Question Ursela Art, Media & Literature

How does Walt show discrimination in the film Gran Torino?

How does Walt show discrimination in the film Gran Torino?

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Gran Torino (2008) follows Walt, a jaded Korean war veteran reeling from the loss of his wife, as he becomes embroiled in gang violence in his local area. Walt is one of the last white, working-class Americans living in a poor American neighbourhood which has been dramatically altered by the surge of ethnic minorities who reside there. Walt’s discrimination is not targeted towards one particular ethnic group; all are subjected to racial epithets, but he is perturbed by his Hmong neighbours, the Vang Lors, particularly when their son, Thao, attempts to steal his treasured Ford Gran Torino as part of his initiation to a local gang. He eventually develops a friendly relationship with Thao, but still continues to sling racial slurs into conversation (calling him ‘Chink’ and ‘Egg roll’). The Vang Lors are contrasted with Walt’s children, who are portrayed as vulgar, materialistic and uncaring – they attempt to persuade Walt to enter an old people’s home so that they can have his money. In the end, Walt comes to the realization that, despite their vast cultural differences, he and the Vang Lors are alike in the ways that matter: “I have more in common with these Gooks than my own family.” It emerges that Walt is still haunted by his experiences in the Korean war – indeed, his hatred for his neighbours is implied to be influenced by the fact that they conjure the image of the dead Korean soldiers that he and his fellow soldiers “stacked like sandbags.” Ultimately, Walt saves Thao and his sister from the gang by sacrificing his life; it is implied that he views this as a form of atonement for the crimes he committed during the Korean war. Consequently, although Walt’s language is incontrovertibly discriminatory, his actions in the end are not affected by prejudice.

References

Gran Torino (2008). [Film]. Directed by Clint Eastwood. USA: Warner Bros.