The film Grand Torino contrasts selfish materialistic, unspiritual characters to characters that think of others before themselves. Some minor characters in the film demonstrate selfish ego centric behaviour. In contrast, other minor characters display selfless acts and show care for other individuals. Also this film displays a great deal of transformation through the major and the main characters in the film. The major character in ‘Grand Torino’ is Thao. Thao starts off in the film as an anxious, self-absorbed, fearful “boy.
Then, as the film progresses Thao emerges as a young man with confidence and a great deal since of awareness. The main character in this film is Walt Kowalski. Walt begins the film as an unspiritual, racist and cruel individual. However, with the help of Thao Walt becomes the most un-materialistic, spiritual character in the film. In turn, Walt helps Thao find his confidence and brings out the young man he had in him. Some minor characters in the film demonstrate selfish, ego centric traits. For example, the character Trey.
When Trey escorts Sue through the African American ghetto, he shows a complete lack of awareness of his surroundings and also a lack of concern for Sue’s safety. Then when Trey and Sue are confronted by the three gang members, Trey refers to one of the members as his ‘brother’. Trey is not African American and his attempt to “pass” is considered as an insult by the gang and in turn puts himself and Sue in even more danger. Trey shows a total lack of unawareness to the environment he’s in by taking Sue into this dangerous neighborhood and places her in serious danger by acting fake.
In this scene Trey shows his ignorance towards his own race and his insensitivity towards other races. Another minor insensitive, cruel and materialistic character in the film is Ashley. Ashley arrives at the church for her grandmother’s funeral dressed inappropriately by exposing her “belly button“. By Ashley exposing herself in such a way she demonstrates that she wants all the attention to be on her, rather than her dressing in a more suitable manner, so that the focus is more on the grief of her family members.
In addition, Ashley displays her self-absorption and her ability to be so insensitive when she asks her grandfather, who is Walt, for his car, and also for some of his furniture so that she can have them for when she goes off to university during a break in the funeral reception. By her asking for Walt’s material possessions during a time of extreme grief and sorrow, is un-excusably self centred. One of the most self-absorbed, nastiest and weakest minor characters in the film, `Grand Torino` is “Shrimp-dick“.
An example of this is shown in the scene where “shrimp-dick and the other Asian gang members corner Thao in the alley way after he comes off the bus from a long day of work. “Shrimp-dick“ is so self absorbed that when he sees that Thao has a job and that he is making something out of himself, he feels assort of jealousy, so “Shrimp-dick“ punches him in his face while the other gang members hold him back. This also shows “Shrimp-dicks weakness due to the fact that himself alone cannot really hurt anyone. In no scene throughout the whole movie has “Shrimp-dick“ injured anyone by himself.
After he punches Thao, “Shrimp-dick“ is the first to notice Thao`s tool. He then breaks his measuring tape and the rest of the Asian gang members follow by breaking various other tools. Thao`s measuring tape symbolizes growth and a tool that helps one build and grow. By “Shrimp-dick“ choosing to break this specific tool shows that he does not want Thao to grow and better himself. Also, near the end of the scene “Shrimp-dick“ demonstrates just how nasty he is by burning Thao`s cheek with the end of a cigarette bud.
Other minor characters in `Grand Torino` demonstrate selflessness and spirituality towards others. For example, when the Priest came to Walt`s door the morning after his wife`s funeral. The Priest is already a great example of spirituality because he is considered as a religious figure, but when he first meets Walt, the first thing he displays is a great deal of selflessness. When Walt first sees the Priest at his door he has a facial expression that showed that he disliked that he was there. Despite all the negative comments Walt later says to him, the Priest stays persistent and stays focused on why he has come.
The Priest tells Walt that he promised his wife that after she passed, he would get him to come to confession and confess to all his sins he has been holding in all his life. By doing this the Priest displays that he is thinking of what Walt`s wife wanted and not what he wants. He is putting his wants second to someone else`s wish. Another example of a selfless, kind and spiritual character is Sue. Sue displays that she is selfless and caring when she sees Walt sitting alone on his porch drinking beers, and invites him over to her house to eat with her and her family.
She had seen that Walt looked lonely so she took it upon herself to accompany him. She expresses the fact that there are more beers, to help give Walt a “manly“ reason to accept her offer. A great example of her kindness is when she is walking through her house with Walt, and as the two walk near her grandmother, she expresses her dislike of Walt but she does so in a different language. When Walt asks sue what she is saying, Sue translates kind and positive comments. By her doing so also shows her spiritual side because she thinks of Walt’s feelings before her own troubles.
Thao would be characterised as a major character in the film `Grand Torino. In the first half of the film Thao has little confidence in himself and is a very self-absorbed and shy individual. An example where he demonstrates this is when Thao is in the basement of his house during a family get together and he does not notice when a pretty young girl named “youa“ was looking his way, showing him a great deal of attention towards him and all he did was sit there in confusion and doubt in himself. Another good example is when Walt referred to Thao as a `Toad`.
In turn, due to Thao`s lack of confidence to stand up for himself, he would say nothing. Walt used racial slurs like `Toad` and many other different ones throughout the start of the movie. He only stopped when he seen that Thao could finally say something back to such negative comments. Also a good example is seen near the start of the movie, when Thao is walking home alone on the sidewalk reading a book, not paying attention to around him and in turn he attracts the attention of a Mexican gang. As they approach him in their vehicle they express verbal violence by racial and negative comments.
Soon after that scenario, Thao`s “family“ seen what was going on and came along to `help`. Asian gang members soon approached and told the other rival gang to leave him be by using signs of violence upon the opposing gang. Then later on in the film Thao transforms into a very confident and well built young man. There are many examples throughout `Grand Torino` where Thao displays his growth and transformation. A few examples that stood out to me most was first, when Walt appeared at his door asking for Thao`s help to move a old freezer out of his basement, Thao then agreed and arrived to do the job.
Once there, Walt instructed Thao to grab the side that was lighter and that he was going to left the heavier side. Thao seen that Walt did not have confidence is his strength and refused to help unless he was lifting the side that was heaviest. Walt agreed and they proceeded up the stairs and out the basement. By Thao refusing to lift the lighter side of the freezer showed that he was building his confidence and also shows a development in his selflessness, because he did not want Walt to injure himself, due to the fact that he was a lot older then he was.
Another example is when Thao is helping the neighbors out with their clogged rain gutters. He displays his transformation from a self-absorbed and shy individual to a person who has been uplifted and one who is confident. Thao is seen in this scene at the highest point on the ladder while he is ridding the gutter of all the leaves that are blocking the water so it can flow freely. On top of that he is doing all of this while he has his shirt off, that shows a great deal of confidence in himself. In `Grand Torino` the main character is Walt Kowalski.
Walt starts off as the most self-centered, unspiritual, rude and racist person in the entire film. This is seen in various scenes throughout the beginning and near end of the movie. The first scene that held significance to me was at the start of the movie when Walt had just arrived home from the church where his wife had just been buried. A young Asian kid by the name Thao knocked on his door, Walt quickly opened and asked why he was there in a quick and rude manner, Thao then asked if he had any jumper cables he could use, and Walt replied quickly with a no, then slammed the door shut.
Walt was later on seen using jumper cables on his own vehicle. This displays Walt`s selfishness and his inability to help others when asked. Another scene where he displays some sort of rude or selfishness towards others is when Thao is gardening on his lawn and is approached by the gang members for a second time. Soon after the gang members arrive, a scuffle breaks out between Thao`s family and the gang, Walt sees what is going on and quickly comes out his door with his rifle and tells them all to get of his lawn.
By him committing this act shows his self-absorption due to the fact that all he was concerned about in this situation was his lawn and completely ignored that Thao was in need of help. Also, throughout the first half and slightly into the second half of the film Walt uses very creative and hurtful racial comments. By him using creative racial terms towards every race besides his shows that he puts great effort in making other races feel inferior. Shortly after the first half of the film `Grand Torino`, Walt begins to become the opposite of what he has been portrayed in the beginning of the film.
With the help of Thao, Walt truly becomes a kind, caring, and un-materialistic individual. Walt and Thao are seen in many scene`s in this film working together in a way helping each other become different and better people in general. One scene that stood out to me was the freezer scene I mentioned earlier that help build Thao`s character. Many things occurred in this scene; like when Walt is seen asking for help, which he had never really done before in the film.
Walt gives up his power when he accepts Thao`s demand to carry the heavier side, and once up and out of the basement Walt see`s that Thao and his family are in need of a new freezer, so in turn offers them his freezer at a price a lot lower then he had told Thao he was going to sell it for. This shows Walt`s growth and progress in becoming a new man because all those things he had done, have never been seen from him until this point in the film. Another example where Walt shows his spiritual side is when he finally decides to go to the church and confess all the sins he has been holding with him his whole life.
By Walt going to the church shows an automatic sense of spirituality due to the church being a spiritual and holy place. Also by him confessing his sins he has never told anyone before, shows his intent and wants to change his life. But before all this, Walt goes to his usual barber and asks for a cut he has never gotten before, and buy`s a tailored suit which he has never bought before in all his years of living. These are all signs of spiritual and physical change which demonstrates complete change in character from selfish to selfless.
In conclusion, `Grand Torino` is a great film that displays the perfect contrast between characters who are selfish and self-absorbed to characters who are the exact opposite, selfless, kind and caring towards other individuals. It helps display the changes and steps it takes to become an entirely new person. It does not just happen overnight, such drastic changes need to be carefully transformed in a period of time. Anything great needs to be worked for. Also, `Grand Torino` shows how you need to understand yourself before you can begin to understand someone else and why they do what they do.