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The Gran Torino Problem

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72 Ford Gran Torino Sport
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(Belated review of Gran Torino)

 

 

They stole my story! When I was 25 I wrote my first story about a father sacrificing his life for the sake of his son by imitating suicide.   That was in Russia; I brought the story to a literary professional and she scathingly tore it to pieces. I shrugged and returned to engineering. If I had saved the manuscript I could have become a millionaire now.

 

The movie is a classic Eastwood; the lone wolf Kowalski finds solace and the new meaning of care through a relationship with a family of Mountain Vietnamese.   In his last days he transforms, relinquishes his bigotry and sacrifices his life like a true American Hero for the goodness of his new friend. Lock, stock and barrel. Not that anyone should ask a question why those young gang men had no right to self-defense when a man who previously threatened them with a real weapon suddenly appeared in front of them making a gesture as if he would do it this time.   The movie ends, the job is done; Gran Torino goes to Tao and the redhead priest gets his lesson in humanity.

 

  The funny lesson it is; it is good to abandon your own family forget about your   grandchildren and instead improve the life of the otherwise miserable immigrant who has nowhere else to go. Hollywood is meticulous: for Tao Kowalski was a gift from God. There was no real father in that Vietnamese family and his male cousins were in the gang.

 

Had anyone noticed how Hollywood removes fathers from the lives of the troubled teens in the movie reality? Do they kill those fathers somewhere in the literary shooting    range? The whole generation is skipped. Tao's problems then become fully justified; he had to steal that special car for the initiation into the male society.   According to Hollywood there is no other male society in the immigrant circles; fathers are gone for good.

 

Tao thus is at Kowalski's mercy - a convenient indentured servant to be taught hard work and manners.   Of course, he was not a bad boy otherwise Mr. K. would not teach him the work ethic. Not that we know what Mr. K. did for living besides Korea. The Korean War was one of the dirtiest ones unleashed by the US; casualties were astronomical and that idiot McArthur wanted even to go nuclear.   That's   out of context but if we knew that or at least were given a hint, say by one of those Vietnamese, we would see deeper. Hollywood craftily removed that possibility; only Tao's father could raise such an issue but as we know- no fathers are allowed for   troubled immigrant   movie-teenagers.

 

Mr. K.   Takes his task seriously; he diligently works on becoming a loving surrogate father for Tao and his family. The question is though: why doesn't he spend the same effort to reunite with the family of his own?   He has two sons with their own families. Granted, their wives do not seem to like Mr. K. much. His grandchildren are brats. But his grandchildren had not stolen anything and weren't on the gang initiation path.

Something else bothered Mr. K. even when he tried to call his son. He just could not feel vulnerable. With Tao and people like him he feels empowered, strong, and superior. Even when threatened by a gang he knows how to behave, knows his guns, his guts and his glory. He can feel good about himself: nobody challenges his value as a person, nobody presents alternatives.   It is good to help poor and miserable; it is much tougher to be on equal grounds or feel inferior. His sons don't need him. He was a good provider, he brought the family up and now they both are reasonably successful.   But he never taught them compassion and care; he pushed them hard to struggle and care only about themselves and their families. And now, when he needs help, neither they nor their family members know how to provide it. If my father would've called me out of the blue and then say nothing on the phone I would immediately call him back.   That's how it is in my family. It is in my family also to ask someone like Tao about his father. Did Mr. K. ask any of those questions? Did he go to the members of the families of those other troubled kids instead of masterminding an entrapment?   He didn't know how to live; he knew only how to die honorably.

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The writer is 57 years old, semi- retired engineer, PhD, PE, CEM. I write fiction on a regular basis and I am also 10 years on OEN.

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