Gran Torino starring Clint Eastwood was about a man’s struggle in adapting to the changes in his environment when confronted by unfamiliar exposure to cultural differences. The film was chosen because it told a story about one’s struggle with traditional practice, cultural diversity, gender roles, and the acceptance of others. In terms of culture, there was an abundance of traditional practices related to the Hmong community. The screenplay was written by Nick Schenk and the movie was filmed in July 2008 (Longwell, T). Gran Torino was directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, who also played the role of the main character known as Walt Kowalski. Walt was an American man and a Korean War veteran who resided in a neighborhood that became inhabited by Hmong families (Gran Torino, 2008). The relationship that Walt had with his own family was disconnected and distant because his sons embraced the modern way of living but Walt was more traditional. Walt was portrayed as a grumpy old man who did not like to socialize with others. All of that changed when Walt became associated with the Hmong children next door, Thao and Sue. Walt saved Thao from being taken by the Hmong gang members and was viewed as a hero by the Hmong families despite the fact that Walt was just trying to keep other people off his lawn. Upon an unexpected invitation by Sue, Walt’s world became intertwined with the Hmong community as he was introduced to various traditional Hmong customs and foods. After a series of events, the Hmong gang returned and injured Thao’s family which prompted Walt to seek redemption from his war past by sacrificing himself for the safety of Thao and Sue. The film portrayed culture clashes between an American and Hmong families while focusing on the struggles that Hmong immigrants endure to survive within their community.
The Hmong population was great in Minneapolis, Minnesota and it was the original setting of Gran Torino and also the home town of screenplay writer Nick Schenk (Longwell). Schenk had never written any other featured films prior to Gran Torino and it was his first recognized piece. In the early 90s, Schenk worked at a factory where many of his co-workers were Hmong and he gained some knowledge about the history of Hmong people (Longwell). The Hmong sided with the U.S during the Vietnam War but ended up in refugee camps due to communist takeover after the U.S. troops left, which resulted in the Hmong fleeing to the U.S. to escape from the communist forces (Gran Torino, 2008). Schenk began to incorporate Hmong families into the story with a Korean War veteran to emphasize a clash of cultures. The intended purpose of this film was to express the cultural barriers in the language, customs, and gender roles between Hmong people and Americans. The writers and directors did a great job on portraying masculinity as the perceived dominant role between the characters. In Gran Torino, Walt criticized Thao for doing things that men are not supposed to do such as gardening. Thao does a good job in representing role reversal because he was proud to do women chores like washing the dishes and gardening. Walt tried his best to look after Thao and made Thao masculine by teaching him how to talk to other “real” men. Walt believed that real American men are supposed to be strong, fight for themselves, pay taxes, and work hard at a hands-on laboring job. Walt eventually helped Thao become a man by getting him a “real” job, tools for construction work, and social skills to interact with other men. This film was derived from Schenk’s prior experience as a factory worker with other Hmong people and this writer did not create any other significant work subsequent to the production of Gran Torino. The plot of the movie was to show how two different types of culture collide and interact. In addition, there was also indication that masculinity in males was important as shown by the main character, Walt. The sub-plot...
References: Eastwood, C. (Producer & Director). (2008). Gran torino [Motion Picture]. Burbank, CA:
Longwell, T. (2008). Eastwood recognizes Hmong immigrants with new film. Reuters. Retrieved
May 27, 2014, from http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/12/09/us-gran-idUSTRE4B81ZC20081209
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