Movie-Review: Gran Torino – A Tale of Diversity and Harmony
Introduction: A Multifaceted Perspective on America’s Diversity
I decided to go with a personal favorite of mine: Gran Torino is a great tale of an elderly war vet who is confronting his demons as he nears the end of his life. The conflict of the movie occurred in a neighborhood in Michigan. Basically, the problems started due to the racially mixed community. In my opinion, in this movie, we can see the actual situation of this country, a country full of diversity that is struggling to survive in this world with all different types of cultures. This movie not only tells Walt Kowalski’s tale but also gives viewers a look into the culture of the Hmong people living in his neighborhood. The film does not hold back racial slurs for any ethnicity, nor does it hold any other harsh language when Walt interacts with members of the community. The film also tackles views on many modern issues, such as women’s “place” in society, especially in the Hmong culture, and confronting racism.
Cultural Exploration: Unveiling Hmong Culture and Community Dynamics
The director and main actor, Clint Eastwood, present conflict in the film as the struggle between the people of the neighborhood against the Hmong gang led by Spider. He also shows the internal conflict of Walt dealing with his racist ways after the passing of his wife. He is then introduced to Sue, Thao, and the neighborhood. The neighborhood is made up of mostly Hmong people who come from different parts of the Vietnam peninsula. They were allied with the Americans during the Vietnam War and persecuted for doing so when the Americans left the war zone. Thao and Sue’s family is extremely traditional, as evidenced throughout the movie. I point this out because this is where you see the dynamics of their culture.
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Conflicts and Resolutions: Neighborhood Struggles and Personal Redemption
Sue is a strong-willed young lady who has grown up in America along with Thao. According to the grandmother, Thao needs to be the man of the house, but because he is shy and likes to garden, he is seen as doing “women’s” work and, therefore, is not respected in his family. From my perspective, the Hmong people reflect perfectly a culture of collectivism, rather than Mr. Kowalski, who reflects the American culture of individualism.
It is incredible how the other neighbors think exactly the same. The Hmong family thinks their neighbor, Mr. Kowalski, is strange. On the other hand, the American, Mr. Kowalski, thinks they are the ones who act very strange. Definitely, there is a big cultural norms conflict. The Hmong family has many different customs and traditions. From my perspective, the Hmong people reflect perfectly a culture of collectivism, rather than Mr. Kowalski, who reflects the American culture of individualism.
Another thing that was interesting to me is that for the majority of the different groups and cultures that were depicted in the movie, the main goal was to have the 1972 Grand Torino. However, for every group, such as the Asian gang, the Mexican gang, Thao, Sue, and Mr. Kowalski, the idea to have it was for different reasons. This reminds me of how minorities are behaving here in the US, fighting for the same dream but from a different perspective and with different behaviors.
The film also reflects how this country deals with diversity every day. At some point in our lives, we have to stop thinking that the “other” people have to be like “us.” For instance, Mr. Kowalski couldn’t ignore when his doctor turned out to be Asian, even though he didn’t like it. At some point in the movie, he had to embrace the change, deal with it, and respect the customs of others. Even when there are huge differences in traditions, customs, and verbal and non-verbal communication between the Hmong and Mr. Kowalski, the need for harmony wins.
Stereotypes and Realities: Deconstructing Portrayals
Another aspect that fascinates me about the film and that I really want to pay attention to in real life is the necessity to know at least a little bit of background about other people. When I analyzed the characters of this movie, l could tell why Mr. Kowalski had this strong and rude attitude. I discovered that his military regime and behavior toward the Hmong family at the beginning of the movie came from his days in the Korean War. On the other hand, Thao’s attempt to steal Mr. Kowalski Grand Torino comes from the pressure of his cousin and the “gangs.”
The strange behavior of the Hmong family leaving things outside of Mr. Kowalski’s house is all due to their traditions. This makes me think that before judging, discriminating, or simply starting any conflict with other people, we have to consider their backgrounds a little bit more.
Additionally, l believe that this film is full of stereotypes. Thao was the typical smart Asian guy who studied a lot. “The bad boys” were the African Americans. The usually portrayed gangs were “Mexicans.” The noisy, loud, and rambunctious neighbors had to be minorities. And, of course, what the media loves the most, who better to play the “hero” if not the American? Just as America tries to do with the rest of the world, Mr. Kowalski was trying to do with the neighborhood, “fix it.”
Conclusion: A Call for Respect and Change
In my opinion, it is not necessary that we agree about other people’s beliefs or traditions, but it is necessary to respect and recognize others around our land. I do think Walt could have handled the situations a little bit better, but that would not be in the style of Clint Eastwood or a good movie. He could have called the police, kept to himself, and lived out the rest of his life without changing, but he instead decided to make a difference and not just turn a blind eye to the neighborhood he cared so much for.