Thursday, July 23, 2009

Race Issues in Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino

warning: Includes Movie spoiler!

Clint Eastwood's excellent Gran Torino features some hard hitting language and important issues of the day, not least of which are race relations in modern America.

Clint's central character, Kowalski, is almost a caricature of a Real American, and Clint is enough of an icon to carry it off. I interpreted the film as a microcosm of today's America, and if this is reading too much into the script then so be it, but the analogy may be a helpful one.

Kowalski is a tough Korean War vet with spoilt grown-up kids and obnoxious grandkids. His neighbourhood has been taken over by Vietnamese Hmung people, with a penchant for beheading live chickens and forming gangs. Kowalski administers hilarious non-PC racial epithets to his neighbours throughout the movie, inducing innard-vomiting in oversensitive liberals.

But the plot unfolds to show that Kowalski's neighbours are as racist as he is, and in fact he not only redeems his own character, but becomes a heroic figure in his neighbourhood by taking on the gangs and, at the same time, taking Thao, his neighbour's son, under his wing. How 'racist' is he really? Kowalski's most vicious scorn is reserved for the white boy who wears his cap backwards and tries to talk 'black' to the black kids. Kowalski rightly calls him a p*ssy for failing to stick up for his girlfriend.

As in many of his movies, Clint represents America - and in this case although his character has no time for his immigrant neighbours, he is also their salvation. He shows Thao that by applying himself and adopting the American Way, he can become a man and is able to build a future for himself and for his community.

Kowalski is brash and racist, yes. But that pales into insignificance with what he gives to the Hmung community, which ultimately includes giving his own life. Likewise, America may be stuck in its ways, but ultimately they are good ways. And, as much as people like to criticise and find fault - those ways may just offer salvation to those that need them.

5 Opinion(s):

FishEagle said...

Oh Viking, yes, I have seen this movie. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Ranger Tom said...

I haven't seen this movie yet, but I'm looking forward to it. He's got a sweet M-1 Garand, nowhere near as nice as mine, but a sweet one!

Thanks for the synopsys.

Anonymous said...

Great. Now can we have a movie that:

(1) Shows America as the victims (not saviour) of non-whites

(2) That shows that a non-white tribe cannot learn the white man's culture - culture is in the genes.

Truths that the general public cannot (yet) face, and that we will therefore not (yet) meet in the movies.

Treacle Bender said...

...make my day...baboon!

Doberman said...

@ RT, I have seen it and it's a brilliant movie. Very un-PC which made for a refreshing change. I aim to see it a few more times.