Actor Bee Vang says he is "haunted" by white viewers laughing at racist jokes made by Eastwood's character.
Over 13 years after Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino" opened in theaters and became a box-office sensation ($ 148 million in the US and $ 269 million worldwide), actor Bee Vang has signed up for the film for criticizing the mainstreaming of anti-Asian racism in America. Vang starred in the film as Thao Vang Lor, a young Hmong teenager who befriends his older racist neighbor (played by Eastwood). While Vang blames “Gran Torino” for increasing the Asian representation on screen, he writes that this was done at the expense of increasing racism against Asia.
"In 2008, I starred alongside Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, the Hmong in a story of two people overcome differences to form an unlikely human bond," Vang wrote in an article published by NBC News. "It was a historic cinematic moment for the Hmong around the world, despite its numerous anti-Asian slurs."
Vang continues: “At the time there was a lot of discussion about whether the arcs of the film were insensitive and free or just“ harmless jokes. ”I found it annoying, the laughter the arcs evoked in theaters with a predominantly white audience it was always white people who said, “Can't you kidding?” Today I shudder at the thought of what that means. More than a decade later, anti-Asian racism that was once disguised as good-natured humor was thanks to Covid -19 revealed for what he is. "
Most of Vang's essay covers recent examples of anti-Asian racism, from the stabbing of an Asian-American family in Midland, Texas last year to the recent murder of Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai American.
When Vang returns to Gran Torino, he writes, “(The film) may have overcome the crisis in Asia that spawned our diaspora and many others in the Pacific. More worrisome, however, was the way the film put anti-Asian racism front and center, despite increasing Asian-American representation. The laughter directed at us has beaten us to silent submission. "
"To this day I am still haunted by the joy of the white audience, the roaring laughter when Eastwood's curious racist character, Walt Kowalski, growled a bow." Gook, "" Slope Head, "" Eggroll. "It's a "Harmless joke," right? Until it's not just a joke, but another excuse for ignoring white supremacy and racism, "the essay reads." For Asian Americans, this is the time to demand recognition and not to retreat into a cocoon of faintheartedness of model minorities. It was never enough to show "our Americanity". This is a delusion of multiculturalism. "
Visit the NBC News website to read Vang's entire essay.