Gran Torino describes the transformation of a Vietnam veteran and the horrific events that occur in his predominantly Hmong neighborhood. He becomes a father figure to Thao, the neighbor boy, which later creates a conflict between the strict role of a Hmong young man and how Tao wants to act. Nationality determines what products a person buys in this film, drawing a clear distinction between ethnicities with America as the hero. While advertising Ford, the Gran Torino car is a versatile symbol holding alternate significance for each character. Media consumption plays a minor role villain when it is present. The film tackles the social issues of racism, gender roles, and family for the entire duration. Gran Torino uses product placement and symbols to communicate cultural messages within the plot.
Advertising focusing on nationality fills this film linking cultures with products from that nation. For example, Walt only drinks the American made beer Pabst, and then the beer he later pulls from the refrigerator at the Hmong party is Chinese made Tsingtao. This distinction between brands is oblivious when he says “plenty of beer but no Pabst”. If it were an American beer, he probably would not have commented on the difference. However, though people tend to buy outside their “ethnic” products there is no obvious deviation from Asian products by the Hmong characters. The Hmong gang members drive a Honda and blare music from Buddah a Hmong artist. The first half the film focuses on drawing these nationality lines with the product placement.
Asian products have less advertising and are villanized in Gran Torino. This strategy strengthens the power of the American products in promoting the “old school” Americanism theme. Cars the film advertises illustrate this; the movie scenes repeatedly include the Fords Walt owns, where as the other majorly used car Toyota is villanized. Walt criticizes his materialistic son by exclaiming “Would it kill you to buy American?” after seeing him drive a Toyota Land Cruiser. The film zooms in on the logo and name multiple times blatantly advertising Toyota. In spite of the antihero depiction of Toyota, the Land Cruiser is also a symbol for success due to the son’s wealth. From the quantity of advertising of Toyota, despite the unflattering usage, the presence of the car logo screams product placement.
The vaguer product placements hold less meaning in the movie but influence consumers familiar with the products. One of Walt’s drinking friends holds a Budweiser can in his hand while they chat, reinforcing the “Americanism” in the film. Later, the film advertises the Gopher as a present from Walt’s son emphasizing his son’s belief that Walt is incapable of being independent. In the same scene, Karen is wearing a cardigan with Tory Burch’s logo as buttons adding to the implication that Mitch is wealthy, because a less expensive sweater from that brand is over a hundred and fifty dollars. Only women familiar with the...