Me? Quiet?!

After reading this post once again (and realizing how inconspicuous it starts out as), I’m finding it rather appropriate that I posted this today, on MLK Jr Day … and on the eve of the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama. If anything, I encourage you to read the following with an open mind and with the hopes and dreams that both these two historical men had and currently have.


Well, the good news is that there’s a “warm front” on the horizon. Of course, “warm” means highs of 20 degrees over the next week. Much better than the sub-zero temperatures. Good thing too, because I was seriously sick of having my scarf stick to my nose from all the frozen snot (yes, I know that sounds disgustingly awful). It’s bad enough that it was so cold that my eyes would water … and that those tears would immediately freeze on my eyelids! One thing that helped warm the weekend was the arrival of Hubby. It’s always a brighter, sunshine-y day (a-la-Brady Bunch) when Hubby’s around. He flew in from Dubuque, IA where he was once again an Addy judge for their local Ad Club.

I met him at the airport and then headed (for what seems like the millionth time) to Ikea to pick up some more household stuff. It seems as if until he’s officially with me, I’ll be needing a second set of whatever we currently have at our house in Detroit. We’re trying our best not to buy anything we don’t need. Except I am finding it rather difficult to be living with just a bed, two chairs, and a table … which, coincidentally is doubling as a TV stand at the moment. Oh well, one more reason to look forward to when Hubby & I are together once again. movie poster Gran Torino

We did make it a point to catch a movie this weekend. And really … we ended up seeing two, but only one was, in my opinion, worth mentioning. If you haven’t had a chance, go see Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino.” One of the best things about seeing this movie is that it was shot in Detroit and its surrounding areas. During certain parts of the movie, Hubby & I would be pointing out certain locations to each other, thinking we’d know where it was filmed. One particular scene, however, (the barber shot scene) we knew was actually shot in the city I live (lived?) in. That was pretty cool to see.

It was a big deal in the news last summer that Clint was filming in our area. Big Oscar-award winning director/actor setting up office in the area, renting a house in our suburbs … well, it was just plain cool. There would be sightings of him in the local mall, grocery store, etc … and stories of him being exactly as kind and unassuming as the media always portrays him. That was cool to hear. gran-torino-eastwood-barbershop

And the big thing was that Clint seriously immersed himself into the role he played. Not only was he the lead actor of the film, but he directed it as well. And if you know anything about the movie, Clint and his team submerged themselves into the Hmong community.

Despite what most people think, Hmong is not (and never was) a nation or a type of “nationality.” The Hmong people are a collection of 18 different mountain tribes that have lived in China and other southeast Asian countries (such as Laos, Thailand and Vietnam). Many of them migrated to the U.S.* following the Korean and Vietnam War as refugees with the assistance of a few Christian missionary groups. Other families came after assisting the U.S. during these wars. In any case, many might consider the Hmong a “nation-less” culture; much like one can’t pinpoint exactly which part of Latin or South America an Aztec or Mayan person may have come from.

The reason I bring up this bit of history in my post was to further delve into “Gran Torino.” Clint Eastwood’s character, Walter is … for lack of better terms, what Hubby and I would call a “Crappy Pappy.” Meaning, he’s an older man past the prime of his life, who would spend the rest of his days as a crotchety, cantankerous old man. Walter’s the mean old man next door who would yell at you for stepping on his lawn, would say something rude just to get a rise out of a person … would yell out Slow down, kid! to any teenager who drives just a little too fast past his house.

Walter is also the type of man who had no qualms about shouting out plain old racial slurs to any person who was different than him. Whether it was the young 27-year old Catholic priest, the white “Vanilla Ice”-type teenager, or the Hmong people who slowly have taken over the neighborhood where he lives … he always found something crude and rude to say about them.

"Stay off my lawn, Punk!"
“Stay off my lawn, Punk!”

In the beginning, the first-generation Asian-American gal in me found it pretty darn funny. The comments Walter would make under his breath were every stereotypical racial slur you would expect; some more crude than others. He’s a guy, as my good friend Kara would say, with a bad case of “verbal diarrhea.”

There came a point, however, when I found myself getting more and more annoyed. Not so much with what Walter may have said or done, but more about how the crowd around us reacted to those racial statements. As strange as it may sound, I started to feel rather … uncomfortable (for lack of better words) with my surroundings.

It’s not that I was mad or upset about the dialogue in this movie, because after all, Walter is supposed to be that type of character; one with no inhibitions about saying such racial slurs aloud. What, I guess upset me more, is that the primarily non-Asian crowd kept laughing and laughing and laughing about each inappropriate comment made. (I mean seriously people, how many times can one laugh about the multiple suggestions / innuendos that all Asians eat dog?!) It came to a point where it felt as if the comments Walter made were every single thing that many of the other movie-goers wished they could say out loud on a daily basis … without, of course, sounding unbelievably politically incorrect.

Maybe I’m making too much of a big deal about this. Or maybe I’m not.

I just know, from my experiences as an Asian-American, that most of our backgrounds are such that we (collectively as Asians of any descent) are known as a “quiet culture.” A culture that isn’t known to raise a “stink” about social injustices against our “people.” A culture that, quite frankly, is known to just “suck it up” when it comes to having things said or done against us.** And if you see “Gran Torino,” you will be able to see that part of Asian mentality … especially during the first half of the movie in scenes with Thao (or “Toad,” as Walter calls him), the male Asian lead character.

Gran TorinoI, myself, find a bit of my personality in Thao’s sister, Sue — “Americanized” enough to know how to stick up for myself, but still feeling a bit of an outsider amongst the rest of the world. (I’m nowhere near as “straightforward as this chick … but I can so relate to her experiences!)

In any case, it’s your opinion, as a reader to decide whether I’m making this issue to be more than it should be. What I do know for a fact is that “Gran Torino” is just a movie. And a well-written one at that. Because what happens in this movie … what happens with Clint Eastwood’s “Walter” during the course of the movie is, without a doubt, phenomenal.

And really, who better to direct this movie … to star in this movie as Walter … and bring up such sensitive issues than Clint Eastwood? Personally, I think he should be, at the very least nominated for Best Actor during this year’s Oscar race.

Go see the movie (if you haven’t already). And tell me your thoughts.


* The Detroit area, particularly the city of Warren, has one of the largest Hmong communities in the nation. Another one of the reasons why it was so cool that Eastwood filmed “Gran Torino” in the area.

** As I re-read this post, I realized that there has been an even more recent incident involving Asian-Americans in the Detroit area. Most Asians are very familiar with the Vincent Chin story, as this sparked the first instance of solidarity among Asian groups against hate crimes. However, not many Asians were aware of another incident that happened about 2.5 years ago to Chonburi Xiong (who, coincidently was Hmong).

Please … I encourage every one of my readers to click on the links of these names above (or even these ones) and read the stories. It is only by *knowing* that such instances exist that we can be aware of how our every day words and actions can affect others all around us.

4 Replies to “Me? Quiet?!”

  1. I get where you’re coming from, a bit, since I’m all white girl 🙂 As a feminist, I get mad ar female comments, even though I can see the humor in things, I begin to see the hate that drives so many anti-female statements.

    ClintEast gets me irritated ever since I found out that the person in real life behind Million DollarBaby did not kill herself and is in fact an active member of the disabled community.

    I totally know what you mean about being disappointed upon finding out the actual ending of Million Dollar Baby. But I suppose that’s Hollywood for you …

    As for being all … ahem … “white girl” – did you forget you’ve always been an “honorary filipina” to me? 🙂


  2. I had no idea that Warren! had one of the largest Hmong communities in the nation — I had always thought of Minneapolis/St. Paul first.

    I am waffling about seeing the movie because while I am eager to see a wonderfully nuanced performance, I am also leery of the “great white hope” aspect of the story. I hadn’t even thought about how audience members would be living vicariously through his character … that must have been so hard for you to sit through. No, I don’t think you were over-reacting at all.

    But dammit, gotta support movies for adults, so will try to see it this weekend.


    Surprisingly, the whole “great white hope” aspect of the story was not overly done. I think Eastw.ood did a great job in focusing the story primarily on his character and his Hmong neighbors.

    I do believe MN/St. Paul does have the largest population of Hmong with Fresno, CA being second. I had no idea about the large population in Warren, either until one of Hubby’s younger cousin (who apparently used to “hang” with them) told us about it.


  3. I think you hit your analysis of why people were laughing RIGHT on the nose. That’s usually why I would laugh hard at things over and over. But I would have felt uncomfortable in that situation as well.

    It’s similar to the people who try so hard not to be racist that you know they still harbor some vestiges of it.

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