Grand Torino

Topics: Culture, Hmong people, Sociology Pages: 7 (1088 words) Published: September 27, 2014

Grand Torino Analysis
Cultural Diversity Through Interpersonal Communication
Margaret Heinsohn
Florida International University

The aim of this paper is to study the interpersonal communication taking place in a cultured shocked neighborhood. The findings of these studies are applied to the film Grand Torino. In addition, this study will discuss the communication styles applied by the characters of the movie. I believe they are essential to understanding the reasons why in general individuals are racists, stereotypical and unable to adapt to different cultures as well as living with those who are different to us. We will first examine how Walt’s character adapts to the cultural diversity. Next, we will examine the cultural differences and conflict between the Hmong people and Walt; an American. Later I discuss the difference between the communication and friendship styles of both cultures. In order to do this study, the movie Grand Torino was watched and notes were recorded over the span of a week.

Cultural Diversity through Interpersonal Communication

Gran Torino, focuses on the relationship between Walt Kowalski, a retired Korean War veteran who has just lost his wife, and his neighbors, who are of the Hmong culture. The story revolves around Walt, the teenage son, Thao, and daughter, Sue. The Hmong people are from Asia. This creates tension between Walt and the family because of Walts stereotypes and racism. He refers to them as “gooks” which is a derogatory slang term for Asian people, most commonly Koreans, this is something he took away from the Korean war. Walt does not see his culturally diverse neighbors as anything but “gooks” because he believes that Koreans and other Asians are all the same. There are many cultural differences between Walt and the Hmong family. They are a family rich with tradition and cultural values. Yet, they also struggle to adapt to the American lifestyle with a fear of losing their cultural identity. Walt is bitter because the new people in his town don’t understand or want to become accustomed with the American values that he grew up with. As a consequence, he avoided the Hmong family. He even expressed distaste for them to their face, not wanting to learn about them or their culture. After much conflict, Walt was presented with the opportunity to help his neighbors and to open his mind to adapting to the inevitable cultural diversity in his town.

The Hmong are very persistent and they relentlessly invited him to a party, coincidentally on his birthday. Walt finally accepts the invitation to the family barbeque which was the first step to creating a friendship with someone not of his kind. There he learned many things about the Hmong people’s customs, beliefs, traditions and communication style. He learned that you do not pat Hmong people or their children on the head ever because they believe the soul dwells there. Looking someone in the eye was considered rude; that is why everyone looked down instead of looking Walt directly in the eye. Another example of the Hmong communication style is when an elder from their family offers to “read him”. The elder tells Walt that his main problem is that he has no peace within and that is the reason he can’t find peace with others. There is a meaning to this; the shaman ritual of the Hmong tribe does not only represent a calling from ancestors but a ritual to show their fear towards the outside world. One scene that accurately shows Walt’s communication style is when Thao is pressured by a gang in to attempting to steal Walt’s car. The gang attacked Thao for not going through with it. As they drag him off of his porch, Walt comes out to confront them. He pulls a gun on them and resolves the conflict by using the “engagement style” of resolution which, “views intense verbal and nonverbal expression of emotion as demonstrating sincerity wand willingness to...

References: Eastwood, C. (Director). (2008). Gran Torino [DVD]. Los Angeles: Warner Brothers.
Duffy, J., Harmon, R., Ranard D., Thao B., & Yang, K. (2004).
The Hmong: An introduction to their history and culture. Retrieved from:
Steven A. Beebe, Susan J. Beebe, Mark V. Redmond ,Terri M. Geerinck . Interpersonal Communication: Relating to Others, Pearson Education Canada; 5 edition (Feb. 15 2010)
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