As a Korean-American, the recent Oscar win for the Korean film Parasite was an unprecedented and remarkable moment for Asians in the film industry. I grew up watching Korean dramas that were acclaimed worldwide but always felt like Korean cinema was undervalued in the U.S. by Hollywood.
The director of Parasite, Bong Joon Ho, said in his Oscars speech that once someone overcomes the unfamiliarity of subtitles, there are many more amazing films to watch. To me, it was strange even watching Parasite in a D.C. theater because there are not many foreign films meaningful enough to break into Hollywood. Parasite was a stride for Asians in the film industry and one of the first visible moments when I could see tangible change. Watching the award-winning film made me hopeful for the future of cinema and personally reminded me of small pushes toward inclusivity in my own life at GW.
The University has taken small steps toward a more inclusive and diverse campus in recent years, mandating diversity training for Panhellenic Association organizations, holding cultural competency training at the Multicultural Student Services Center and implementing an anonymous bias reporting system. These are substantial initiatives that can move the University toward a more inclusive campus, but I have never really seen a big win like Parasite’s award. I felt the campus community was its most inclusive when I could speak to people from different nationalities or take courses in Korean literature, but the University falls short of my expectations. Parasite took a stride toward inclusivity in Hollywood by validating different cultures in the mainstream, but as a non-white student at GW, I still often feel like I am outside of the mainstream.
The University can do more to promote diversity by implementing smaller scaled events like cultural celebrations. One of my favorite memories from elementary school was “multicultural day,” when students and parents created informational posters, brought in ethnic foods and showcased cultural artifacts. I remember my mom brought in a “hanbok,” a piece of traditional Korean clothing. Multicultural day helped me realize that if we fail to learn about and include different cultures in conversations, then we cannot truly become an inclusive community. Parasite’s win was similar, because it helped in making Hollywood more inclusive.
“Multicultural day” was a small push toward promoting inclusivity, and GW could and should continue developing more ideas to accomplish the same goal. We may not be able to see major triumphs like an Academy Award, but we may all eventually recognize the value of other cultures on campus and work harder to embrace them.
One of the most significant conversations I had at GW was with a student from California. We talked about the prominence of Asian culture and food on the West Coast and how the quality of food differs on the East Coast. We discussed how we were comfortable in places that were most inclusive of Asian identity. Parasite’s award brought not only Koreans but Asians and Asian-Americans together and left a lasting effect on Hollywood. We may not be able to see a big shift in change at GW, but we can still push to create an environment that respects and appreciates diversity across campus.
Jina Park, a senior majoring in English, is an opinions writer.