15 February 2009

Gran Torino (2008)

Well, I like me some Clint Eastwood but his much buzzed about performance isn't exactly different than anything else he's done over the past few years. Everyone likes a crotchety old guy who is handy with the steel, if you know what I mean, (earn your keep). So the movie was better than I expected but there's one nagging little thing. It's a movie about anti-racism but it throws racist remarks around all day long. And it's kind of funny. I mean, I even learned a few new terms. "Zipperhead" for example. Never heard that one and I'm not quite sure what the etymology is.

Halfway through, after realizing that many of the laughs in the movie (and there were quite a few) were generated by Clint calling people things like spook, slanty, mick, and mispronouncing ethnic names, the PC light bulb in my head flared for a bit. In the context of the movie, the overt racism was fine. Clint is a good hearted hero, even if he uses disturbing slurs and makes side comments all day long about how Asian his neighborhood's getting. He's a character and a caricature. But in real life, would you sit around as grandpa swore up and down and called people names to their faces? Hopefully not.

But I guess we let a lot of things slide when people are old (well, sort of). It's kind of funny to hear intolerant and ignorant old people mouth off, as proved by crowd reaction to the movie. The question is: should we let it slide? I mean, Miley Cyrus gets roasted for making slant eyes in a picture. Could everyone in the picture just have been joking? Are people being overly sensitive? Or should she be more aware because she's younger, has Asian fans, and is hypothetically more accountable for her actions? Was she being racist? Personally I'd have slapped myself if I was the Asian guy in the photo, the one semi-validating them simply by being an accessory. "Oh but there's an Asian there and he's okay with it!..." But who knows what the true context of the photo was.

There's always an available excuse for why people say/do racist things; unless it's over the top and obvious but racism these days is not usually overt. You have to draw your own line somewhere. Letting shit slide for age, ignorance, or context. It's a slippery slope isn't it? Choose or lose.

Related but unrelated, an old article about "Stuff White People Like" I've been meaning to share.