This article takes as its starting point the need for solidarity among working-class people and the fact that such solidarity often breaks down across racial lines. It reads Gran Torino and Frozen River as simultaneously disclosing class issues and erasing them, particularly in light of the intended audience for each film. Gran Torino addresses white male anxieties about race, gender, and class. In depicting the relationship between the protagonist and his Hmong neighbors, the film falls into paternalistic trappings that appeal to white audiences but disturb audiences of color. Frozen River’s answerability is to an audience of independent filmgoers, especially women, since the film depicts the growing bonds between a white woman and an indigenous woman. The white character is not a savior to native people; rather, the women partner as equals. Ultimately, the analysis of the two films indicates that aӽliation across races must be based on a shared understanding of circumstances. White-savior motifs may assuage white audiences, but they deny agency to people of color.
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Michelle M. Tokarczyk; Imagining Cross-Racial Affiliation in Gran Torino and Frozen River. the minnesota review 1 May 2018; 2018 (90): 51–69. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00265667-4391512
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