Gran Torino Movie Essay

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GranTorino Movie Essay

GranTorino Movie Essay

Interculturalcommunication is the art of studying the conveyance of information topeople of different ethnic backgrounds. The world is ever evolvingand hence the need to connect socially. People often find themselvesin situations whereby they are forced to interact with people ofdifferent linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Among theseinteractions, there is a need for understanding and tolerance amongthe various language barriers hence the need to understand and putthem into significance to understand the differences and similaritiesbetween different cultures. Intercultural communication is a form ofintegration in the modern-day society that acts as a pathway towardsadapting different cultures into one. Although people are diverse,they can learn and accept differences in cultural practices all in abid to enhance social integration.

GranTorino brings to light the differences that can hinder communicationmajorly focusing on culture and age. Gran Torino shows the differentcompromises people have to live with so as to tolerate the idea ofkeeping up with a culture they found and want to pass it down. Themovie also brings into light the diversity of different cultures andhow trying to fit in can be hard since it is not perceived as peoplebelieve. The social conflicts in the movie are a form ofcollectivists` values that can significantly hinder communicationwell described by Martin (2011), whereby they state that conflictsare unavailable and are happening all around the world, as theyalways have, and at many different levels.

Adaptingto cultural diversity.

Themovie begins with the death of Walt’s wife. His neighborhood, whichwas majorly inhabited by the white middle class is now growing andaccommodating people from different racial divides. Particularly hisneighbors, the Vang Lor family who belong to the Hmong community.Walt is finding it hard to adapt to cultural diversity starting fromhis grandchildren, whom he feels arepoorly dressedfor the funeral majorly caused by the difference in age since hischildren and grandchildren grew up at a different time than him andthings have totally changed. The little or no communication betweenhim and his children is also another issue since they are allportrayed to be strangers to one another. On the other hand, we havethe Hmong people who are a close-knit community. They have differentvalues, which at first Walt does not understand but later comes toappreciate and learn about as Sue invites him over for a barbecue.

Thefirst issue is the language barrier since the older Hmong people donot understand English. Walt maintains eye contact with the family,which is a sign of disrespect among them since they believe that oneshould look down on a show of obedience and humility. Later on, inhis quest for fitting in Walt taps a young Hmong girl with the head,which is also seen as a form of disrespect since the Hmong believethat a person`s soul rests on their head. Walt’sactions are very acceptable and seem correct but only broughtmisunderstanding between him and the Hmong people. Additionally,Hmong people smile or grin when confronted as a sign of embarrassmentand not out of disrespect. According to Ruhly (1982), the culturalconflict is due to the difference in beliefs and ideologies that bothgroups possess, but are all in a bid to communicate.

Formsof verbal communication.

Regardingverbal communication, Walt is initially viewed upon as a racist dueto his remarks and comments towards his neighbors who are from theHmong community. It is particularly elevated when Thao due topressure from his gang, is forced to steal Walt’s Gran Torino butit backfires. His mother, therefore, forces him to work for Walt as aform of compensation. However, Walt berates and belittles the youngThao giving him racist remarks, he maintains interactions with Thaoand finally gets to know him as a hardworking young boy, thusaccepting him. Later on, this earns him an invitation to their homefrom Thao`s sister Sue. Thao and Sue, on the other hand, are viewedas welcoming and open minded. They have a blatant disregard forWalt’s comments and treat him as a friend, which is shown by Sueteaching him a thing or two about the Hmong culture when he had gonefor a barbecue.

Waltalso fails in communication with his sons since he criticizes theirevery move and nothing seems right to them in his eyes, starting fromtheir wives, career choices, and even his grandchildren. During thefuneral on Steve’s conversation with Mitch, he points out thatdisappointing the old man is inevitable (Eastwood, 2008). Thao isseen to be respectful as he helps the woman from across the street,therefore, shedding some light into his upbringing. Sue demonstratesherself as a caring person who is not hindered by race or culturaldivide seeing that she has a white boyfriend. Walt is portrayed to bedirect in his communication and only talks to settle disagreementsand to make a point.

Interpretationof friendship.

Waltviews friendship in a shell that is confined by race and space. Hedoes not want the beliefs or ideologies changed by the immigrants whoare the Hmong people despite fighting alongside them in the waragainst Korea. However, he is open to learning new cultures, shown bythe extent he goes to defend Thao and also after leaving him his carwhen he dies. According to Thao and Sue, they view friendship as afamily. They can treat Walt as one of their own, and he feelsaccepted and responsible since his family wants to take him to aretirement home. They also regularly provide him with food, which helikes and continually appreciates. Walt initiates the friendship withThao through the basis of his hard work and determination to bebetter. Walt notices the effort making him want to help Thao when hisgang goes against him. Thao and Sue are understanding and relentlesstowards Walt from the beginning by being welcoming towards himdespite his negative attitude. According to Cai (2010), they show himthe other side of their culture so that he can understand that thereis more to appreciate and learn fromdifferent communities.


Interculturalcommunication is a way of understanding cultural diversity. GranTorino proves to show us the disadvantages of only being limited toone particular type of culture, which causes prejudice,misunderstanding, and misinterpretation. Thedifferencein belief and character among people can be a great hindrance towardscultural integration. Though Walt dies in the end, he does notprovide a lasting but temporary solution towards the gang problemsbut rather just a short-term postponement of the inevitable. Amongthe characters, Sue is the bravest and one who is not affected byracial remarks that Walt often hurled but instead was able to jokeabout them. She refused to be offended and chose to assume all that.


Cai,D. A. (2010). Interculturalcommunication. Studyingintercultural communication.London: SAGE Publications.

Eastwood,C. (2008). GRANTORINOLength: 116 Minutes Rated: R

Martin,J.N. (2011). ExperiencingIntercultural Communication.New York: Mc grows hill.


Ruhly,S. (1982). Interculturalcommunication.Chicago: Science Research Associates.