Science Fiction Film & Television

Necropolitical metamorphoses

Bong Joon-ho’s The Host and Parasite

Science Fiction Film & Television (2021), 14, (1), 45–69.

Abstract

This article analyses and compares two films by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho: his 2006 sf film Gwoemul (The Host; South Korea 2006) and his most recent film Gisaengchung (Parasite; South Korea 2019). I interpret these two films through the lens of outbreak narrative and socio-environmentalism. I argue the films foreground the way each class has a different power and ability to defend itself against environmental toxicity, even though our bodies share the same porosity to it. The films show that with the unequal distribution of power and wealth, the rich and necropolitical nation-states use outbreak narrative to (re)constitute communities based on class lines, drawing imaginary lines between them. As a fictionalised enemy, poor communities are pushed away to uninhabitable places - the exceptional places made for emergencies. Bong shows that those pushed away to live minimal lives metamorphosise into parasites in the mental, behavioural and somatic senses, and further demonstrates that the current economic and political conditions offer no possibilities of solidarity. The paper concludes that his films demand that humanities scholars rethink our approach to environmentalist discourses, reminding our audiences that environmental justice for the poor can never be achieved without changing the necropolitical system of politics and economics.

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Author details

Yoo, Sang-Keun