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Culture And Social Construction In Gran Torino

1347 words - 6 pages

The film “Gran Torino” has many examples of “self” vs “subject” and the issues one faces when it comes to aspects of culture and social construction, the film highlights the modern conditions surrounding many aspects of these two examples. Walt Kowalski whose wife just recently died and who is a Korean War veteran has a difficult time getting along with people who do not hold the same views and values that he does. Some of these people are his children, relatives, and neighbors. He lives in an era that he does not understand and does not agree with. Since his wife died he stopped communicating with people. Walt lives next door to a Hmong family and slowly befriends them. He has a very ...view middle of the document...

Two major conflicts we see throughout the film are ethnic conflicts and gender conflicts. Walt’s neighbor, Thao, faces many of these conflicts when his cousin’s gang tries to pressure him into joining them. They say he is not “man” enough because he enjoys gardening and helps his sister around the house. There is a scene in the beginning of the movie in which Thao’s grandmother tells one of his relatives that he will now be the man of the house and the relative disagrees because Thao was helping his sister with the dishes, and how can a boy who does the dishes be the man of the house. This can be linked to the work Panopticism by Foucault when he discusses Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon. The Panopticon is known as a building that has a tower built in the center and cells surrounding this tower. From this tower it is possible to see each cell in which a prisoner is imprisoned. Each of these individuals is seen but cannot communicate with the other prisoners. The visibility of these prisoners is the ultimate trap. The panopticon induces a sense of permanent visibility that ensures the functioning of power. This can also be seen this is social construction, one might act a certain way because you never know who is watching or on the contrary one might act however they want regardless of who is watching. Walt would be a prime example in not caring about the “watchers”. This can be seen numerous times throughout the film we see Walt use racial slurs such as “spooks” which is used to describe African American’s or “zipper-head” when speaking to his neighbors. In the beginning of the film Thao tries to neither be the watcher or the watched. He tries to sit alone and not be noticed, and example would be in the scene when there is a party at his house. Walt has a very cultural construction. His background of being a veteran and an American makes him see things differently than those around him. He is very patriotic but also feels a sense of guilt deep down. This is one of the reasons he has the reaction that he had during his first contact with Thao and his family. However, as the film progresses Walt gets more comfortable with his Hmong neighbors and gets closer to them. We can see this in how he helps Thao’s sister, Sue, from the guys that were trying to attack her. This slowly starts to become his cultural space. One would think that his initial cultural space would be his son and grandchildren but this is not the case. This is when seeing and knowing come into play. Walt does no feel comfortable or connected to his son and his family because he does not know them, they live in a different part of town and do not see Walt much compared to the Hmong family next...

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