Gran Torino

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“Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn't have fucked with? That's me.” (Walt Kowalski, Gran Torino, 2008) After watching the movie Gran Torino, I certainly can agree with Walt's perspective on himself. Gran Torino was produced in the year of 2008, written by Nick Schenk and directed by Clint Eastwood. In this particular movie we see the cause and effects of several social issues, how through socialization these social issues can be resolved and perspectives can be altered. Previously watching this movie I believed most individuals values were set in stone from experiences learned through the journey of life. However, I now believe that anyone can change their beliefs, forming new attitudes, setting new values thus allowing the individual to make new choices.

To sum up the plot of the movie in a nutshell, Walt Kowalski is a racist Korean War veteran who demonstrates his bigotry attitudes towards his new neighbors who are Hmong. He recently lost his wife, estranged from not only his children but also his grandchildren who are more interested in his possessions. His prized possession and joy was his 1972 Gran Torino which reminded him of a happier time in his life working at the Ford assembly plant. He is clearly still haunted by the horrors he witnessed and the violent acts the war had him commit. An unsuccessful attempt from the Hmong teenager next door from a forced gang initation to steal his Gran Torino vehicle, forced Walt into forming a relationship with the family furthering him to reanalyze his beliefs. He was eventually able to lay to rest his painful memories of the past by facing his own prejudice racist attitude face to face. He was able to overcome his oppressing behavior allowing the two diverse groups to form a mutual friendship. His death in the end shows support of the minority group, protecting them from the gang for years to come.

The movie Gran Torino portrays three diverse groups of people, taking place in the greater Detroit neighborhood. Each subculture faces quite a few social issues ranging from racism, prejudice attitudes, stereotyping, discrimination, ageism, sexism and harassment. Caucasian, Hmong and gangs are the main subcultures the movie explores. A Subculture is a culture within a broader mainstream culture, with its own separate values, practices, and beliefs (http://www.cramster.com/definitions/subculture/825)

The most identifiable social aspect of diversity is seen with all the discrimination in the neighborhood demonstrated by each group. When Walt first notices the Hmong family he refers to Thao, the male teenager, as a “zipperhead”. Other racial and ethnic slurs that he commonly used to insult the Hmong are; gooks, spooks, fish heads, swamp rats, egg roll, zip, chink, jungle people, ginny and minks. He does routinely use the slurs with his Caucasian friends however you can notice the difference when referenced with his relaxed facial expressions and humorous behavior. I found it quite surprising when Sue was being harassed by the African American teenagers on the street,Walt not once used the term “nigger” when interacting with yet another minority group. Even when telling the joke “ A Mexican, a Jew and a colored guy walked into a bar” he was able to refrain from using any type of racial slur that would have been used attached to one of African American background. I started to think that perhaps the writer thought it was socially acceptable to discriminate against the Hmong culture but not the people of color.

The gang uses discrimination against Walt by believing him to be an old man who would be unable to hold his own grounds and easily been taken advantage of. Our book defines discrimination as “ actions carried out by a member of a dominant group that have a negative impact on a member of subordinate group.” (Understanding Human Differences 3rd Edition (pg 9) Koppelman,Kent, 2011) The gang believes they are dominant group or they...
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