Saturday, August 6, 2016

Mental Colonization Through American Intervention: The Host Part I

While The Host initially appears to function solely as an immensely suspenseful, high-production science-fiction horror film, there are actually deliberate, underlying motifs that transcend the film into a multidimensional masterpiece, capable of being analyzed in a variety of perspectives. Under a historical lense, scenes which include the hapless reactions of the South Korean masses, to the mercilessness of the American surgeon in one of the film’s most pivotal moments, reflects Bong Joon-ho’s own assessment of the United States and Korea’s flawed diplomatic and political relations. Through the characterization and dialogue of the film’s primary protagonists and antagonists, as well as the unfolding of the narrative, Bong Joon-ho’s allegorizes the ruthlessly absurd effects of mental colonization, criticizes American intervention in Korea, and presents a potent rationale against Western media.
In order to fully comprehend the strength of Boon Joon-ho’s arguments, there has to a consensus agreement and admittance that we all have been conditioned unwillingly and to a great extent, brainwashed to hold unnatural biases through the media (Loomba, 7). There are intentional, subliminal messages scattered all across the seemingly innocuous advertisements, films and television programs that are virtually unavoidable (Berry, 218). These repeated messages form schemas—”organized patterns of thought or behavior that organizes categories of information and the relationships among themand manufacture the perception of reality, regardless of whether or not these messages are objectively true (DiMaggio). While the West’s colonization of developing countries can be physically observed through their military occupation, controlling the minds of the citizens in these developing countries further serves as a subtle but equally devastating, augmentation of colonization (David, Okazaki, 3). In other words, the West has been utilizing the media to force-feed schemas that maintain Western hegemony, “mentally colonizing” the inhabitants of the colonized country into believing schemas, such as “White is right” (David, Okazaki, 11). Derogatory stereotyping of “un-Westernized” individuals, as well as portraying America in an unrealistic and overwhelmingly positive manner are just two recurring themes—schemas— that secure America’s global authority and economic opportunity.

As a testament to the effects of mental colonization, Joon-ho satirizes the effects of mental colonization of Hollywood films on its own domestic audiences, when a young, white American male decides to, on a whim, battle the creature himself. Because Hollywood has been saturated with fantasy films of, white males playing the role of savior in foreign lands, the self-esteem of white males are disproportionately high (Goldberg). It is not a coincidence that an average American male, in a sea of South Korean citizens is the only one to stand up against the creature. In similar studies, girls, as well as minorities growing up in America, have demonstrated lower self-esteem due to the schemas of eurocentric television programs (Goldberg). To say that the media does not play a role in unknowingly influencing the behavior of others is nonsensical, yet others are very unaware of just how much the media conditions its audiences. From the perspective of South Korea, we could see why it is critical for them to monitor the schemas displayed at their local theatres and diversify the schemas presented through their own films.
South Korean protests (against cultural imperialism)
To bring this back in the context of South Korea’s film industry, South Korea had been enforcing that homegrown Korean films be shown 146 days a year, implementing a quota system that had lasted for over 140 years (Lee, 58). However, due to pressure from the United States government and the World Trade Organization to open up their trade barriers, Korea was forced to lower their quota to 73 homegrown films a year (Lee, 58). This allowed more Hollywood films to flood the screens at the expense of Korean films that weren’t modeled after the blockbuster, decreasing the diversity of Korean films exhibited at the theaters (Berry, 219). Unaware of the tremendous capability of the media to influence and shape society and conditioned by a eurocentric point of view, a typical American citizen might ask, “Why is Korea so ardently defending the screen quota?” In the words of Shin Ki-Nam of South Korea’s Committee for Cultural Tourism, “Supporting the quota system does not mean we are excluding other films. It is about preserving our uniqueness.” This “uniqueness” encompasses Korean traditions and values, distinguishing South Korea from America and without this “uniqueness,” the world would be irrationally homogenized under Western standards. And what are these Western Standards founded by, other than a series of violations of human rights? The Europeans left “skeletons” of colonized countries behind, and South Korea, as with the rest of the world, is cautious of American (Loomba, 7).


  1. > Unaware of the tremendous capability of the media to influence and shape society and conditioned by a eurocentric point of view, a typical American citizen might ask, “Why is Korea so ardently defending the screen quota?”

    They are aware exactly what they are doing and this is the typical concern troll tactic.