Searching for the American Dream in ‘Minari’ and ‘Nomadland’


In modern-day American movie theater, two landscapes juxtapose one another: one is dynamic, saturated, and fertile, while the other is sterilized and insipid. In this case, the landscapes belong to Lee Isaac Chungs Minari and Chloé Zhaos Nomadland, respectively. Both films fight the ideal of the American Dream through significantly various lenses: the outsider devoted to possibility, and the insider jaded by the unreality of the idea..
Minari informs the story of a Korean-American family in the 1980s after their patriarch, Jacob (Steven Yeun), moves them to rural Arkansas so he can realize his imagine starting a rewarding farm. Having currently remained in the United States for a while, he and his wife, Monica (Han Ye-ri), have actually set ideas of what an effective American life ought to appear like. However Jacobs optimism, along with his kids veneration of America, stops him from questioning whether the life he is grasping for is even attainable in the very first place..
When immigrants first started settling in the United States, the American Dream consisted of venturing out West and staking out an area of land to call ones own. The idea was: when you have land and can support yourself, you have actually obtained the perfect American life. Things did not continue that way for really long, and they certainly are not that method now.
Throughout the Dust Bowl, for instance, farmers were started their land and subsequently forced to carve out a brand name extraordinary and brand-new standard of American life. Enslaved Black people, too, were not presented with the land they were guaranteed when they were lastly given their liberty. Americans were faced with the severe truth that land, alone, might no longer be the gold requirement. The last frontier had to be something new.
Regardless of moving to an incredibly altered America, Jacob still holds onto this antiquated concept of land as the ultimate signifier of status. But his old, settler ideals are at odds with new concepts of capitalism; Jacob does not stake out the land to offer vegetables for his household to consume, but rather from which to make cash..
The stress inherent in the American Dream in Minari is provided in the kind of Monicas mom, Soonja (Youn Yuh-jung), who comes to stick with the family to help out with the kids. Soonja is not thinking about achieving the American Dream but rather is content with keeping her own conventional Korean roots..
Initially, the children press back against Soonja, particularly young David (Alan Kim), whose devotion to America is not different to his fathers: he wears cowboy boots around the home and beverages Mountain Dew consistently. He is outspoken about his dislike for Soonja and tells his parents he doesnt wish to share a space with her since she “smells like Korea,” though he has never ever in fact existed. He likewise tells her she isnt a real granny due to the fact that she doesnt bake cookies, as soon as again unconditionally declining non-American customs.
After Jacob stops working to grow a sufficient amount of crops due to an absence of water, Soonja scatters Korean Minari seeds by a creek near the households house, and they quickly multiply into rich, leafy vegetables. Regardless– and possibly most importantly– Soonja does not look to a nation that no longer exists, a country where this abstract dream can be attained by those who simply work hard, keep their eyes down, and pull their boot-straps up. That America died long earlier.
At the end of Minari, Jacobs big plan backfires– literally. The shed where he saves his veggies ignites and crumbles into ashes, much like the future that could never ever actually exist. Like at the beginning of the film, he is entrusted nothing but his household, the exact same thing he would have had he not embarked on his journey of success..
Minari is shot in such a way that shows Jacobs unrelenting optimism. The daylight is practically jarring in its brightness, while the colors are saturated to a point of near surrealism. The soundtrack, too, sweeps through the subconscious of the film like an old Western..
For the entirety of Minari, Jacob continues chasing the American Dream with hope and certainty that only matches up with a caricatured variation of the country and that may just be trusted by somebody who knows America only from movies and stories and has actually not lived here long enough to be jaded by the deep gullies of commercialism. Jacobs vision of America is what inspires individuals to come to America, and remain in America. It is likewise what enables America to continue being the self-sufficient beast that it is.
Nomadland, on the other hand, identifies the American Dream from a more knowledgeable, and subsequently more cynical and seasoned, vantage point. Like Minari, Nomadland is greatly focused around land. Unlike Minari, the nomads do not attempt to make anything of the land they live on, nor do they look to it as some sort of American paradise that can make them effective and satisfied.
Certainly, the land of Nomadland is various from the land of Minari. Unlike the latter, which continually indicates its abundant, fertile soil, Nomadlands landscape proliferates with rocks. Not only are rocks part of a prevalent theme at the emotional core of the film– a rolling stone gathers no moss, as the stating goes– but it also points to the reality of the state of the American Dream. Nothing can grow on these rocks. The land is just for taking a look at. Like the nation the nomads are in, it is unlikely to give anything back..
Maybe a more realistic analysis of the modern farm in Nomadland is the Amazon warehouse. When we are presented to Fern, she is a seasonal employee at the business, the layout of which is as near the equivalent of the demand and revenue of a 19th-century farm as one might get in the contemporary world. Zhao portrays the Amazon warehouse as a large, flat rectangle with columns of products, which symbolically simulate rows of vegetables and fruits..
In many methods, Amazon is the polar opposite of a farm. It represents the endgame of industrialization and capitalism, along with mass harmony. In an Amazon storage facility, whatever is inside boxes. Whatever is the very same. From the outside, there is no other way to truly inform whats inside. But Fern is so jaded from her experience in the capitalistic maker that she actually does not appear to have an issue with working for the company that infamously treats its workers inadequately. “Its a good task,” she says. An irony emerges here, too, as Amazon is in fact presented as an excellent job in Nomadland..
This is significantly different from the way Jessica Bruder, author of the movies source product, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, explains what its like to be an Amazon worker. Bruder states what a seventy-seven-year-old worker told her about their own experience: “They enjoy retirees because were reliable. Well show up, work hard, and are generally servant labor.” When informing the story of wanderers, this raises the concern that even Zhao was not able to exist outside of the capitalist matrix. Is it possible to reasonably portray Amazon in a time when Amazon is one of the primary financiers of online film circulation?
The attitude of a hesitancy to speak up against capitalism shows Ferns viewpoint of the American Dream, which is to say she does not think there is such a thing. Unlike Jacob, Fern does not believe that anything is possible, and she attempts to live outside of society to leave that. But even this outsider model eventually isnt possible– the nomads are reliant on government-funded well-being, upkeep on their vehicles, food from the grocery store, and tasks they work along the way. Some nomads may indeed believe that they are achieving true outsidership from the problem of the illusory American Dream, but Fern does not appear to fall under that trap..
The last shot of Nomadland borrows from John Fords The Searchers, in which John Wayne famously strolls through his doorway and back into the wilderness. This juxtaposition provides insight into simply how much America has actually changed. The final shot of The Searchers is filled with hope: the frontier was still genuine in America when Wayne wandered out into it. Fern, on the other hand, discovers no such luck..
Its not that self-sufficiency is not possible in contemporary America, it simply has a significantly various design than it utilized to. Where people used to have the possibility of staking out their own land, they now have to purchase that land, which needs being wealthy from the start.
Although they are informed from extremely various perspectives, Minari and Nomadland do not, at their core, diverge from one another. The previous tells the story of the beginning of the American Dream when one surrenders to the illusion that anything is possible. The latter tells the story of the end of it, of the exact minute when one realizes that the Dream in question is unattainable.

When immigrants first started settling in the United States, the American Dream consisted of venturing out West and staking out an area of land to call ones own. For the entirety of Minari, Jacob never ceases chasing after the American Dream with hope and certainty that only matches up with a caricatured variation of the nation and that might just be relied on by someone who knows America just from movies and stories and has actually not lived here long enough to be jaded by the deep gullies of commercialism. Nomadland, on the other hand, determines the American Dream from a more skilled, and subsequently more pessimistic and jaded, vantage point. Unlike Minari, the wanderers do not try to make anything of the land they live on, nor do they look to it as some sort of American paradise that can make them successful and fulfilled. The previous tells the story of the beginning of the American Dream when one surrenders to the illusion that anything is possible.


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