-female superhero team as a follow up. She pitched the idea to Warner Brothers (WB) in 2015 (while Suicide Squad was in post-production) as a “R-rated girl-gang film”. What followed was a four-year up hill battle against the studio due to antiquated thinking, common industry sexism and profit driven decision making.
Robbie taking on the added role of producer was only involved in one of the many products in which the WB wanted to insert Harley Quinn. For three years Robbie would continually pitch her ideas of a majority female cast and crew to the studio with little or no traction moving forward until 2018. With the securing of both Cathy Yan as director and Cristina Hodson as a writer solidified the project.  Additionally, because of this the film had the most number of women behind the camera of  any in the DC Universe. Thus, because this is a story about women told by women, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn does not fall into a lot of the sexist troupes and traps that many other male centered films (both in front of and behind the camera) fall into. The film’s female representation, intersectional understanding, diversity and subversion makes it a proverbial “diamond” in the rough of cinematic misogyny.

Theme 1 Representation and Intersectional diversity
There is a lot of sociological evidence that points to a correlation between representation behind the camera and authentic representation in front of the camera. Because the production was helmed by women in almost every department. The representation of women in front of the camera is nuanced and has a level of complexity and refreshing organic diversity that one has ever seen within the superhero genre.

Robbie’s Harley.
In 2016’s Suicide Squad Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was a shell of a character. This Harley was still in the cycle of abuse with her domestic perpetrator “Mr. J”. Additionally, since the film written and directed by David Ayer, someone who is not known for his sensitivity to women, this Harley is a pig tailed hot mess of a cisgendered heterosexual male fantasy. Even Robbie’s considerable talent is snuffed out with this limited interpretation. However, as Robbie gained more creative control behind the camera, Harley and all of the female characters in the next film, were no longer seen through the male gaze[6]. Instead, we got a Harley that was more respectful to her character in the comics and animated series, as well as the simple respect for her as a woman.

“You call me dumb, I got a PhD Motherfucker!”- Harley Quinn

The separation of The Joker and Harley in Birds of Prey (BoP) is more than just a simple plot device. It allows Harley to no longer be defined by the violent toxicity of her former relationship. With that comes an independence which transforms Harley to her core. From her speech patterns, decisions, and clothing to actions, behaviors and character motivations, she is no longer looking for the approval or adulation of men. In almost every scene she is wearing pants that are functional, and hair styles that are practical. These accessories are an extension of her character and signify to the audience that this is a Harley who is standing on her own two feet.

“I am here to report a terrible crime.”- Harley Quinn

I absolutely loved Robbie’s performance and portrayal of Harley in this film[7]. She pulls a lot of stuff from the recent comics (Rebirth and New 52) as well as honoring the costume and portrayal of the animated series. Robbie gives Harley a personality that rides the edge between Deadpool (using fourth wall breaking looks to camera with voice over) and Bugs Bunny (a lot of her antics are manic, zany and colorful).  BoP’s Harley is the punk rock rainbow gender unicorn I crushed on in high school. She is someone with so much intensity and charisma you wonder how she could ever be overshadowed…until you do some basic research into domestic violence. It is sad that in the marketing for this film the subtitle of “Emancipation” has been dropped since that is what this film is for Harley. The film is a celebration of her independence, a coming out on her own terms to show the world who she is. And she’s “Harley ‘Fuckin’ Quinn!”

The Birds of Prey
While not the traditional line-up of the Birds of Prey roster, BoP’s “birds” really complement the story Yan and Hodson wanted to tell. Both Huntress and Black Canary are on the roster in the famed Gail Simone era; while the inclusion of Renee Montoya gives us the other side of the coin, showing the roadblocks police officers face in trying to do their job and how that could lead to vigilantism. The character with the greatest departure from the comics is Cassandra Cain who is decidedly not a streetwise pickpocket in the comics, but she acts as the central focus for the film’s climax; and at the film’s conclusion, you can imagine she might just transform into the ninja Batgirl we know and love.
With the inclusion of Cassandra Cain, most of the principle female characters (3/5)       are women of color. If we add to this the confirmed Queerness of both Rene Montoya and Harley Quinn[8] and the gay coding of Roman Sionis and Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), this is the most eclectically intersectional and diverse cast I have ever seen in the superhero genre. With any luck this will be the first in a long line of such films allowing for an increase in inclusivity that reflects the world around us. Then, perhaps we can finally retire the White Savior Trope for good; allowing women, people of color and all other marginalized groups to save themselves and be heroes in their own right.

Theme 2: Subverting The Rape Culture
The Rape Culture is a complex set of beliefs and practices that promotes sexual violence especially (but not exclusively) against women into our social norms, cultural practices, interactions and institutional processes. This has the problematic consequence of normalizing misogyny. The superhero comic book industry has always been a medium that is rife with examples of this perniciousness.  
If we were to narrow this to a discussion of Harley Quinn and the Joker specifically, one could argue that any current storyline that has The Joker and Harley back together, is acting as an apologist for these forms of physical, psychological and symbolic forms of violence he often inflicts on her. Furthermore, we need to question the writer/company’s motivation for this regression. Why cause Harley to backslide after giving her such independence? One answer could be the way in which many male author’s use characters like the Joker: as a cathartic wish fulfillment fantasy. They can work out their deepest darkest depraved fictions by living vicariously through characters like the Joker so that they can indulge their Jungian “shadow self” without consequence. This is the internalized misogyny that is dangerous, because it is often invisible to the perpetrator. To them, they are just writing The Joker who is “evil”. However, these (usually male) writers never question just how often they interpret that evilness exclusively through the subjugation, violation and annihilation of women and their bodies.  

     To that end, Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is a subversion of the rape culture in both direct and subtle ways. Directly, the main villain in Roman Sionis and his second in command Victor Zsasz, have all of the trappings of common misogynists. They are vain and egoistic, they get joy out of bringing pain to others, and see themselves as above other people; especially women. In the film, on more than one occasion, they incapacitate and threaten defenseless women. Yet, because this film is directed by a woman of color, the film never loses focus away from the female perspective. Therefore, we never see these actions as anything but monstrous.   It isn’t until all of the female protagonists are unified and embrace the power of what Adrianne Rich calls “The Lesbian Existence” that these men are dispatched in a gloriously violent display of feminist karmic retribution that is very satisfying to watch.
When we look at the film more specifically, we see the ways in which a diverse group of women support each other. At several points in the film, the female characters show genuine support and admiration for each other. Whether that is when Black Canary saves Harley from a rape van full of goons, or Harley praising Huntress’s fighting prowess with a “You are so Cool!” These women affirm the personhood of each other, especially during the final act.  This is illustrated brilliantly the way that each character has a moment with Cassandra, checking in with her and making sure that she is safe. After which the audience is treated to the very heartwarming scene of the group going out for tacos and complementing each other while drinking margaritas. It is divine.

            As of this writing, Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is not a big box office smash. There are several reasons that have been cited for this outcome; two of which are its R-Rating which for comic book films makes it difficult to make its money back (especially if the budget and the marketing costs are high); and the low international ticket sales due to the shutting down of theaters in China because of the Coronavirus. This is a shame on account of how the film industry may ultimately react. The institutionalized sexism in the movie industry has allowed many films helmed and staring diverse male characters to get a “second chance” infinitum. Meanwhile, stories that are written by and staring women and people of color, often need to be a huge success from the start in order to “justify the risk” of another film. However, it is nice to see that DC does not seem to be backing away from this film. They recently created the hashtag #ReasonsToSupportBoP    That, coupled with the positive critic reviews , will hopefully allow this film to soar all the way to a proposed Gotham City Sirens sequel.  

[1] Her most popular episodes being Harley and Ivy, Harley’s Holiday and Harlequinade
[2] This is a comic that is always in rotation with new writers and artists and is a part of every line up after every soft or hard relaunch
[4] Seriously. Read Gail Simone’s run on Birds of Prey issues #56-108 spans 2004-2008
[5] And one of the only bright spots in that grungy twisted mess of a film.
[6] This means that the perception and focus of the camera is not always coming from the masculine perspective
[7] I was particularly excited that she was able to get the voice right
[8] I Squealed at the cartoon image of Poison Ivy 😊

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The ‘High and Low’ of Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite


2011 saw the release of Kurosawa’s Way, a documentary on the famed and legendary director Akira Kurosawa. In that documentary, Director Bong Joon Ho discusses his love of Kurosawa as a director, and cites Kurosawa’s 1963 crime thriller High and Low as his favorite. He gives the example of how Kurosawa executes his use of space as almost a separate character which Bong uses as a source of inspiration.  This inspiration sparked in 2013 when Director Bong first had his idea for his 2019 film, Parasite. However, upon closer examination, we can see that High and Low acts as more than just a general inspiration upon Parasite, it shares a complex analysis and portrait of social class that make these two films a cinematic Gemini[1].


Released in 1963, Kurosawa’s High and Low is one of the few films that he is known for that is set in “modern day” Japan.  The plot revolves around Mr. Gondo (Tashiro Mifune), a wealthy Shoe Manufacturing executive who is planning to risk everything to buy a controlling interest in the company for whom he works. Before he can finalize this plan, the son of his driver is kidnapped.  The first half of the film (brilliantly set in one location mirroring the blocking of a theater production) is Gondo wrestling with the decision to pay the ransom or let the child die and finalize his business deal; the second half of the film deals with the fall out of his decision.

Set in Modern day South Korea, Parasite centers around the Kim family in their attempt to survive in Seoul. The Eldest son Ki-woo (Woo-sik Choi) gets an opportunity to tutor a wealthy high schooler and sets in motion an elaborate confidence scheme in order to support his family.  The first half of the film unfolds methodically as the Kim family insert themselves into the lives of upper-class Park family. The Second half of the film provides revelations and complications that end in violence and blood.

In order to identify the importance of each of these films and thus begin to understand how these films can be linked together, we must look at the way in which each of these films are a cultural product of the time period in which they were created. By doing that, we will be able to better comprehend both the impact of the film, and the reason for a lot of their specific social commentary that becomes thematic in each director’s work  

The Japan of the 1960’s was a time of great creativity in Tokyo[2]. From architecture to the theatrical arts, these new types of representation were shattering the stereotypes of Japanese people. Much of this was fueled by the consumption of popular culture from the United States which provided a revolutionary spirit of the various civil rights movements going on there at the time. There was also a social and political upheaval of assassinations and a strong development of a right wing socialist party. The culmination of which was a cultural snuffing out of Japanese modernism which left individuals “incorporated, defected or dead”[3] Much of the revolutionary spirit of the rising counter culture was eliminated through bureaucratic assimilation what was once a aversion to the standard became the standard in a few years. 
This is paralleled in the public’s response to Kurosawa. In the early 1950’s during the reconstruction period of post war Japan, Kurosawa was consistently criticized for his western influences specifically John Ford, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky and Fritz Lang. The idea being that he had lost a lot of the traditional focus of Japanese cinema that was coming out of the Kabuki theater and involved a lot of elaborate costumes and dynamic acting. In contrast, Kurosawa’s films at the time were full of more stoic characters.  However, in years since, Kurosawa’s influence is both widespread and cross cultural.  To a director making films today, Kurosawa is a part of the filmmaking establishment. He is taught in film schools, and his techniques and craft have become the benchmark for quality cinema. Director Bong is just one of the many modern directors being influenced by Kurosawa.

 Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite”
Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite was directly influenced by the historical, and film context of South Korea citing the 1960’s South Korean film The Housemaid, as a major influence; both being described as “domestic Gothic” films[4] In fact the success of  Parasite marks the 100th anniversary of the South Korean film industry. Ironically, with all the accolades deservingly being heaped upon the film[5], along with the near unanimous critical praise[6], Parasite stands as a pioneer, ushering in the next 100 years of South Korean film history. It is clear with the overwhelming impact of the film that, like Kurosawa, Bong Joon-Ho will soon be a part of the standard filmmaking curriculum as more and more people go back and rediscover his previous work (which is equally amazing[7]) and waiting with bated breath to see what he does next.  

The main thematic element that links High and Low with Parasite is the way each film is a reflection of, and provides commentary for, social class in their respective cultures. The parallels between these two films identifies the realities of global capitalism which causes cross cultural stratification. To that end, a simple triple threat of Marxian, Weberian and Bordieuan analysis will be used in talking about each film.

Brief Theoretical Interlude
 Marxian class analysis is based on conflict. Historically[8], that conflict has been identified by Marx and his denizens as being between the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat[9] Essentially the bifurcation of this class system is based around who has ownership of the mode of production[10] Those that have control over the mode of production (Bourgeoise) have control and power within the system. Admittedly, this is a very specific and small group that has the ability to control the labor power of others and gain capital ($) from it[11]. The rest of society (Proletariat) only have their labor to sell for a given wage and is therefore subjugated by the upper class.
Max Weber brought in ideas of status and power into the conversation about social class. Economic power[12], is just one mechanism of societal power that leads to stratification and domination. Social class for Weber is determined not just by wealth or access to resources, but also by one’s level of education, their access to ownership of property (which allows them to control and or navigate through economic markets), and the social value of their occupation often referred to as prestige which can translate into accessing political power thereby solidifying stratification through the passage of laws and other regulations.
French Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu adds  variety to the concept of capital along with the notions of habitus and “taste”. For Bourdieu, financial capital ($) is just one of the types of capital in determining social class. Bourdieu also includes cultural[13] and social[14] forms of capital (basically what you know and who you know) that also help to determine a person’s social class status.  Habitus is the internalized norms and values (through the process of socialization) that allow social mobility to be possible. Thus, the internalization of certain norms and values (such as how one responds to authority[15]) that creates avenues or barriers to upward social mobility. This habitus creates “taste” which Bourdieu uses to represent a social class position. For example, a person’s “taste” in clothing, movies, music and food often reflect their social class position or upbringing[16] (Kraft Mac and Cheese vs Gourmet Homemade Mac and Cheese with truffle oil represent a class differences).

 Kurosawa’s “High and Low”

“Heaven isn’t always found somewhere up high.”- Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa’s High and Low is an adaptation of “Kings Ransom” by Ed McBain. The basic premise of the film asks a question about humanity and social class. “Is Blackmail possible regardless of who is kidnapped.”. This was a note found in Kurosawa’s production notebook[17] In the film while Gondo’s son is the intended target the wrong child is taken. Thus, the child that was taken (belonging to Gondo’s driver) seemingly has no clear and direct economic value. Thus, Kurosawa, in this set up, is asking us to put a price on a human life regardless of class status.
 Kurosawa being a visual director, continues his commentary on social class with the geography of his story. The first half of the film we are treated to the Bourgeoisie of Mr. Gondo and his family the setting never exiting the very wealthy high rise in which he lives. The opening power play for controlling interest in the company illustrates the importance of space. It is in these isolated dwellings of the elite where these deals are made. Yet, Kurosawa again asks us to challenge these ideas. The beginning of this scene we sense that Mr. Gondo is not completely on board with the profit first mindset of capitalism. Kurosawa writes Gondo in a far more practical frame of mind; desiring quality (railing against poor construction of shoes) over profit. While this is an anti-capitalist message, this is more a product of the cultural norms of Japan, where person’s honor is wrapped up in what they do. Therefore, what they produce must be done honestly and with integrity.[18] Still, if these conditions are met, than making money is also desired.  
During the second half of the film, we descend from the segregated elite space to one of the lower class in search of the kidnapper. Here Kurosawa visually represents a lot of the social problems that thrive with a lack of financial capital (drugs, crime, unemployment, overcrowding). He also uses sets and locations that are physically cramped to convey this class based claustrophobia. Once the kidnapper is apprehended, he identifies that it was the constant reminder of class stratification represented by Gondo’s hilltop property, which reinforced the poor kidnapper's sense of worthlessness. Thus it was this Weberian symbol of class division (Gondo's home) that lead him to commit crime.

Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite”

“Regardless of country, we all live in one big nation of Capitalism” -Bong Joon-Ho

Director Bong Joon-Ho majored in Sociology at Yeonsei University. Because of this, all of his films are written to embrace the sociological perspective. In a previous post I wrote about the sociological impact and analysis of his previous film SnowPiercer. Yet, in Parasite, director Bong is the most direct in his sociological analysis and criticism of classism.  This begins with the film's title. The title is a reference to both the Proletariat (The Kim family who are reliant on the wealth and status of the Park family) and the Bourgeoisie (The Park family who are dependent on the labor that the Kim family provides for their livelihood). In addition, there is also the housekeeper and her husband that are literally living off of the Parks (living in their house and eating their food). All of the characters are one form of parasite or another.

Like Kurosawa, Bong Joon-Ho takes a lot of time laying out the geography of social class stratification. To reach the Parks family, the Kim family literally needs to ascend staircases, steep roadways and hills. Later in the film, this stratification is again is perfectly illustrated through the use of rain.  To the Parks the rain is a welcomed respite; a divine cleansing of the city that eliminates the dirty sullied individuals and purifies their streets. For the Kim family, the rain is a flood of biblical proportions that destroys their very lives. Yet, this is a loss that is not recognized by the Parks. Even when Mr. Kim realizes that both him and Mr. Park are the same; that they are both “trying to do there best”. This sentiment is not reciprocated by Mr. Park who only sees Mr. Kim as a source of labor, not as person, only a commodity. A sentiment that causes his death. 

The relationship between the Kim Family and the Housekeeper and her husband echo the Marxian idea of alienation. One aspect of alienation that Marx talks about is the alienation that workers experience from each other. Consistently, in a capitalist system, workers are placed in competition with each other. This competition is a strategic tactic used to fracture the power of the working class by teaching them to ignore the similarities they have with their fellow worker, instead only seeing them as a threat. This is illustrated beautifully in the film when the Kim family and their “competition” commit horrific acts of violence against one another; culminating in several deaths. This violence is sudden and shocking; one born of desperation, anguish and pain. Unfortunately, it is through this violence that the unequal system is maintained.

While some analyses of this film point to the flash forward as a hopeful sign of the ability, through education and perseverance, to have upward social mobility; Bong Joon -Ho had always maintained that this was a fantasy. 

In an article from Vulture Author E. Alex Jung[19] states:
“Bong could have ended the film on that note of dreamlike ambiguity, but instead he returns to the half-basement where the movie started, descending from the cramped window space down to Ki-woo writing the letter to his father. There is no mistaking what the reality is. His desire to continue striving is Sisyphean and is the boulder that will eventually crush him. Hope is the emotional parasite in the film: the thing that keeps us going but sucks our marrow dry.”

This is echoed in the article with a quote from Bong himself:
“Maybe if the movie ended where they hug and fades out, the audience can imagine, ‘Oh, it’s impossible to buy that house,’ but the camera goes down to that half-basement,” he says. “It’s quite cruel and sad, but I thought it was being real and honest with the audience. You know and I know — we all know that this kid isn’t going to be able to buy that house. I just felt that frankness was right for the film, even though it’s sad.”

This is the kind of social reality that can only come from someone with a sociological background. If it was a typical Hollywood story, and therefore a wish fulfillment fantasy, the film would have ended there. But since it doesn’t, we are left with the grim reality of hopelessness and death.  The last line, “So Long..” is the nail in the coffin.


While the narrative plots of Kurosawa’s High and Low and Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite are not similar, they are compatible. Each film in their own unique way, asks questions about the stratification of social class and both films live in the human consequences of its answers. While Bong Joon-Ho is standing on the shoulders of Kurosawa as a filmmaker, it is Bong’s sociological background that puts him above Kurosawa with his ability to use film as a mechanism of social commentary.  Either way, these two films would make a great double feature to keep the problems of capitalism in the general public consciousness and its solutions in the social discourse.

[1] The Greek Astrological sign of the Gemini identifies twins Castor and Pollux brothers of Helen of Troy.  
[7] I am partial to Snowpiercer myself
[9] The Communist Manifesto
[10] This is a combination of the means of production – financial capital, buildings, tools and machinery, and raw materials- and the social relationships of production ( power dynamics)
[11] They are the creators and the owners of Jobs they have economic hiring and firing capabilities
[12] s the ability to control material resources: to direct production, to monopolize accumulation, to dictate consumption.
[13] This is the value of knowledge skills and experiences a person has within a particular social situation
[14] This is the value of a person’s social relationships within a particular social situation
[15] There is a lot of sociological evidence that socializing individuals to challenge authority coupled with the symbolic power of white male privilege rewards this group with more class status
[16] This is because your access to resources creates a different reality.
[17] Supplements on the High and Low  Criterion edition blu-ray.
[18] Most Business men still read the ancient treatise on the samurai code: Miyamoto Musashi’s “The Book of Five Rings”