Alistairm's Blog

Messages in Gran Torino

Posted in Uncategorized by alistairm on February 8, 2010

Gran Torino is an American drama film produced by Clint Eastwood, who also stars in the film. The film touches on controversial subjects, such as racism, gang culture and cultural integration into America. Though it is difficult to specify the genre of Gran Torino, certain aspects allude to melodrama, thriller and crime aswell aswell as pertaining to vigilante films, as Walt takes the law into his own hands.

Anti-racism is clear in Gran Torino. The main culprit of racism is Walt, who is introduced as quite a detestable character. Walt retains his racist outlook throughout the film however it is clear by the end that his view his dignified. We’re introduced to Walt’s racism¬† by him using racial remarks, such as ‘swamprats’ and ‘gooks’. This offers quite a negative portrayal of Eastwood in a modern-day audience, as his earlier works have racism as a norm. This change in view could be to reflect Eastwood’s career and his casual attitude towards racism; eventually becoming out-dated and scorned upon by the present-day audience. Though his racist views are scorned upon, Walt is looked upon as an archetypal white, aged american, despite his Polish origin.¬†This conveys the sociological message of ‘white flight’ – whereby people feel alienated by an ethnic group solely based on their skin color. His redemption, whereby he sacrifices himself for the welfare of the Hmong family, shows that he has had a change of heart. He considers the Hmong family to be his close friends and also Americans at the end of the film, as he gives Thao his Gran Torino – a symbol of americanism.

The gang, pervading the neighbourhood and the Hmong family’s life, act as an antagonist for Eastwood and the Hmong family. Though this he is able to achieve his redemption. As his relationship grows with the Hmong, it becomes clear that he reveres the Hmong family more than his own. Thao becomes a figurative son for Walt, as his own family is depicted as spoilt and uncaring. Thao’s atonement strengthens this relationship and Walt ultimately regards Thao as his son, rather than his legitimate daughter, which is shown through Thao’s inheritance of the Gran Torino. This conveys the message that Walt, albeit set in his old ways, becomes accustomed to the Hmong way of life and respects them.

Eastwood’s aging is also symbolised in the film. Rather than being a typical Eastwood character, such as Dirty Harry, he is more of a ghostly figure, seeking redemption for the atrocities he commited in Vietnam, and his disregarding family. Though his persona is continued in many ways, such as his ruggedness, aggressiveness and his vigilante resolve in the penultimate scene, Gran Torino displays him in a more sorrowful way, contrasting with his deadpan acting in previous films.