Gran Torino and Informational Conduits

Posted on April 25, 2010 by


After a year and a half after its release, I finally watched the Clint Eastwood classic Gran Torino.

Slumdog Millionaire was released at the same time as Gran Torino.  Slumdog was too emotionally involving because of its focus on snapshot episodic memories and situations.  I couldn’t watch any movie during that time period, not especially one that got low marks from Pro-Brown and Bambu.

I expected Grant Torino to be kind of horriblita.  I’m sick and tired of the untrue, yet tried narrative of white man saving poor, passive voiceless 3rd worldians.  I was sick of that by the time Avatar came out.

But nonetheless being of an Anthropological mind, you’ve got to keep no expectations, hold judgment, and let whatever something is happen, so I let Gran Torino happen.

And yes, I did see the untrue, yet tried narrative. And even worse, stereotypes of young ethnic males, who one-dimensionally played unrelenting gangsta types.  And still even worse, this superficial hyper-masculinity that characterized the interactions between all the males in the movie.

It was time well spent not because the movie was great, but so unintentionally funny because of its lack of reality and random quirks.  It was very odd seeing a hardened war veteran wear stylish LA-like glasses and taking bubble baths.  Cough Clint Eastwood Cough.  Because of that random hilarity and convos with my partner, it was a lil more rolling and rumbling than the George Lopez, Tall, Dark, and Chicano maybe because we had so much more to say about it.  By much more to say about it, that means we lots of trash to talk.

The one thing I’m always interested in with these movies is the subjectivity of racial and ethnic minorities.  I just want to observe how they are used in movies that prevents them from being seen as main characters or subjects or peers.

All the Asian characters weren’t actually real subjects but rather “conduits” for information about Hmong culture.  I just wanted to make this whole blog post because I wanted to use the word “conduit(s)”, basically, cause it’s such a sophisticated word and I just learned how to use it.

The Asian characters were just devices, pieces of technology, “informational conduits” used merely to deliver information.   They were not real people, just these prototypes of them.  The whole movie felt like an unedited, under-updated Wikipedia entry of Hmong American culture.   As pieces of technology, Clint used and interfaced with them as he pleased.

Nice that the movie exists to educate an audience about the existence of Hmong, but also a reminder that Asian-Americans and people of color in general, have a ways to go before our subjectivity and individuality, slightly tinged by our cultures, are the “consumable” story for popular audiences.