Influential Factors & Cultural Perspectives on Oscar-winning films: Parasite and Green Book 📼
Updated: Aug 18
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This is my third blog in English because I want to publish it as a part of a subject at Mahidol University International College (MUIC) and examples of how my friends and I work on media com subjects. 😉
This blog is a part of the ICMC 204 Research Methods and Basic Statistics in Communication and Cultural Studies (Trimester 2, Academic Year 2020-2021) final project on Qualitative Research: The Academy Awards “Best Picture” Winners in 2019 & 2020: Influential factors and cultural perspectives on Oscar-winning films, Parasite and Green Book.
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Green Book and Parasite 📺
This study was conducted to determine whether it should become the Best Picture Oscar-winning film by illustrating social issues and cultures through cultural components in the films. It is qualitative research by researching from different academic sources and analysing to bring the questions for interviews to understand other people’s opinion about both films that win the Academy Awards in the Best Picture category. The results of the in-depth interviews concluded the facts about what the participants noticed in the Parasite and Green Book films that lead to social issues. The successfully delivered messages of these films are the important points that audiences have agreements of a well-deserved Oscar for Best Picture, observing cultural components and getting the same message that the movie was trying to deliver. The issues from Western and Eastern that everyone can relate to and experience.
Keywords: Oscars, Academy Awards, Best Picture, cultural components/elements, diversity, social issues, racism, racial discrimination, social disparity
To consider one film as the best picture award, there are a lot of factors. Conforming to the list of the Oscar-winning awards in “Best Picture”, “Green Book” from the United States is the Western film that received an award in 2019 and “Parasite” from South Korea is the Eastern film that received awards in the following years, 2020. The differences between these two films from two countries are the methods of their production, cultural, and traditional. We chose these two films because they are the best comparison between Western film and Eastern film, which can help us compare the differences between them.
We aim to study why these two films won the same awards in the best picture, other categories and cultural elements hidden in these films reflect social issues in Asian and Western countries. The research results helped us understand why these two films became popular, well-known, and became Oscar-winning films. We will analyse by comparing the different sources, what attracts audiences to plots and storylines based on the movies and other factors from the Academy Awards criteria considered them as “Best Picture” winners.
Goal and Significance
Our goal is to understand why these two films became popular, became Oscar-winning films in consecutive years, create global phenomena in the film industry and cultural components that can be observed in movies by interviewing 26 participants who have seen either Green Book or Parasite.
Purpose of Research
Our research is qualitative research that aims to study the factors that influence the decision to watch films and analyse the differences between Western films and Eastern films. Our objective is to find cultural elements in the Academy Awards winning films, what they have done to create diversity in awards for technical and artistic merits in the film industry.
✨Introduction to the Academy Awards (Oscars):
The Academy Awards are being respected as an institution worthy of examination (Gilronan, 2016). According to Zelazko (2020) states that the Academy Awards, or in the full name, is called “Academy Award of Merit” or byname “Oscar”. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science will be presented these awards yearly in Beverly Hills, California, the United States of America, to those who successfully received the recognition achievements in the film industry. The awards ceremony were firstly held in 1929, and a gold-plated statuette called “Oscar” will be received by the winner (Zelazko, 2020).
✨Basic understandings of the awards procedures:
Gehrlein and Kher (2004) state that they analysed some technical perspectives at the preparatory stage of Oscars to describe the voting process and decisions for both Academy Awards winners and nominations. However, other researchers insist for the reason that these studies are carried out the outcomes by humans, which are called subjective-nature creatures and the decision methods are still naturally biased through influences, cultural norms and mass popularity (Collins & Hand, 2006: Rossman, Esparza, & Bonacich, 2010).
Although all of these analyses recommend that audience identifications with celebrities, future filmmaking, advertising and consumption, status, box office, salaries and video revenues have been influenced by the Academy Awards (Gehrlein & Kher, 2004; Collins & Hand, 2006; Addis & Holbrook, 2010; Rossman, 2010).
The reflections of societal values may come from artists and films both nominated and winning prizes submitted to the voting methods, and cultural communication interactions are a part of decisions. Many scholars also argue that both the cultural environment has an influence on the process of the Academy Awards, and the procedure as well as results of the Academy Awards over a period of time for its part to impact and shape the cultural climate reification, or the rambling structures (Gilronan, 2016).
As a matter of fact, some researchers have observed that the Academy Awards from many aspects, including; several more external viewpoints. We would like to look at Goff’s examples (Goff 2007; Goff 2008; Goff 2010), Goff analysed several Academy Awards ceremonies completely. Every of Goff’s qualitative evaluations of each show illustrates surface observations concerning the components of film and television history, political climates and influence, popular culture, ideology and race relations, and gender roles and relationships, amidst various general observations about the aspects and nature of the broadcasted events of Academy Awards.
Gilronan (2016) declares that all mentioned observations depict the way Academy Awards functions throughout the processes and systems, intrinsic ideologies, human interactions and behaviours and all these elements provide a central institution and receptacle of formation and interrogation.
It is believed that Goff’s argument demonstrates the most persuasive because all of the above components about the Academy Awards methodologies seem to be reliable and appropriate. The processes of current films that will be received the eligibility and nominated annually and the criteria would not seem to be changed, especially in the movies that reflect our society’s diversity, including; social classes and racial or ethnic groups as our examples (Green Book and Parasite), that seem to have increased opportunities to be the Academy Awards winners.
Our research will be synthesised from Goff’s article, specifically on cultural differences, social diversity, inequalities and issues. Ten years ago, the Oscars favoured only white creative workers until 2015, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite on social media began to resurface the Academy Awards definition completely. This campaign makes us see the beginning of diversity in the film industry.
✨Culture Elements of the Green Book’s Film:
According to Ning (2020), the film Green Book is one of the most successful and popular films in 2018. The film Green Book has been described that it has an inspiring and distinctive story, terrific performance and deft direction, and the success of the film is a motivation that inspires the author to do research on it (Agar, 2018).
The strong cultural background is another inspiration that the audiences learn from the film. McCarthy (2018) indicates that the title “Green Book” cites “Victor Hugo Green’s The Negro Motorist Green Book”, it is a tour guide particularly for black people about where they are allowed to go and stay and also what service types they can expect from different places. Only the title implicates overbearing racial and cultural conflicts.
Additionally, the film is inspired by a true story about two men from totally different backgrounds who work together coincidentally and eventually become remarkably good friends. Consequently, the film’s plot and dialogues between two characters may demonstrate the external cultures use influence on individuals.
The cultural components will be introduced from various perspectives, including; race and racism and multicultural societies (Ning, 2020).
Firstly, the setting is based on the struggle between black and white people. The time set up is to the early 1960s while the place setting is in the United States of America. The time and place can be turned back to the Civil Rights Movement’s historical event in America (Ning, 2020). As a black man, Dr Shirley faces obstacles that will never be heard or discovered by Tony, who is a white man and the other protagonist, neither his personal life nor the public media.
Secondly, we live in a modern society in the film setup; white people are always automatically upper class and gain more respect and attention than black people (Ning, 2020).
Thirdly, the concepts of stereotype, which are being introduced in this film in the modern society in which two protagonists are living, can be seen as a setup for the world and the whole environment. As claimed by Ning (2020), the stereotype is that white men are always the most powerful, rule everything and are unfriendly towards black people.
On the other hand, the black people’s stereotype has towards white people are they set up all the rules and give them a rough time.
✨Film as cultural diplomacy: South Korea’s nation branding through Parasite:
According to Lee (2021), South Korea’s nation branding through the Oscar-winning film Parasite (2019) to understand the South Korean government’s strategy toward cultural diplomacy and its outcomes. Lee (2021) asserts that film is one of the most influential mediums of cultural diplomacy with its wide accessibility and reach regionally and globally.
Lovric (2018) examined the soft power potential of international movie exports and cultural diplomacy tools in film industries by South Korea, Japan and China. Compared to Japanese and Chinese storylines that often take place in the past or focus on relatively safe topics. It can be seen that South Korean movies display a stylistic boldness at a much higher level with contemporary society and by asserting the importance of the image within a cultural context and a cinematic.
Finally, these films challenge audiences via genre-bending practices (Lovric, 2018). Even though Parasite portrays a negative representation of South Korea’s economic and social inequalities, attitude toward South Korea, what Parasite conveys about social injustice and the disparities in South Korea may be less accurate or urgent to audiences outside South Korea.
The concerns raised in Parasite may reverberate more with South Koreans because it contains many references to current events there that had angered South Koreans (Lee, 2021).
Qualitative research RQ:
What are the cultural and other elements, characteristics that allowed these two films to be selected and won the Academy Awards?
There are various types of social issues, including; social disparities, class divisions, segregation, racism, racial discrimination, colourism, prevalent in the world’s societies portrayed in both movies to reflect societies. Parasite and Green Book have raised social issues awareness by communicating through plots, characters and storylines. By learning about it through the collected interviews, we can acknowledge the kinds of social issues which are severe problems in the current societies.
It is beneficial for filmmakers and producers to know this information since they can come up with good media content, create diversities in movie genres, increase movies’ quality standards and reflect our society in order to raise awareness of social issues. As the official Academy Awards criteria are unavailable, we predicted that because Parasite and Green Book present social issues of social disparities and racism and related to people in each society and also bring more diversities to the Oscars after the hashtag of #OscarsSoWhite in 2015.
We discussed the topic and ended up choosing to research the comparison of Oscar winner films in the “Best Picture” from 2019 (Green Book) and 2020 (Parasite). We questioned why they won the same best picture, other categories and have been nominated for several prizes.
The result of the research gives an idea of why those movies became Oscar-winning films. We are going to analyse both of them from different sources. The reason why we picked the Oscar winners is that the method is fair, unbiased; there are no polls like other awards selected two years between 2019 and 2020 because it is a similar year (consecutive years).
As we researched the movie “Green Book” vs “Parasite”, the remarkable thing, there is a hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to call out the lack of diversity (mostly, people of colour, women and the LGBTQ community). So far, it can be seen that this is the hashtag that turned the Oscars into the centre of diversity.
According to Octavia Spencer besides, it also has an echo from some people of #OscarsSoWhite. That came out of the same tweet that he was happy with the black brothers who had been nominated for the award, but it is still a long way to get other people to be featured on this prestigious stage. A film called Green Book has created a phenomenon about black people in the US. This movie is idealised, sincerely optimistic in their friendship between Italian-American bouncer and black concert pianist.
On the other hand, Parasite created a phenomenon in an international feature film, the first foreign film to win Oscars. The story reflects the inequality of classes in society, and many social problems are portrayed in the movie. We will find out both films about why they became Oscar winners with the sources that we found and also interviews with other people.
Conversely, the resources to find in both movies are quite difficult because some information is not available or it remains secret. Our interview questions are about how people think about these films and how they have become Oscar-winning films in consecutive years; it can be considered in-depth interviews. In the in-person interviews, we started with simple questions that are useful for demographic data, including; age range, gender, education level.
Afterwards, beginning with open-ended questions to ask participants if they ever watch these films or not. Then we specifically asked them how they find these films, how they feel about these films, elements and also characteristics that bring it becoming Oscar-winning films. Since we did not know the objective factors of the Oscar award considering process, the interview helps us know a lot of perspectives and opinions that people have through the films.
We do interviews with people who have seen Parasite or Green book separately. After we finished the interviews with both participants who watched Parasite and Green book, we interviewed 26 people, 11 were from Green Book, and 15 were from Parasite. The number of participants interviewing for Green Book is 11 people, which are 6 males, 4 females, 1 other (LGBTQ+).
The number of participants interviewing Parasite is 15 people, which are 5 males and 10 females. The participants are 26 people age 18-22, have at least tertiary education knowledge level and are studying for a bachelor’s degree in Thailand. The number of participants that agree with Green book becoming an Oscar-winning film is 11 people, 0 people disagree. The number of participants that agree with Parasite becoming an Oscar-winning film is 15 people, 0 people disagree.
It includes the facts about what participants have observed from Parasite and Green Book films that lead to social issues in South Korea, American and Western societies.
🔎 What do participants think when Parasite and Green Book become Oscar-winning films in the Best Picture?
“Since I am not a person that is very into movies, so honestly, I cannot tell if it is an award-deserving movie or not, and I do not know the criteria to win. But in terms of the details, I think there are more details that the director had put in, and I did not discover them. So if the award is based on the details, then maybe yes.”
Jun, 22, MUIC Student.
“I am really glad that they receive the award because they decisively convey the social satire on class inequality not only in Korean society but also the audiences that live in the country, where class inequality exists, can be easily related to it.”
Noey, 21, CU Student.
“ I do not watch a lot of movies, but I feel that Green Book did a pretty great job about history stuff, and the information is good; it can educate people about racism issues. I enjoy watching it when it comes to Dr Shirley and Tony friendship, even though it is a people’s view from white perspectives anyway. It deserves the Oscars in terms of plots, accurate American histories in the ’60s, the overall cinematic things and characters’ dialogues are impactful.”
Tasha, 19, MUIC Student.
“I think it is suitable for the Oscars because it reflects racism problems in the old days, and sometimes it still happens currently. As I am a comarts student but not specialised in film production, I thought the storyline, cinematography and plots are fantastic. There is some point that I read reviews from Pantip (a famous Thai Webboard), some critics said that “it still illustrates that white people almost always look good and this film is one of them, but it makes me feel good.”
Yin, 21, CU Student.
🔎 How are the cultural elements in one of these films portrayed? For example, social disparities in Parasite or racism in the Green Book.
“I have found social inequality and class inequality, capitalism, rich people look down on poor people. Also, the use of money to solve the education issues from the rich family in Parasite. It portrayed the fact that rich people can hire tutors to teach their children while poor people need to scramble in order to be able to pay the tuition fee or just do self-learning. Lastly, the way they use women as a maid.”
Mint, 20, MUIC Student.
“It shows that the rich people have all the money and the omnipotence. They live a comfortable life, eating expensive food such as chapaguri food that looks like ordinary instant noodles but also adding expensive beef to it. On the other hand, the lower class hardly have the opportunity to eat the good beef that the rich do because in the lower class they have to bite or kick and spend all day earning money to support themselves in order to survive.”
Punch, 19, TU Student.
“In Green Book, they really show us what Tony thinks about black people in the very beginning of the film before he goes on a tour with Dr Shirley, and we will see how Tony changes after he sees what Dr Shirley has to deal with because of his skin colour.”
Tutor, 19, MUIC Student.
“I have spotted cultural elements in social issues including; racism, segregation affects black people and how black people are treated differently.”
Yu, 19, MUIC Student.
🔎 What are some of the takeaways or lessons taught by one of these movies?
“Social disparity exists everywhere. The ambition of the people, sometimes they can do everything to improve their quality of life. Every coin has two sides, so be careful before believing in something. However, the movie did not offer the solution but just presented the problems.”
Dan, 21, MUIC Student.
“The clear message is that social disparities is an issue to take a serious note of, and it is not easy to solve it. The poor will never be able to attain what the rich have. Therefore, they have to rely on the rich. Additionally, I think that maybe the director wanted to say that the rich are also Parasite, in a sense that it relies on the low-income people to work for them since they cannot do it all themselves. We are all parasites.”
Jun, 22, MUIC Student.
“Absolutely, it is worthy of an Oscar. I believe that no matter what colour you are, we are all equal as human beings. It is not related to our skin colour, social status or anything else. We must not discriminate against each other by skin colour but have more empathy for others, so our society will be better. ”
Yin, 21, CU Student.
“Everyone should be treated equally. Do not look down on or judge anyone by their skin colour.”
Sam, 20, MUIC Student.
Significance and application of results
The results we gathered from our in-depth interviews with 26 participants are able to be applied in terms of understanding and realising the problems that occur in our society, such as social inequality, social disparity, class division, racism, racial discrimination and many more that included in our figures.
Our research would be able to highlight those social issues through the Oscars-winning films, learn from those participants’ perspectives not only the way they find cultural components in the films but also the way they see and think about those social problems.
It can be seen those social issues that occur in those films, which can make people have more awareness on those issues in reality and reasons why they have been selected to be the Academy Award winners in consecutive years between 2019 and 2020 due to their brand new ideas, presentations and specific cultural elements and social issues illustrate through the films.
Limitations and flaws of the study
After we researched the information about both films “Parasite” and “Green Book”. Some information did not show up or be secret. Also, during the interview, we got some issues with finding people who watched Green Book. That is the reason why we had to find participants from other universities. It is because the Parasite is similar in our society in Asian and Eastern countries, and it relates to social inequality and social class.
In comparison, Green Book is more popular in western countries since it is related to racism that mostly happens in their countries. What we faced is to find that 26 participants had taken a period of time of about 2 weeks. The parasite was not the problem, but the Green book was asking people mostly not to watch the Green Book. Furthermore, as we have limited time, we thought some answers are not details enough, and we could do better if we had more time.
For literature reviews, we could barely find academic articles directly about Parasite because the film is quite new and only reflects South Korean society compared to Green Book, in that its cultural elements are broad and more relatable. That may be a reason why academic scholars have not done the research for Parasite because they may not understand what it is like to live in low-income families as good as Koreans.
In conclusion, we decided to interview university students from a wide range of majors and other universities in order to be able to gather points of view from many different perspectives. We also get to understand the perspectives of both films in Thais’ audiences.
The vast majority of participants have the same agreement on each topic in our in-depth interviews, including; well-deserved Academy Awards in the Best Picture category, observing cultural components and receiving the same message that the movies try to deliver to viewers, especially in social disparities and racism.
That means it can be the reason why both movies received Academy Awards because of their diversities, successfully messages delivery, reflecting social issues in both Eastern and Western countries that everyone can relate to or have experienced in their lives.
Moreover, it brings diversities to the Academy Awards ceremonies and stops audiences from stereotyping that the Oscars only give opportunities to white people and the Oscars So White movements.
Thanks for reading my blog! 🙏
I sincerely apologise for any misunderstanding and error that may appear on my blog. I hope you gain more knowledge in what our group tried to communicate, interpretation and analysis. 😉
Mahidol University International College(MUIC), Mahidol University, Salaya Campus, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand 🇹🇭 Fine and Applied Art Division | Media and Communication Media Com MUIC, 628 Batch 3 🎞 ICMC 204 Research Methods and Basic Statistics in Communication and Cultural Studies, 2nd Trimester of the academic year 2020-2021. Lecturer: Ajarn Jeri All initials below credited to We Get Degrees' 3 members. 1. TAS (Top) 2. MKW (Mie) 3. GTA (Gus)
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Published: 1 April 2021, 02.18 AM (BKK Time, GMT+7)
Updated: 18 August 2021, 7.18 PM (BKK Time, GMT+7)