Gran Torino is a product of Warner Brothers in association with Village Road Show Pictures and directed by Clint Eastwood. The film is based on broad themes of culture, cultural clash, multiculturalism, and cultural mixing. It shades some light into cultural perceptions, interrelatedness, and how violence based on cultural differences is manifested in the urban America. In Gran Torino, the theme of culture is set forth by the gradual and effortless way in which Walt, a bully and tough hearted individual becomes assimilated to the culture around him and begins to identify himself with the Hmong family. This essay discusses how and why Walt and his Hmong neighbours become close.
Walt’s Role in Gran Torino
According to Schenk, Walt in the story comes off as a dad that advises everybody. He is everybody’s shop teacher, regardless of his or her previous relationship with him (Burk, 2010). He sees the majority of society at the weakest moments and supports everyone in his community in his own harsh way. Unfortunately, it is true, the community he lives in does require patriarchs. From his origins, the character is from Minnesota and drew time working for a factory with a number of Hmong families. This brings us to the main theme of the movie.
The people are from little known culture in Laos, joined other parts of Asia that rallied behind the United States in the Vietnam War. As a tribe, they are rare especially, at the present, and their culture is invisible. Walt did not have the same restraint, which ended up most of the time, with slinging of racial insults with the frequency of a person that believes they are having a normal conversation. He is an unrepentant racist, except the fact that he makes tenuous connections with his neighbours and he feels the layers that he had of hostility slowly fade into nothing.
Walt assumes the role of the protector gradually, and that transformation plays in an often-broad sense in the comic perspective. Walt has a loose and sometimes funny performance in the early parts of the production giving the movie one of the great pleasures. Some enjoyment in this sense can be likened to spending a lot of time with an old friend. Eastwood has a rare talent at being able to direct films that he stars in such as this and Million Dollar Baby (Dargis, 2008). Thus, he is an iconic manipulator of the presence he gives on set.
How Walt Changes His Attitude toward the Hmong Neighbours
He knows that as he performs on set, people are also remembering previous characters in Avenging Angels and the Man with No Name. Kowalski happens to be a widower that holds on the prejudices ignoring the changes taking place in the Michigan neighbourhood (Carvalho, 2012). He is tough-minded old, fashioned and does not seem to get along neither with his children nor the neighbours. In fact, the only thing he does adore at first, is his prized possession, the Gran Torino, which gives the name of the movie.
The strength of the cast involves the influence of the Hmong Minnesotans that have moved into the neighbourhood, whereby almost all of them were new at acting. This helped a lot in the sense that they were busy trying to be on a point and thus, will give their best performance (Yuen, 2008). Then, there is a bookish neighbour kid that tries to make a name by stealing Walt’s Gran Torino. He built quite an unlikely friendship with Walt during the time spent afterwards.
One would assume that a racist, same calling, insult-slinging individual like Walt, would respond in that manner to someone who tried to steal his vehicle, which is quite valuable to him. Walt did things in the Korean War just as any soldier and experienced common syndrome of posttraumatic stress. During that time, he did not care of new alliances, but focused on killing the people he had been deployed to do. In fact, Schenk comments that all of the Asian communities are the same.
In this way, he finds another culture that is faceless and just as rare as it gets, he helps fight for independence when he is at the war. Probably, it is the war experience or the fact, that he fought beside them and experienced war on their behalf, but Walt comes to know more about the community, which helps him to reflect on his issues on past demons while learning more about them. The producer notes that the film bears similarity to all of the other heartrending Eastwood pictures. For one, Eastwood has always dealt with issues of race, gender, religion in the honest way he can, and which could portray itself as incorrect politically.
All behaviour is for reason, and Walt proves to be the common principle. His racial slurs may come out of his mouth more than the tobacco that he spit, though, with time, one finds that the racial cursing comes more from place of male defence mechanisms than from actual distaste of race (Chen, 2008). One could also say that he did hate other races, but he is getting soft and allowing emotions to cloud that judgement. Interestingly, the most genuine racists express, distaste on one race, however, Walt is an equal opportunities racist and hates all groupings with the same capacity until a Hmong thief made a difference.
Reasons for Walt’s Change in Standpoint
Walt is rather uncomplicated when it comes to psychological standpoint. Measures of control are quite necessary to him, as they are the only means he has on a world that is quickly changing. He knows that he does not relate well to his kin, thus, this may explain why he jumps at the chance to limit their independence partly because it is all he can do that is still enjoyable to him as a family act. The second reason is fear, whereby he is petrified at the idea of being left alone with no devices. His son suggested a retirement home, and Walt kicked him out.
However, he does change his mind by letting Tao, who tried to steal his car in the first place, wash the Gran Torino. Tao’s sister Sue sees past the facade telling him that he must like the boy if he allowed him near the car and protected him from gang members. Of course, he would deny this as much as possible to avoid people thinking he had grown soft and did not have any conviction for all his harshness.
Walt does not seem to realize what is going on as the relations between him and his family gets worse, and that with his neighbours improves. He is pulled into their world, and even though he states that he does not want anything to do with the ‘gooks’, they welcome him with food and gifts. They offer values that resonate much more than the materialistic values of his family, which draws him to them, further without his knowledge (Teays, 2012). When Tao is pressured to steal Walt’s Gran Torino, and is caught in the act Walt decides it is time to make him accountable for his actions.
The ultimate sacrifice comes from Walt himself and shows the complete turnaround of heart from all the hatred he had for the community. This is shown when the gangsters come and rape Tao’s sister in an attempt to get back at him. Walt realizes that nothing can be done except making sure the gangsters go to jail. He ends up going to the headquarters and places himself in a threatening position, and ends up being shot just as the police arrive.
Walt once abhorred the Asian community that infested the neighbourhood in his terms. Yet, he makes the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the safety of a few Asian kids. He managed to achieve a stronger bond with the Asian family that took him in them, the family who viewed him as an authoritarian individual that belonged in a nursing home.