Gran Torino

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Gina Lawence
English 306
Gran Torino (final draft)
In the Eye of the Beholder
The film Gran Torino allows Clint Eastwood directs and plays a role that depicts an older man dealing with lost love, life and death, hauntings from the past, and managing his own racial biases. All of these obstacles come to a harsh reality with the changes taken place in his mid-western home town. Eastwood plays the widower, Walt Kowalski, who is highly racist and prejudice. His character was a former Korean War veteran and Ford factory worker that believes all things should be kept American, especially his neighborhood. With his cynical mind set on the world, each day slowly becomes darker and darker for him as more and more Hmongs and other mixed races move into his once Anglo-Catholic dominate city. Walt perceives himself as though he is the epitomy of what the ideal American is and should be. The American flag is a present symbol outside Walt’s house; and as Walt encounters a life-changing journey. The assumed idea of what an American flag represents strays away and evolves from his narrow perspective to a much larger and more personalized view.

Walt Kowalski perceives himself as being the ultimate American. In his eyes he would be the most appropriate definition of an American man. He owns an American car, drinks American beer, fought for America and its people, and contains the stereotypical ego of an American; the idea of that he is better than anyone else based upon his way of life. The ego of Walt is presented in the very beginning of the movie at his wife’s funeral. The American flag is out of focus behind Walt as he watches his family come in for the funeral. Walt immediately grunts with disapproval and glares at his own grandkids as they walk into the pews. The way they disrespect the proceeding funeral and church of God with there inappropriate actions and attire allows Walt to look down at them with disapproval. To Walt, they are American due to the way they look, but they act in ways that disgrace the American ideal. But why is the flag in almost nearly out of sight but directly behind Walt as he judges his family? It allows us to realize and observe Walt’s extraordinary oversized ego. Back in the fifties when there was a government issued poster, a white American soldier was always standing with an American flag waving graciously in the air behind him . Walt sees himself as being that picture perfect American as he judges harshly on everyone else around him.

The American flag is a well known and recognized object throughout the world that has many assumed and standard meanings. In the beginning of Gran Torino, the flag is initially shown inside the bar, where Walt and Priest Janovich talk about life and death. The flag at this time represents freedom and honor. The bar is a place for men to come and talk or reminisce old memories over drinks. The bar is also decorated in a manly fashion and when the camera shows the flag, it embodies the common belief of America and how it was founded by men, men of the American military. The soldiers of the wars that had to do unthinkable things in order to ensure that they would live another day and that the beloved citizens of America were safe. The memories and near death experience parallels Walt and Priest Janovich’s conversation of life and death inside the dimly lit bar. Walt feels closely tied to death due to the orders he was given as a military soldier. Due to feeling like he is closely associated with death, Walt hardly lives as a human. He confines himself to living a life consisted upon daily routines never exploring the changing world upon him. For him it is easier to sit back and judge the people and the world around him, rather than stand up and try to make the world a place that he sees fit. These mixed and confused feelings of honor vs guilt is the essential meaning of what the flag stands for in this scene. It is also the essence of the chaotic journey that Walt...
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