Effects and The Importance in Ceasing Classism

Paper by Adelyn Wen Lei Chang.

Film and Media have influenced society in terms of unattainable expectations and materialistic desires. The judgemental society and unachievable American Dream have led to discrimination, classism, and unhappiness. An analysis of Parasite (Bong Joon-Ho, 2019), Joker (Todd Phillips, 2019), and The Platform (Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, 2019) will show what it means to live the “American Dream” and how false consciousness and class consciousness affects society in the way they behave and live their lives. What defines classes? Is the definition of class based on economic status or their behaviors? What creates the idea of classes? In the next few paragraphs, I am going to talk about how film and media represent different classes, the privileges between different classes, and how the behavior of each class affects one another.

Film and media have unknowingly created an ideal living condition that sets a standard for the world to lust for; usually focusing on how perfect life can be when we are successful. The perfectness of living a rich life and having the luxury to purchase anything you want makes people crave for success. The American Dream Films and media have such a strong influence on people that most of them believe what they see on the screen. The dominant ideology “where a culture thinks about itself and others, who and what it upholds as worthy, meaningful, true, and valuable” (Benshoff and Griffin, pg 198) alters people’s happiness and expectations. Pairing up with white patriarchal capitalism where the media has set a belief in the world that western culture is always better than other cultures, it creates an idea of false consciousness, where people try to achieve an unrealistic goal. The false consciousness is based on the assumption that there is a break between what people think they are doing and how they are living. For example, “what is ‘really’ happening to them, is the cornerstone of a sociological explanation of alienation.” (Kalekin-Fishman, pg 535) In this case, the unrealistic goal is striving to be like the western culture so that they can feel accepted by society. People automatically crave for the “better” whenever the idea of “better” is introduced to them. The feeling of defeat will overtake them when a goal is not achieved, leading to a feeling of isolation, depression, and unhappiness.

The cinematography of Parasite depicts how the world views different classes accordingly. The lowerclassmen are always down and under. The lighting used was dark and gloomy which is undesirable. However, for the upperclassman, it’s always higher up where sunlight and fresh air can reach them. The lighting used was bright and uplifted. When these two scenes are compared side to side, the upperclassman’s living condition is much more desirable. When films portray upperclassmen to be luxury and enjoyable, human greed comes into place and will always want more than they currently have. Which comes down to the idea of the American Dream. In a study(White Middle-Class Privilege), when Chris was told to imagine the worst possible scenario if he was not in the life of the party. In understanding the high expectation he had for himself, Chris started to realize that there were no consequences for him and that alcohol was unneeded in facilitating social interaction and decreasing anxiety. (Liu, pg202) As Chris is a white middle-class man, he is already having more privileges than the others, however, with his high expectations, he felt that he wasn’t fulfilled with what he already has. As known as false consciousness he thought that his life would be better if he attended the party. This study also touches on the problem of fear of missing out on where he was trying to achieve something that wasn’t necessary.

The plot from Joker depicts false consciousness where he wasn’t able to achieve the American Dream and he felt awful and unhappy. Like most media today have brainwashed people into thinking that to be accepted by society and be successful, we have to achieve the American Dream. The pressure he had when he was trying to achieve what he felt wasn’t easy to achieve made him depressed and felt like he was going crazy. Joker also represents Class consciousness, the belief regarding your own class, the realization where he doesn’t need to achieve the American Dream for him to feel happy. These two movies cover the importance of classism and how different classes are represented in films and how the media brainwashes people into having false consciousness.

Privileges between different classes have been unfair, privileges such as rights, priority, and speech. Human pride and selfishness had led people into treating others awfully. Lower classman opinions are always canceled out by upperclassmen because their opinions are not as important as the one with better economic status and education status. People think that lower-class people do not contribute to society and therefore they should not be given a say in this world. Since upperclassmen have more power in this world, they can achieve what they want easily. With unfairness like this, lower classmen have the desire to be like an upperclassman because then their words will be heard and their lives will be better. Privilege also ties with white dominance, where they have more say in the world than any other race. A study from an article(The role of Privilege in Diversity Education ), “it is rare for privileged students, especially White Students, to voluntarily attend multicultural events. Many privileged students express frustration with diversity workshops because of past experiences of being told what not to do without any direction on steps they can take to be allies.”(Tharp) In the history of white supremacy, non-whites have been blocked out from the government office and government jobs weren’t a priority for them. Racism has been established since the early years and has been brought forward till today. Adding racism and privilege together, people of color have the least priority in this world. With this knowledge, the lack of interest and frustration along with white dominance shows how the white feel that they are much more superior therefore ignoring the people of color’s opinions. This refrains people from understanding each other and therefore creating an obstacle to make the world a better place.

In the movie Platform, when Goreng(Ivan Massagueé) was trying to call out the people that were one level above them, Trimagasi(Zorion Eguileor) stopped him from doing that and told him that the people above will not listen to them merely because they are above. This means upperclassmen will not listen to lowerclassmen as they simply don’t care. Trimgasi has shown defeatment and has already accepted this unfair treatment and has no motivation to fight for his rights. However, Goreng, on the other hand, was still trying to change the system. He was trying to create equality so that everyone has an opportunity to grab a plate of food, which was pretty hard for him to achieve. The narrative from The Joker also depicts how Joker as a lowerclassman wasn’t treated seriously and instead people treated him like he was insane. Why this film is so important is because the ending scene shows many people going through discrimination and hardship however, no one understands or wants to listen to them. Society has then pushed people who are trying to gain a sense of belonging to their limits, leading them into committing violence. Joker in the movie created a bloody smile, depicting that he had killed people and went through violence, which then allowed him to put a smile on his face and gained some power. Inequity is so frightful in this world however the government doesn’t bother about it as they aren’t in their shoes. This film captures the ugliness and the biases of the world and that needs to be changed. We have learned that there are many people still fighting for their rights and also people that have already given up. This issue has been failed to address because Americans do not think in the usual categories of class but tend instead to blur economic differences into a gradual hierarchy with no sharp division between labor and capital. (Brown, pg 43) Working-class in America is highly conservation and because radicalism was discouraged by preexisting values and democratic institutions.(Brown, pg 43)

Another important part is how upperclassmen and lower-class men’s behavior, lifestyle, and communication can affect each other. In the movie Platform, a platform of food was served from the top to the bottom creating the idea of the upper class and lower class. As we follow the platform from the top to the bottom, the food on the highest level looks decent and gourmet and as it goes down, the food starts to deteriorate, turning into a disgusting looking platform of food. How did that happen is because of how the upperclassmen were treating the food. When the people on the higher level(upperclassmen) are ignorant, and only thinking about themselves but not considering other people’s hunger, they start to grab more food than they needed, leaving nothing for the people on the lower level to contain. They also chose to smash the food with their hands instead of grabbing a plate each and spat on the food before the platform left their level. If people on the higher levels treated the food badly, it affects the presentation of food as it goes down the levels. This example comes hand in hand with the biases of different classes. When opportunities are given, upperclassmen will have the priority to choose for themselves first and then leaving almost close to no options for the lowerclassmen to choose from. This shows how cruel and self-centered people can get and that’s the biggest problem in this situation. However, if we show simple gestures and be a little more considerate by taking a plate each, there will definitely be enough for the people below to eat. Even when Goreng and Baharat(Emilio Buale) tried to change the system by asking each person to take a plate each, people gave a look of disgust, refusing to comply with the rule.

Also, another scene from The Platform, there was a theory about the knife advertisement. The theory covers the meaning of human greed, where people want more than what they already have. The desire to have it all and selfishness of human nature is the reason for human greed. The knife is something that everyone has but the sharpness of it represents the usefulness of it. When the knife is blunt it cannot cut anything but when the knife is sharp it can cut a brick easily. When the knife advertisement promotes a better knife, humans start to think that what if my life isn’t fulfilled if I don’t get that better knife? When upperclassmen have the privilege to get more than what they already have, they would get as much as they can to be the best.

The Scene from Parasite also represents how each class is depending on one another. In the film, Kim’s family(lowerclassmen) works for the Park’s family(upperclassman). Kim’s family depends on the Park’s family for expenses, on the other hand, the park’s depending on Kim’s for their children’s education and also to keep their lives together and their house clean. As we can see from the scene, the mother of the Park’s family can’t even wash the dishes or do her laundry by herself and if Kim’s family weren’t there to help their chores and children’s education, their lives will be a mess. Without the money from the Park’s family, Kim’s family wasn’t able to afford a bigger and more expensive meal. This part of the film represents false consciousness where Kim’s family was longing to live a life like the Park’s family, wanting to have expensive meals and fantasizing about how perfect the Parks family is, and also class consciousness when the Park’s mother realized she can’t handle basic house chores. This film gives a reason why we should not discriminate against one another. We are unconsciously important in each other’s lives, and we depend on one another to keep this world going.

This film also supports the idea of Capitalism, the belief that success and worth are measured by one’s material wealth. One simple factor like their financial status prevents Kim’s family from being an upper-class. Even though the children of Kim’s are smart, they do not have the money to pursue a higher education, therefore keeping them under the lower class category. Based on this, the opportunities for the lower class are much lesser than those of the upper class. “The American dream is far from reality, in terms of educational implications of the American dream, higher education, and training for jobs of the future is a common theme. Students’ goal that is to attain a higher education has a significant barrier which includes lower parental support, finances, racial discrimination, and family issues. These barriers reflect the reality of many American students as well as American’s of different races who see the American dream as out of reach.”(Sturm and M Gibson, pg 104) This example shows that the world functions in a way where money is the main source for people to get the things they want, however, it is unable to buy happiness. As we can see in the movie, the children of the Park’s do not look happy when they are studying and the daughter is much more into dating than pursuing her education. Their family isn’t as bonded as the Kim’s family where they live a much simpler life.

In conclusion, everyone should be treated equally and the words of the citizens have to be taken into consideration regardless of classes. The reason classism has been failed to address is because Americans blur economic differences into a gradual hierarchy, treating classism as a minor issue, thus citizens are unable to speak their opinions in regards to this issue. Therefore, film is one of the best ways to broadcast this message to the world, films that include the close up of people’s lives, showing how they are struggling on a day to day basis due to the high expectations and unrealistic goals. These three films have shown the issues of our unequal system today and that can be the first steps to make a change in this world. The government and citizens should be fair and kind to one another. It is also important to realize how the media have been trying brainwashed people into having a certain expectation in life which causes discrimination, depression, and false consciousness. Films can help to educate people to realize that the American Dream isn’t what we should be aiming for and instead should be content with what they already have in life.

Benshoff,HarryM,andSeanGriffin.A​ mericaonFilm:RepresentingRace,Class,Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies​. 2nd ed., Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.
Kalekin-Fishman, Devorah. “`False Consciousness’.” ​Current Sociology​, vol. 56, no. 4, 2008, pp. 535–553.
Liu, William Ming, et al. “White Middle-Class Privilege: Social Class Bias and Implications for Training and Practice.” ​Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development,​ vol. 35, no. 4, 2007, pp. 194–194.
Tharp, D Scott. “The Role of Privilege in Diversity Education.” ​Diverse Issues in Higher Education​, vol. 26, no. 21, 2009, pp. 14–14.
Sturm,DebbieC.C,andDonnaM.MGibson.S​ ocialClassandtheHelpingProfessions:A Clinician’s Guide to Navigating the Landscape of Class in America​. Taylor & Francis, 2012. INSERT-MISSING-DATABASE-NAME,​ public.ebookcentral.proquest.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=957475. Accessed 15 Apr. 2020.
Brown, Richard Harvey. ​Culture, Capitalism, and Democracy in the New America.​ Yale University Press, 2005. I​ NSERT-MISSING-DATABASE-NAME,​ INSERT-MISSING-URL. Accessed 15 Apr. 2020.

About this entry