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The Representation of Gender in the film "Gran Torino"

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The Representation of Women and Men in the film Gran Torino Nicola McKinnon Before current expectations of gender equality, men and women have often had very different perceptions placed upon them due simply to their sex. Women were expected to be compliant, nurturing and passive and societal expectations included marriage and primary responsibility for child rearing. Men were typically expected to be strong, decisive and brave, with the ability to take care of and protect their family. People who did not conform to these stereotypes were often marginalized by society. Films often represent women and men in ways that challenge the traditional gender roles held by our society. One such film, Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino", challenges audience's views about the independence of women and the leadership roles and masculinity associated with men, young and old. In the film we are presented with four main characters; the older male Walt Kowalski who is a strong and dominant man; the young male Thao Vang Lor, a submissive, feeble man; the older woman Grandmother Phong, the matriarchal leader of the Lor family; and Sue Lor, a free spirited young woman with the courage and will to stand against the aggressive gang culture around her. ...read more.


From these scenes we are shown a woman who believes it is her right to be able to walk down the street without being assaulted. This portrayal of women as fighters who can hold themselves against men and are considered to be equal is prevalent in the film, and the idea of strong women challenges a traditional societal view that woman should be submissive to men and that men are the stronger sex who should be the protectors. However, Gran Torino also presents women as vulnerable and unable to protect those that they love when we are presented with Sue's encounter with the African American gang, and then the sexual assault of Sue by the Hmong gang. In both scenarios, Sue is singled out, because of her attitude towards abusive men or her connections to Thao, and is assaulted, verbally and physically, by the gangs. The assault of such a strong woman as Sue, by a gang of males, shows to the audience the idea that woman are physically vulnerable and need to be protected, as they cannot do it themselves. The assault of Sue intends to show the audience that no matter how emotionally strong a woman is, men can always use physical strength to dominate, therefore acknowledging the notion that women are weak and in need of protection. ...read more.


However, it also shows us that even though Grandmother Phong has assumed the leadership role in her family and her granddaughter Sue is following her lead, she still believes it would be beneficial to have a man as the head of her household; one more stereotypically 'male' than her grandson who practices obedience and submissiveness to the women in his family. This re-affirms the idea that a strong male leader is needed for families to be successful, and it also reaffirms societal views of males. We can see that male characters in the film are represented as both strong, manly leaders of society, such as Walt, and weak, submissive individuals such as Thao, and therefore both reinforce and challenge traditional expectations of men by society. While we see the two older characters of Walt and Grandmother Phong ultimately maintaining their traditional gender roles, we see a caring and self sacrificing side to Walt's nature, and a stoic side to grandmother Phong. We also see the two younger characters of Thao and Sue display gender roles that encompasses both typically male and female characteristics. The film "Gran Torino" ultimately shows us four characters that, through a tragic series of events, display a range of gender identities that challenge and reinforce the traditional views of society. 1 ...read more.

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