Gran Torino is a powerful drama film that portrays a man’s journey in a crime-ridden neighbourhood. The protagonist, Walt Kowalski, a racist Korean war veteran lived in a neighbourhood where the majority of the residences were of Asian descent. The difficult part of this was he was racist and prejudiced against minority groups. All started to change after the failed attempt of his next-door neighbour Thao of stealing his precious Gran Torino. As part of the Hmong tradition, Thao was forced to return to Walt and work for him as an act of penance. After a while, the two bonded and where Walt helped him through manhood by toughening him up, providing dating advice and helping him get a job in construction. During this, Walt learned that Thao had tried to steal the car to be a part of the gang that he confronted earlier in the movie. Throughout the rest of the movie, the gang had harassed Thao by destroying his construction tools, conducted a drive-by shooting, sexual and physically assaulting Thao’s sister. He then realized that Thao and his sister will never safe as long as the gang is still in the neighbourhood. For this reason, he had gone to the gang member house and committed one final act to help save them. In this paper, the effects of social construction of race and how it is portrayed in the film will be examined. First, the concept of social construction will be analyzed, providing an overview of the definition and its effects. Furthermore, how it is illustrated in the film will be examined.
Race as a Social Concept
Historically, race has been utilized to differentiate individuals based on their biological and physical appearance. Traits including body shape, skin color and hair style were used to divide individuals into particular racial group (Machery and Faucher, 2005, pp.1208). However, no empirical evidence exists to supports these classifications. This, in turn shows that differentiations are not rooted biologically or based on getting differences. Rather, the concept of race is explained through process of social construction. Through the lenses of social constructionism, it does not deny the evident physical differences in skin color and characteristics of individuals (Rothenberg, 2008, pp.10). “It simply sees these differences on a continuum of diversity rather than as reflecting innate genetic differences among people” (Rothenberg, 2008, pp.10). Therefore, race exists due to society’s placing significance on the differentiation between individuals. Effects of Social Construct of Race
Takaki stated that “race…has been a social construction that has historically set apart racial minorities from European immigrant groups” (as cited in Rothenberg, 2008, pp. 9). Throughout time, the categorization of race had form white hierarchy and domination over other groups of race. This in turn caused an effect of inequality, marginalization and unfair treatment towards particular groups. Asians, Blacks, Aboriginals, and Latinos are among the groups who are subjected to this form of treatment. Some examples include the justification of enslavement of black people, and the denial of access to Canada for non-white individuals. The success behind these social constructs is these divisions of race appear to be natural and a part of everyday lives rendering it to be invisible (Perry, 2011, pp.16). Thus making it easy to be taken for granted (Perry, 2011, pp.16). As Michael Omi and Howard Winant (1994) stated, Everyone learns some combination, some version, of the rules of racial classification, and of her own racial identity, often without obvious teaching or conscious inculcation. Thus we are inserted in a comprehensively racialized social structure. Race becomes ‘common sense’—a way of comprehending and being in the world. (as cited in Perry, 2011, pp.16) Therefore individuals are aware of these divisions but choose to accept it as it has become a natural dynamic in society....
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