Gran Torino

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Taking a look at the final movies, Gran Torino and Sixteen Candles, we have two very different movies in terms of tone, plot and characters. Gran Torino (2008) is a drama that revolves around an old, recently widowed Korean War veteran that appears disillusioned from the modern world and is alienated from his family and seemingly bitter towards everyone. By an at-first shaky relationship with his Hmong neighbors, Walt develops a connection with them and goes through a revelation of sorts about his life and eventually makes the ultimate sacrifice for a young Hmong boy. Sixteen Candles, on the other hand, is a coming of age story of a young teenage girl, Sam, and her journey through high school. Sam is seen as very insecure and unsatisfied with her love life but eventually is able to attract the boy of her dreams, as we see them embrace, in the now romantic comedy cliché.

Although seemingly polar opposites, these two movies both offer interesting depictions of Asian Americans and in particular Asian American males. Gran Torino has a flux of Asian American characters, while Sixteen Candles only has one Asian American character, Long Duk Dong. Both movies demonstrate a sense of white masculinity and in effect deems the Asian ethnicity as a weaker/less suitable counterpart. Despite both of the movie’s motivations, the Hmong people and Long Duk Dong are both portrayed in the stereotypical representation of Asian Americans.

Gran Torino, as mentioned above, focuses on an old war veteran who displays his misanthropy to the world and his family shortly after his wife’s death. His own family is shown as jaded and superficial and Walt seems to have no desire to have a healthy relationship with them. Walt is displayed as the archetype of white masculinity compared to the weaker representations displayed by Walt’s two sons and the young, naïve priest.

We see Walt, drinking beers on his porch, annoyed by the changing racial landscape of his own neighborhood....
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