What Parasite’s Win Means for Diversity

On February 9th, 2020 Parasite became the first film made in a language other than English to ever win the Academy award for Best Picture.

While the night was one of winners, no other film could compare to Parasite, which in addition to its Best Picture win, also garnered awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film. Even in a category as competitive as Best Director, for which both Martin Scorcese and Quentin Tarantino were nominated, Parasite took home the prize, earning director Bong Joon-Ho his first Academy Award for directing.

The passion for Parasite went far beyond Academy voters however, with a devout fan base that calls itself the “BongHive” making itself heard on every corner of the internet. Though devoted fans are in no way a new craze, the visibility of the BongHive raises an important question about the future of award shows and media in general: What are audiences looking for?

To fully understand the impact of Parasite’s win it is important to look at the history of the Oscar awards, notably the history of them being called out for a lack of diversity.

In 2015 creators and fans of color felt as though they had been overlooked by the awards show, leading to the creation of the  hashtag #Oscarssowhite, which would go on to be the No. 1 trending spot on Twitter. The new willingness to point out the lack of diversity is something that has not only stuck, but is something that has grown beyond just internet spaces. Where there was once radio silence among performers and journalists alike on the issue, there is now a wave of attention being brought to the issue, not only online, but at the award ceremony itself.

While a single hashtag did not fix everything, it managed to bring the conversation of diversity center stage. An audience that was once silent was now speaking for diversity and inclusion being recognized, for a voice for those that had been silenced. While the hashtag was directed at the Oscars specifically, award shows were now aware that they could no longer escape being watched by the public. Progress had to be made.

Though the Oscars have a long history of erasing the accomplishments of people of color, perhaps 2020 can act as the start of something new. With a public that is ready to use their voices in any way that they can, artists like Janelle Monaé and Taika Waititi who are willing to speak for their communities, and the growing popularity of films in languages other than English representation matters, maybe more now than it ever did before.

Parasite’s win is a sign of the times, a sign of a change in the hearts of the people. Not only is it a win for the cast and crew, it’s a win for the future, one where everyone can see themselves in the movies that we love.

– by Carolina Tucker Hennessy ’21