Learning a New Perspective
The film I chose to watch and analyze for this reflection paper is titled Gran Torino. This movie is one of my all time favorite movies when I watched it ten years ago for the first time it came out. I picked this movie because I like Clint Eastwood for doing a good job of displaying his tough ego and classic humor as a character named Walt, but I also feel like I can relate to Walt’s stressful friendship with Thao. Thao, who is apart of the Hmong community who recently moved to the neighborhood faces conflict with his relatives who are gang members and other people of other races in his neighborhood. I had a best friend named peter in middle school who was chinese and he faced racist acts by people in his predominantly white neighborhood. Some young adults would throw toilet paper at his house and call his parents chinkers which is a derogatory term for asians. Gran Torino is about an old racist white guy named Walt who has just lost his wife to death and he tries to overcome his racist behavior as he becomes a mentor to Peter.
This movie displays an old white male named Walt, who is a korean war veteran and long time employee of Ford build a relationship with a young male neighbor of asian descent named Thao. Thao doesn’t have a vehicle to drive, a job, a girlfriend, and no close friends. Thao’s cousin who is in a gang nearby offers him a spot on the team if he can successfully steal Walt’s Gran Torino. Walt stops Thao from stealing the Gran Torino and Thao is a disappointment to his cousin’s gang. Thao’s cousin causes harm to his family and Walt feels compassion to his new neighbors whom he connects to throughout the movie. Walt is sick and dying from poor health, so he tries to perform a great deed by sticking up for Thao and his family from the gang before he passes away. This film is in the poor neighborhoods of detroit where shootings are common and people of different color stay together.
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This film is filled with conflict scenes and it’s ends with a very powerful scene of conflict. Before I analyze my scene of conflict, I need to define what interpersonal conflict is. The term interpersonal conflict, is defined in the textbook we were given for class as a disagreement between two interdependent people who perceive that they have incompatible goals. “Conflict may be neither good nor bad, but it is inevitable”(318). Conflict may cause harm to a relationship, but it can expose issues that need to be resolved and develop stronger character, learning, creativity, openness, and trust. There are many scenes of interpersonal conflict in this movie due to the loneliness and depression of Walt along with the danger surrounding Thao. I wasn’t surprised to see the number of conflict scenes because there are many differences between Walt and Thao, Thao and his cousin, and Walt with his pastor.
Walt’s style of conflict management varies because of the vast differences between his relationship with the priest versus his conflict with Thao and the gang. Walt and his priest are more driven towards a collaborative conflict approach. Walt wants to make his dead wife’s wish happy of meeting with the priest and the priest understands that Walt is struggling and he wants to help him by making Walt go to confession at church. Walt struggles to admit his sins and mistakes because he went to war and relives the stubborn attitude of admitting fault or weakness, while believing that the pastor is uneducated and too young to confess too. Walt and the pastor both lose their conflict multiple times throughout the film because Walt doesn’t want to confess and please the pastor, while he still doesn’t forgive himself for committing horrible atrocities in the vietnam war. Walt and his priest both will eventually win when he asks for forgiveness, while the priest thankfully forgives him, even in shocks of his small sins.
Thao deals with conflict a lot more different than the rest of the characters in the film. When there is a value conflict in the yard of Thao’s house between him and his cousin or sister, Thao will immediately withdraw by removing himself physically from the situation. Thao’s cousin will try and get Thao to join the gang before he tries to steal the gran torino and after he fails to steal the gran torino. Thao’s cousin will use the family effect of stating their relation and Thao’s sister named Ahney will be arguing that their cousin is an idiot, so there is lots of cross complaining and arguing for their reasons for Thao to join the gang. Nothing will be resolved as Thao will not stand up for himself and his sister can’t manage to steer her cousin’s gang from bothering him. Walt knows how to handle conflict by competing and trying to win, like when he saved Ahney from a few African American men who wanted to seduce her. Walt stated how he is the person that people come across and don’t want to mess with while pulling a gun on them to free Ahney. It was a ego conflict, because there were many legal ways to protect her, but he wanted to show the men how macho and dangerous he was.
Walt’s stubbornness and hostility in his conflicts toward people in this film stems from the loss of his wife and horrors he went through in the Korean war. Many people don’t approach conflicts the way Walt does and some people believe it is best avoid conflict. If walt withdraws his conflict to his neighbor’s situation, his neighbors will likely die. Withdrawing from a conflict provides a temporary escape from a potentially uncomfortable situation, but in an ongoing relationship, the issue will come up again(323). When Thao doesn’t manage to get rid of his cousin and the gang, the gang hurts Ahney and they perform a drive by shooting on their house.
Walt is again competing in the end scene of the movie when he tries to eliminate the gang from hurting Thao and his family ever again. Walt has had enough with the trouble going on his Thao’s household when Ahney is brutally hurt from her cousin’s gang attacking her and Thao getting shot in the neck when the gang performs a drive by shooting on the house. Thao’s cousin didn’t need to harm thao and his family, but their ego was offended when Walt intruded their property to try and handle business himself. Walt wanted to prove that his ego was stronger by taking out the gang himself instead of calling police. Walt decides to drive to the household of the gang and he devises a plan to win and have gang lose by going to prison for life. Walt and the gang start mutual hostility by yelling at each other. Walt calls them racist names the gang calls Thao weak and asks Walt where he is at. Walt then pretends to pull out a gun to shoot the gang members, while many witnesses and neighbors see the gang shoot hundreds of bullets onto Walt. Walt confessed his sins before he got shot and he constructed a strong self image by standing up for Thao as he got killed by the gang. Walt was ready to die as he purposely attracted the gun fire by pretending to pull out a gun and the gang went to jail. Walt was still competing in this conflict as he won and the gang lost.
Due to the conflict between Walt and the gang, Thao was safe and his family was repaired from the damage with the gang going to jail. Walt made sure that Thao wouldn’t try to put himself in danger by protecting Walt or trying to attack the gang in the final scene, so he locked him in the basement. Walt made a bold move by giving his life up for Thao and his family, while surely putting the gang members behind bars for life. I would have done the same thing if I was Walt. Walt wasn’t in the best physical shape to try and kill the gang members by himself and he was playing it safe by setting them up to for sure go to jail, while he was innocent for being unarmed. When he pretended to pull out a gun, he was for sure going to die and the only way the gang members would get in trouble was if they shot him, so he needed to make them shoot him. My role models like my dad and football coach would want me to put my life on the line for many other lives and be as assertive as possible by pretending to pull out a gun to get the job done. You didn’t ruin my experience of watching movies because I wouldn’t pay attention in a sports or horror film, while a comedy would be too distracting to notice the communication and conflict process.
- Verderber, Kathleen. Interact. Oxford University Press, 2016.
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