GRAN TORINO ANALYSIS 1
Gran Torino Analysis
One of thepredominant themes in Gran Torino is cultural diversityrevealed through the emphasis of white masculinity and racism. Thelead character is Walt played by Clint Eastwood who is a loner andhas problems with dealing with his own children and grandchildren.Walt is a Korean War veteran and a retired autoworker. Walt is also aracist man and has not interest in creating friendship with othermembers of the society from different cultural backgrounds. However,one of his most notable shortcomings is his inability to interactwith non-white people without applying very offensive racialepithets. The fact that his neighborhood is a Hmong enclave makesWalt’s situation worse. He does not seem to relate with thecultural diversity that is very vibrant in his neighborhood.
One of the notablescenes about Walt’s approach to cultural diversity is the scenewhere his next-door Hmong family invites him for dinner. When beingwalked around the house by Sue, he inquires why all her people lookdown when he tries to make eye contact. In this respect, it isimperative to note that the reference of the Hmong people as ‘her’people is an indication that Walt does not consider them equal to thewhites who he thinks are superior in all aspects of life. He alsomakes the mistake of touching the head of a girl, which the familymembers meet with signs of dismay despite the fact that he does thisin an affectionate manner. Sue later explains that the Hmong peoplebelieve that the soul of a person is located in the head theyconsider it inappropriate to touch people’s heads. Sue alsoexplains that Hmong people consider looking people straight in theeye to be rude.
Apparently, Waltdoes not try to be culturally or socially compatible with members ofother cultures. He believes that his culture is the superior culture.The expectations, processes, and values of Walt are not appropriateto members of the society from other cultural backgrounds. The factthat he prefers to use direct verbal approach in dealing withdisagreements reinforces his inability to deal with culturaldiversity. This absence of emotions directed towards people fromdifferent cultural backgrounds including members of a gang reflectson intercultural conflict, which eventually results with the death ofWalt (Rasmussen, 2013).
Walt’scommunication style is one of the film’s elements that play acritical role in presenting intercultural conflicts in theneighborhood. Intercultural conflicts occur in specific culturalsettings. However, it is important to note that the rightcommunication is critical in conflict resolution and harmoniousco-existence despite the cultural differences present within thesociety. However, Walt’s communication style spurs interculturalconflicts between different groups within the community. It isimportant that communication is both verbal and non-verbal. Waltapplies the two types of communication to show his racial attitudetowards his neighbors who he assumes are inferior when compared tohis superior culture.
A good example ofhis poor communication style is in a scene where he spits at the lawnof his neighbor because he thinks that they do not take proper careof their lawns. Although provoked by the neighbor by telling him toleave like other white people who have left the neighborhood, hisresponse sends the wrong signals. These signals only elevate thetension and conflict between members of the society. In the scenewhere the gang members fight in his lawn when they come to take Thau,he comes out armed with a gun and informs the gang members that heshot Koreans without thinking about it. Although the neighbors hailedhim as a hero, he sends the signal that he does not want the heroworship but prefers the neighbor to leave him alone. This kind ofcommunication does help in intercultural conflict resolution butexacerbates the conflict and tensions between people of differentcultural backgrounds.
Thau and Sue on theother hand have a communication style is very apt for conflictresolution. Their communication style can solve conflicts fromdifferent perspectives. It is imperative to note that in the film,conflict can range from the stranger-to-stranger, interpersonal, andintergroup interactions. For instance, Sue uses her communicationstyle to inform Walt about why some of his behaviors in their housewere inappropriate. Thau on the hand shows that his communicationstyle can resolve intergroup conflicts and ensure that all members ofthe society live harmoniously. Thau is capable of clarifyingmisunderstandings when dealing with the gang members, which is one ofthe communication factors that helps in conflict resolution (Kelly,2012).
Walt hasinteresting view of friendship, which manifests in his approach tocreating interpersonal relationships with members of the society. Itis important to note that Walt has failed in even creating meaningfulrelationships with his family members and views his sons as failuresdominated by their wives. However, it is apparent that when hediagnosed with a potential chronic disease, he sees the need ofhaving a friend. He reaches out to his son Mitch but theirconversations are always insufficient to create a meaningfulconversation. The two have had a strenuous relationship since Waltdoes not respond when Mitch needs something from him. Walt also findshardships of making friends due to his stereotypical and racistapproach to life. His neighbor has the majority of residents beingculturally, socially, and racially different from his. However, hestill holds the opinion that his culture and race is the superiorrace within the society. Walt bluntly rejects any attempt made toreach out to him by his neighbors. Walt does not feel that he can fitwithin a group of people who views as being uncivilized.
On the other hand,Sue and Thau have identified the need to connect with peopleregardless of their social and cultural backgrounds. This is in linewith the Hmong culture, which places a very high value oninterpersonal and intergroup relationships. It is for this reasonthat we see Thau reaching out to Walt because he sees him as a fatherfigure. Sue on the other understands the cultural differences thatexist within the society and her need to make interculturalconnections leads her to invite Walt for dinner. Her communicationstyle is also welcoming and designed to make Walt feel at home intheir home. However, we also find that Walt reconsiders theimportance of friendship when diagnosed with an illness and thesubsequent refusal of Mitch to communicate with him. This leads himto act as a guarding of Thau and eventually the two fills each othervoids as a father figure and as a son who is willing to create arelationship with his father. Walt also teaches Thau on how to behavelike a man in the barbershop scene and helps him to get his first jobat a construction site (Roche, 2011).
Kelly, P. J. (2012). Using popular movies and reflections to increasethe cultural sensitivity of students. The Journal of PhysicianAssistant Education, 23(4), 39-42.
Rasmussen, B. (2013). Making sense of Walt: A psychoanalyticunderstanding of racism. Psychoanalytic Social Work, 20(1),50-61.
Roche, M. W. (2011). Cultural and religious reversals in ClintEastwood’s Gran Torino. Religion and the Arts, 15(5),648-679.