The mentality of American superiority is a ‘Parasite’

Annika Agni and Maya Nayak

Parasite recently made history at the 2020 Oscars, securing four wins and six nominations. The South Korean drama/mystery movie by director Bong Joon Ho was incredibly successful;  it won best international film, best screenplay, and best director. Parasite also became the first foreign language film in history to win an Oscar for best picture, especially impressive as it was competing against major Hollywood rivals like 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Parasite’s wins were celebrated by many, especially by the Asian-American community, who are typically underrepresented in American cinema. 

However, not everyone was pleased by Parasite’s success; President Trump criticized the foreign film for receiving the award for best picture at a Colorado rally. Trump said, “What the hell is that? We’ve got enough problems with South Korea with trade; on top of it, they give it the best movie of the year. Let’s get Gone With The Wind. Can we get Gone With The Wind back please? Sunset Boulevard, so many great movies ‘The winner is, from South Korea…’ I thought it was best foreign film, best foreign movie. No! Did this ever happen before?”

Trump doubled down in his comments, asserting that he had “never seen that movie before.” The studio responsible for Parasite fired back, tweeting that Trump’s comments were “Understandable” as “[Trump] can’t read” Parasite’s subtitles. 

Though seemingly benign, Trump’s comments are reflective of a dangerous underlying mentality of American superiority. Many Americans ascribe to ideas that democracy is unquestionably the best political system, that American foreign policy decisions are always just, even that English is a superior language. Still, America has not exemplified ideal behavior at every juncture, and pales in comparison to other countries in many regards.

Trump’s remarks are also indicative of the xenophobia prevalent in American society. Times are changing in America, and the Oscars have reflected this change by incorporating other cultures into our own. While the Oscar for best picture has typically been reserved for American movies, it is perfectly acceptable for movies from a foreign country to receive this honor. South Korean movies deserve the same success that any American one does and should not be attacked for it. 

Patriotism is important, but so is tolerance. Failing to understand the views of others—whether with regard to political views, cultural values, or any other aspect of our identities—is what drives issues as wide-ranging and far-reaching as political polarization and hate crimes. Patriotism doesn’t need to conflict with tolerance; love for one’s own country need not be coupled with hatred for another.

Acknowledging when other countries best the United States is critical for growth. Scandinavian countries, for instance, consistently rank higher in measures of health and wellness than the United States. Many countries, such Germany and Brazil, offer more affordable college tuition.  Countries including Finland and Singapore perform more highly than the United States with regard to education. The mentality that America is the best at everything is not only incredibly pretentious, but simply wrong, and our country needs to become more open to this idea. 

A foreign language film winning the award for best picture is something to be celebrated, not attacked, as it demonstrates that America is changing to be more welcoming of all cultures. Still, Trump’s comments reveal our continued need to strive for greater acceptance, in hopes that true coexistence can one day be possible.