| What Makes the Dream American? | A Critical Thought Analysis| | Fairen Harris| University of Louisville| Dr. Chapman Gran Torino: In a nutshell A racist Korean War veteran and recent widower, Walt Kowalski is living in a crime ridden town in Detroit, Michigan. Walt’s once all White neighborhood has become occupied by the Hmong people. The Hmong people represent a part of Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, Laos, and China. The Hmong came to America because during the war they fought on the American side and the Vietnamese waged a war against the Hmong people after the Americans left.
Due to this change in neighbors, Walt is now forced to confront his own lingering prejudice when a troubled Hmong teen, Thao Vang Lor, from next door attempts to steal his prized 1972 Gran Torino, (Ford model car) Walt himself helped assemble on the care line. It is decades after the Korean War has ended, and aging veteran Walt Kowalski is still haunted by the horrors he witnessed on the battlefield. The viewers notice the power distance created among the gang affiliated persons and the nonaffiliated when the gang has tried to kidnap Thao, Walt’s neighbor, from his home.
Walt, in an attempt to get the “gooks” off his lawn turns his same rifle; he pointed at Thao when he attempted to steal Walt’s Gran Torino, on the gang members and scares them away. The Hmong show their gratitude to Walt, by making Thao pay penance for attempting to steal the Gran Torino. Despite the fact that Kowalski wants nothing to do with the young troublemaker, he realizes that the quickest way out of the situation is to simply cooperate. In an effort to set the teen on the right path in life and “toughen him up,” Walt turns from being Thao’s grumpy racist neighbor into being a helpful almost father figure.
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In the process of all of this, Kowalski discovers that the only way to lay his many painful memories to rest is to finally face his own blinding ethnocentric views about other cultures directly. Thao Vang Lor: A boy or a man? When examining at the undertones of classism, racism, and sexism, one takes note that the character affected most is Thao. The first introduction viewers have of. Thao and the other Hmong people as a collective are celebrating the life of a new baby.
The Lor family shaman is presiding over the ceremony giving viewers a glimpse into their traditional cultural values. Thao, living in a home with his grandmother, widowed mother, and sister, is looked down upon by the other Hmong people. They expect Thao to step up and become “the man of the home,” because of the recent death of his father. An elder woman in the movie even says, “Look at the way he does dishes he will never become the man of the home. ” (cite movie here) When Thao fails to do so, he is ridiculed by elders and outcast by his peers.
During the beginning of the movie Thao’s activity consist of what the Hmong, and many people of cultures around the world would refer to as ‘woman’s work. ” Sue Lor, Thao sister, explains to Walt how life is for Hmong boys and girls. Sue Lor tells Walt, “Hmong girls fit in better. Girls go to college and the boys go to jail. ” As the films plays out you see that Thao does not in fact fit this schema that the Hmong youth have seem to fall victim to. Despite Thao’s fight not to assimilate into the life of the typical Hmong boy, he finds it difficult to escape his cousin and gang friends.
Thao is an average middle class teen, does the work of the household for his family, and is employed at a construction site; but most of all Thao wants to go to college and is willing to work hard to finance his way through school. However, he is still not seenperceived as being good enough as a man in the Asian culture and, even more so, in the American patriarchal society. So who is the better man, working Thao or his gang banging, potential rapist, cousin Spider? Throughout the entirety of the movie, Thao is faced with the notions that he is simply not enough of a man and he receives distinct criticism from his immediate family.
Thao’s father, before his death, was always hard on them because, “he was traditional,” as Sue Lor put it. (cite here) How do we measure manhood? Is it based off the number of people that a man has killed? Is it the number of times he has went to war? Or in fact is the measurement of a man the same as what a human should be willing to do? To help ones family, set goals, and work hard to achieve them, that in fact is the measurement of a man, and that is who Thao Lor embodies. Diversity of the American dream
The seemingly over arching theme in this movie is based on a culture clash, of non- Western and Western views and the ideas of the American Dream. This leads the audience to question, What does being an American mean? What is the American dream? The idea of the American dream is the notion that anyone in the United States can succeed through hard work and has the potential to lead a happy, successful life. The issue with this idea is that the American dream often disregards bias based on a person's race, religion, gender and national origin, which might inhibit his or her ability to achieve the specific goals.
Thao, not only struggling with sexism and racism, is also faced with the ever present struggle of class. Their whole neighborhood is similar to that of a very middle class neighborhood; however it is one that is not a priority of the city. Then is evident when there is a scene in which Walt has Thao clean was a rundown house across the street from Walt’s home, and when the police refuse to stay in the neighborhood long enough to patrol it properly. Thao’s only desire is attempting to lead a normalized life, wanting badly to make money, and wanting to take a Hmong girl that he has been interested in on a date.
In his quest to do so he is faced with issues of peer pressure and teen anxiety. In search for his version of the American Dream, and in the end of the film he has finally achieved that, as Thao is seen driving the Gran Torino he once tried to steal. Conclusion: A message from the director In the end, Walt Kowalski gives up his life for Thao and the other Hmong people by sacrificing himself to be shot by the gang bangers in order to have hard evidence against them for them to be incarcerated for good.
Walt was able to, not completely stop his racist mind set, become a bit more open to the Lor family, he felt he had the responsibility to protect them. After being killed, the film cuts to a scene of Thao and Sue in traditional Hmong clothing in route to Walt’s funeral, the same kind of scene as the beginning of the film. By directing and starring as the main character in the film, Clint Eastwood is making it a point for the viewers of this film to look closely at the issues occurring during this film, all of which having to do ith classism, racism, religion, sexism, and how each of these transpire across race and ethnic groups. Eastwood chooses to address Polish, Asians, Latinos, Blacks, Italians, men, women, young and old, wealthy, middle class, and the poor, attempting to address every traditional and non-traditional, western and non-western dichotomies. The film inevitably leaves the viewer thinking, did he do a good job in trying to get his message across? Was Eastwood attempts to use the film as antidote to the issues that it addresses fulfilled? r was there even a political perspective in which he wanted the viewers to interpret the film? References Eastwood, C. (Director, Prouducer). ( 2008). Gran Torino. [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Home Video Shiraev, E. , ; Levy, D. (2013). Cross-Cultural Psychology: Critical Thinking and Contemporary Applications (5th ed. ). Boston: Pearson (Allyn ; Bacon). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed. ). (2009). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
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