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Conservatives’ Bizarre Readings of Gran Torino

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Conservatives’ Bizarre Readings of Gran Torino"

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Andrew Breitbart offers up an Oscar wine:

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This year Gus Van Sant and his gay marriage public service announcement “Milk,” garnered eight nominations while Clint Eastwood and his objectively conservative box office titan “Gran Torino” got completely shut out.

I liked Gran Torino a lot. But consider. Milk is about a small businessman who goes into politics and takes a stand against firing people for actions irrelevant to their job; the implicit subtheme is that couples who love each other should get married. Naturally, conservatives hate it. But that’s their problem. The idea that Gran Torino is a conservative movie is, meanwhile, bizarre. In its main plot arc it’s very clearly a subversion of Dirty Harry-style right-wing vigilante fantasies. You should see the movie, so I’m putting the rest below the fold:

You’re set up in a million ways to expect a just such a storyline. But then at the crucial moment, the hero’s tactics turn out to be just the reverse—he baits the bad guys into excessive violence, thus turning the problem into one the police can handle easily. In the end, the film affirms the value of nonviolence and of refusing to take illegal shortcuts merely because your opponents are bad people. The only “conservative” element to the film is the somewhat-loving satirical portrait of Eastwood as a racist crank. But this is both clearly satire of Eastwood’s views and more to the point clearly racism. It’s not like he’s some “politically incorrect” regular ol’ guy who liberals would call a racist. He flings around all sorts of obscure ethnic slurs! Constantly! These are funny, enjoyable scenes. But they’re not a positive portrayal of racism. And even if you do want to confuse them for a positive portrayal of racism, what kind of conservative would think that being racist makes a movie conservative? Isn’t that something a liberal would say?

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