This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Savannah Oakes’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Are you ready for a rant?
Here'e the thing about this movie. It's a little cliche and heavy-handed at times which Eastwood's post-Unforgiven films can be but it's really damn good. I used to watch it all the time after it came out but as I got older there was a part of the film that always left me a little unsettled. I watched it again for the first time in probably five and I realized what it was. It's not the violence or the racism--which is used to actually negate the two--but instead the rape which is ironic because I would consider rape, as many others do, as the ultimate act of violence.
Rape as a motivator for male protagonists is just as much a trope in film as "fridging". In Gran Torino the rape is used as an escalation of the violence against Tao's family. However, the rape is completely unnecessary. It would have been fine if Sue--the character raped--had been more incorporated in the story like having the central relationship be between her and Walt and not Tao and Walt. Instead what occurs is Walt is upset over the shooting at the house where Tao is merely injured and Sue walks in. Walt then goes back to his house, tears it apart, and makes a decision to sacrifice himself to end this violence and save this family. However, in the end, Tao ends up moving on from this violence driving away with the Gran Torino. Sue, on the other hand, is no where to be scene neither is here recovery form the rape. It is completely neglected. It is obvious she is not okay since she answers the phone in bed when Walt calls but other than that we see nothing of her. This story is about helping this family get away from the violence. Sue has had a bright future ahead of her one Walt says Thao should aspire to have. By including this rape it insinuates the future, the one Walt in effect wanted for the family, will now unattainable for her because of her mental and emotional pain which takes the place of Thao who is now capable of achieving these things.
The film neglects her rape by almost rubbing in our faces in the final moments of the film. After she lets Thao out of Walts basement they drive over to the gang's house where Walt's body is. She literally stands in front of her rapists and there is no reaction. It's all about Walt and his sacrifice for Thao. But this women had to have everything taken away from her so Thao could get a fucking Gran Torino.
I'm not trying to rewrite the movie nor do I think this is a fault of just this movie--it's not--it's a fault of a lot of movies which is why I think it's important to discuss this. Films as recent as this year's The Gift feature rape as a plot device. The neglect of victims in films are in correlation with the neglect of victims in reality. I believe movies should not just represent real life but the life we want to have especially when the reality is harmful to a lot of people.