South Koreans reacted with rare collective joy after director Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite’” won the Oscar on Feb. 9 for best picture and three other awards.
The wins made history in both the Hollywood and South Korean film industries. The class satire is the first non-English-language film to win best picture in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards, and is the first South Korean movie to ever win an Oscar.
“Can you believe that ‘Parasite’ won the Academy best picture?” South Korea’s biggest newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, said in a headline. “It rewrote the Academy’s 92-year-old history.”
Asian American film critic Justin Chang of The Los Angeles Times observed, cautiously, that it was “a sign, perhaps, that the academy’s efforts to diversify its ranks and become a truly global institution are having an imperfect but measurable effect.”
But for some, the win is evidence of, if not the beginnings of, a new Yellow Peril.
Even before “Parasite” won best picture, Jon Miller, a host on the conservative outlet BlazeTV, complained to his nearly 60,000 Twitter followers in the following tweet:
“A man named Bong Joon Ho wins #Oscar for best original screenplay over Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 1917.
Acceptance speech was: “GREAT HONOR. THANK YOU.”
Then he proceeds to give the rest of his speech in Korean.
These people are the destruction of America.”
Wow. Racist much?
Amid the excitement about the recognition, Parasite didn’t receive any acting nods. As Chang wrote for the Los Angeles Times, “The oversight feels especially glaring if you come away from ‘Parasite’ convinced, as I was, that it features some of the best individual performances—and the single most dazzling, nuanced, and sustained feat of collaborative acting—in any movie last year.”
None of the actors were on the Academy’s nomination slate, even though the film earned plenty of acting nods and awards at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Writers Guild Awards, and the London Critics’ Circle Film Awards.
It rarely happens that a movie is up for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay, categories where “Parasite” was honored, with no acting nods.
But it’s a disappointing trend: actors in films with predominantly Asian casts nominated for multiple awards, are almost never acknowledged or celebrated.
The last movie to win a Best Picture Oscar with no acting nominations was 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire.” As Reuters pointed out, the cast of Slumdog—a movie set in India, starring a nonwhite cast—comprise relative unknowns; the acting nominees that year were instead dominated by mostly white A-Listers.
History has repeated itself 12 years later.
It’s time for history to change.
Thumbs up to the Academy for giving the Oscar nod to “Parasite.” But there’s still room for improvement and its voters can do better.