The Host 2006: Imbalance of Power

2019 is my final year at UOW and I only had to pick a bunch of electives to complete my degree. Going through the list I found a neat little subject that watches movies as an assignment! How neat is that! Coming from a field which writes research reports and calculates numbers, writing blogs is a whole new playing field.

I’m an Asian Australian that was exposed to a lot of different cultures through family, media and of course food. I’ve went through the “Koreaboo” phases in high school and currently the “Weeb” phase… unfortunately. I’m no stranger to international films but critiquing films and drawing on my experiences is new to me.

We were asked to live-tweet about the film and the experience we felt throughout the screening. This is completely new to me and my view is limited, but I’ve spoken during movies, so I guess its kind of the same thing. (Sorry). The film had many interesting moments that ranged from comedy, politics and bad CGI horror.

From the get-go there was a showing of imbalance of power between two nations. America and South Korea. The imbalance of power is through both Legitimate Power and Expert Power. According to Raven 2008 legitimate power comes from a position or role, someone that is in a position of authority or higher ranked that can give orders to others. Expert power is having the knowledge or expertise in a field that others can rely on you to give valid expertise on (Raven, 2008).

During the opening scene we see two surgeons, an American and a Korean. The American surgeon uses his legitimate power of higher ranked surgeon to order the Korean surgeon (Mr. Kim) to pour toxic chemicals down a drain. Of course, Mr. Kim knows this isn’t the right thing to do but the American surgeon uses his expert power by telling Mr. Kim that the Han river is a big river, and everything will be alright.

Later into the film, Park Gang-doo was captured and contained in a facility and was met by an American and Korean translating doctor. The American doctor uses his expert power and first says the virus is now in Park Gang-doo brain but then explains to the Korean doctor (as well as Park) that there actually is no virus. The American doctor uses his Legitimate and expert Power of higher ranked doctor to continue with the operation to remove the “virus”. No-one would question him since he is in a role of authority and in a field where great expertise is needed.

I look forward to the upcoming films that I will be watching, and I hope I can broaden my horizon and critique better.

Me writing my first blog ever.
(American Doctor from the Host 2006)

Reference:

Raven, B. (2008). The Bases of Power and the Power/Interaction Model of Interpersonal Influence. Analyses Of Social Issues And Public Policy8(1), 1-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-2415.2008.00159.x

4 comments

  1. Hey!

    Your auto-ethnographic and self-reflexive writing made this blog post entertaining and interesting to read and added a deeper level of understanding about your contextual viewpoint for the reader.

    Your analysis of the anti-American themes that unfold throughout the film and the ‘imbalance of power’ that we see between the American and Korean doctors is in-depth and thought-provoking. Your analysis could be extended further through the exploration of the political and social context of the film, including the power relations that exist off-screen between America and South Korea and between Hollywood and Korean media.

    Bong’s deviation from the conventions of the horror genre itself, which is strongly identified with America, can be viewed as a comment on the social and political relationship between the US and South Korea; along with the anti-American themes that we see unfold in the movie.

    This is explored by Christina Klein in her article titled, ‘Why American Studies Needs to Think about Korean Cinema, or, Transnational Genres in the Films of Bong Joon-ho’, which you may find interesting concerning your blog post.

    Klein states, “Bong does not simply mimic Hollywood. Rather, he appropriates and reworks genre conventions, using them as a framework for exploring and critiquing South Korean social and political issues… so that they become tools for grappling with Korean questions.” (p. 873).

    Your blog post was engaging and thought-provoking regarding the onscreen use of legitimate and expert power between the two nations.

    Reference: Klein, C 2008, ‘Why American Studies Needs to Think about Korean Cinema, or, Transnational Genres in the Films of Bong Joon-ho’, American Quarterly, 60(4), pp. 871-898

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi there!

    Your analysis of the film is entertaining and interesting, especially diving into the power imbalance that is a massive underlying theme of The Host.

    I really enjoyed your first autoethnographic attempt and it definitely helped me further understand your context and how that influenced your own viewing of the film. Like you, i am doing this for the first time and it is an interesting and alternate task to undertake. I found it extremely interesting when you brought up the words ‘Koreaboo’ and ‘Weeb’ when describing your context because i have never heard of either of those words!

    So with some of my own research i came to the realisation (i think) that Koreaboo means; a massive fan of Korean pop culture, and Weeb means; such a massive fan of Japanese pop culture that they wish they were Japanese! It would be awesome to hear back from you if i am on the right track with the meanings of these word, and its funny because i’ve been a Weeb for all of these years without even knowing it! So i thank you for helping me describe my context better and i can now use these terms when describing my own autoethnographic experience.

    I also found myself agreeing with your dive into the power imbalance and found myself thinking the same as you did when viewing the film. It interests me how obvious such themes are put forward in Korean films and points to situations in reality that need to be noted, fixed or changed. Western films could take a leaf out of The Host’s book if you ask me!

    Really enjoyed this, keep it up and good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey there!

    I feel like I can totally relate to what you’re saying. I also have gone through a “Korea-boo” phase with the craze of BTS hahah. I feel as if Korean culture is becoming heavily induced into mainstream society and with the concept of the “Korean-Wave”, it is becoming almost “cool” or on trend to be watching K-dramas, listening to K-pop and dressing in minimalist ways as the stereotypical but fashionable Korean does.

    Relating to the rest of your blog post, I feel like you made a very interesting point about power and authority between America and Korea. I discussed in my own blog post about how The Host was based on a true story when Korean mortician working for The US military, dumped a large amount of chemicals down the drain. This highlighted the tension already between the two countries and we view the Americas being painted in a very negative light throughout the film.

    However, your blog post in particular did get me thinking about the respect for authority in Korea and how status and age heavily influences how one should respond and react to others. Usually this type of respect is based on age only, however I felt that in the movie authority and power also had a lot of influence on the decision making of the people in charge and their subsidiaries. This is where the mentioned concept of “legitimate power” can come into play, as a lot of the time the America-led actor would be the one who was higher ranking and calling the shots that resulted in very negative outcomes.

    Just an observation, keep up the good work 🙂

    Like

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