Economic disparity leading to the disconnect between, and ignorance toward, those of other socioeconomic classes.
The “Malfunctioning" light
-Due to their high status and classy living conditions, the rich family believes the light is activated by motion-sensor, when it is really a failed communication attempt from a member of a lower social class.
-This serves to represent the disconnect between social classes due to economic disparity.
Rich Parents on the couch, poor family below the table
-Even right under their noses, they can only smell the stench of the poor rather than understand their situation
-Similarly, the rich mother only smells the stench of the poor driver rather than taking any time to understand what he went through the night before.
“That rain was such a blessing” - Rich Mother
-The rain causes a minor inconvenience for the rich (camping trip is rained out) but the poor have their entire livelihood threatened due to their homes being flooded, forcing them to to sleep in a gym.
Rich Parents incorrectly theorizing about the event in the Benz
-To them, the panties found in the car must mean Jessica is on drugs. Rather than asking to find the answer, they are so disconnected they feel they are better off coming their own conclusions.
-They even use Jessica’s supposed drug use as a turn on during sex without actually taking the time to figure out what actually happened in the Benz.
The disposability and lack of empathy for employees of a lower status
-Rich Father can’t even tell the driver himself that he smells bad but he can go on and on about it to his wife
-Rich Mother gives directions to the Poor Mother about walking and feeding the dogs, tells her to cook the Ram-Don immediately, to roll out the tables, and has her do nearly everything for her
-Dropping groceries into the arms of the driver without any empathy for how heavy it’s getting
-Poor Father is used for bagging groceries, carrying things into the house, playing the Native American at the party... Like the poor family in this movie, the rich family are also parasitic and show no care for who they leech off of.
-“I’ll just make up some excuse to dismiss her, simply and quietly.” - Rich Mother
“It’s been forever since I rode the subway” … “People who ride the subway have a special smell”
-Here, the Rich Mother makes a sweeping generalization, and shows a prejudicial, highly stereotyped attitude toward the poor.
Poor father runs right past his neighbour who needs help during the flood.
-Now that the father has reached a higher status, we see the disconnect between him and his poor neighbour highlighted in this scene.
Disconnect between the housekeeper and the poor mother.
-Housekeeper: “As fellow members of the needy, please don’t (call the police).” Poor mother: “I'm not needy.”
-The poor mother feels that she’s increased in class and should not be likened to the needy housekeeper
-Poor mother looks down on the housekeeper and the basement man for using loan sharks when their cake shop went bust. Because she feels as if she is now of higher status, she forgets that her own family’s situation was once just like that of the housekeeper’s. They, too, had business that failed. Here we see the demeaning of those in lower social classes.
-“Don’t call me sis” even though they really are, in fact, still in the same class.
-Poor Mother kicks Housekeeper back down the stairs to the basement so as not to be seen by Rich Mother. Metaphorically, she kicks the housekeeper back down to the lower class just to keep up her appearance as a member of a higher class in the rich household.
The hypocritical nature of deception
“This family is so gullible, the madame especially. So naive.”
-The poor family were only deceiving themselves to think they were getting ahead in life. In reality, they were only really ruining their own life.
“Jessica, you’re so young and innocent, you have a lot to learn about people” - Rich Mother.
-Here, the rich mother seeks to deceive Jessica into thinking she doesn’t know what happened between Jessica and the driver. She is completely unaware that she is actually the one who is being deceived.
“Thanks to you, I can play the good husband.” - Rich Father.
-The rich father wants to pretend to his wife that he found out about the housekeeping company by himself. Little does he know that he is really the one who is being deceived.
The mistaken idealization of wealth and status
The wealth stone
-Kevin believed that the riches that could be obtained from the wealth stone would mend his family’s issues. In the end, that same "wealth" stone nearly brought death upon Kevin.
-While trying to give the wealth stone to the basement man, it fell down the stairs and caused trouble before it could even be passed off to bring the basement man good fortune.
“Min is such a brilliant human being. I don’t even care about the grades.” - Rich Mother
-Despite Da-Hye’s poor grades, she shows a positive bias for Min, who is of high status.
“You can tell from the card they’re high class” - Rich Father
-In reality, The Care is the worst service he could have chosen. But the expensive look of the card made him idealize the service, showing his idealization of things that appear to associated with high status.
Poor Mother: “If I had all this money, I’d be nice too!” … “It all gets ironed out, money is an iron, all smoothed out.”
-In reality there actually may be more worry with higher wealth and status. As a matter of fact, the rich wife was arguably the most anxious person in the whole movie.
“They say a ghost in the house brings wealth.” - Rich Mother
-She rationalizes and accepts the ghost since it’s said to bring wealth. In reality, that “wealth-bringing ghost” only brought death. Like Kevin’s stone, these supposed “wealth-bringers” bring only chaos and destruction and are great examples of the mistaken idealization of wealth and status.
The frivolous nature of plans: The best plan is no plan.
“Thanks to him (Min) we’re all….. not again”
-Poor Family is thinking everything is roses until the drunk man peeing beside their home reminds them that they are still in the same place as they were when started their plan. Good foreshadowing here to the key point in the movie when they're admiring how far they’ve come while drinking in the rich home until the family comes back and throws another wrench in their plan.
“All you’ll need to do is walk up the stairs” - Kevin
-The “fundamental plan” that he’ll go to university, become rich, then everything will be okay also demonstrates not only the frivolous nature of plans but also a mistaken idealization of wealth.
Other quotes demonstrating the frivolous nature of plans:
-“This will be your daughter in laws house.” - Kevin
-“We’ll get an actor to play my (Kevin’s) parents.” - Kevin
-“If we lived here, which room would you want.” - Kevin
-“Next stage of the plan already?” - Kevin (When Jessica began talking about making their dad the driver)
-“This wasn’t part of the plan” - Jessica (When the housekeeper comes back as they share drinks in the rich family’s living room)
"You think all these people planned to sleep in a gym tonight?" - Kevin's father
Plans were also frivolous for the rich as their camping trip was rained out and the extravagant birthday party plans were completely destroyed.
Corruption of character in the pursuit of wealth.
“When she enters university I’ll officially ask her out” - Kevin
-After Kevin got into the company of the rich, he actually changed to become just like the rich college boys, and took Min’s girl.
Real estate sharks hoodwinked the German family who had just arrived in South Korea.
Da Sun was the only one who could bridge the gap, in a sense, between the perspectives of the rich and the poor. He had not yet been jaded from a life of riches and could still connect with the poor in some way.
-He saw the basement man whom others, though their lack of connection with lower social classes, could only write off as a ghost. After experiencing a life of riches, any connection with the poor is so far-fetched it’s like communicating through cryptic morse code.
Da sun’s innocence allows him to openly state that the poor family smell a certain way, but all the rich can do is make fun of them without telling them directly.
-This gets across the aforementioned idea that corruption of character on the pursuit of wealth leads to ignorance and a disconnect with other social classes.
General ignorance of the wealthy
Cultural appropriation of Native American face paint and headdress
-This ignorance leads to the bloody face of the basement man blending in since it’s just like war paint that the rich painted their faces with for fun.
“Curve the tables outward in a Crane’s Wing formation. Like admiral Yi used, you know? The battle of Hansan Island! Think of the tent as the Japanese warship” - Rich Mother
-The Battle of Hansan Island was a military battle in the 1500s in which South Korean defeated Japan.
-Here, war is referred to merely for the purpose of her son’s party rather than to pay respect to the parties involved.
The rich mother is oblivious to possible deception throughout the whole movie (Housekeeper must have TB, Driver must have had sex with Jessica, Da Sun’s paintings must reflect some type of schizophrenia…)
Jealousy for those of high social status
When the pizza worker sees the poor family with more money and nicer clothes while eating inside the restaurant, she shoves the pizza on the table in annoyance at the family who she could once look down upon.
Underlying motif: Economic disparity
Disparity in height between homes of rich vs poor.
-Kevin walked up so high to get to the rich family's house, all the way from his semi-basement that hardly allowed him to see above ground (and through a dirty window at that). Look at the contrast between this and when his family shares drinks in the rich family’s living room with a crystal-clear view of nature.
Also: Poor under the table vs rich on the couch and poor in the basement vs rich on main levels
Key event and turning point in the movie
The only time the poor family felt satisfied from being deceitful in pursuit of wealth was perhaps the most fleeting time of their lives. In no time, the storm came, literally and metaphorically, completely contrasting their experience in their made-up world of luxury. The sewage they were putting into the world was literally spewed back at them and their life actually became worse than it was in the first place.
-Corruption of character in the pursuit of wealth: They had to deceive and even murder on their journey to higher socioeconomic status
-Mistaken idealization of wealth and status: Clearly, they were actually were worse off after becoming more wealthy
-The frivolous nature of plans: Their plans to infiltrate the rich home and to live parasitically off of them were completely ruined
The hypocritical nature of deception: At the climax of their deceitful plans with their entire family having infiltrated the rich home, they deceived themselves the most by dreaming of all the ways their new life would benefit them.