This article provides a movie list that portrays the struggles of maintaining culture in America. This article will also provide a brief summary of each film.
Many people struggle with articulating an American identity and maintaining traditional cultural backgrounds. In America, many grandparents and parents struggle to instill tradition in their modern children. This article provides a movie list that portrays the struggles of maintaining culture in America. This article will also provide a brief summary of each film.
#1. Grand Torino: Grand Torino presents a story of white culture and the Hmong culture. Clint Eastwood’s character articulates traditional white culture as hard working and respectful. On the other hand, his children and grandchildren are the antithesis to Clint Eastwood’s notion of tradition. His son and grandchildren have no respect and no cultural background. At the same time, Eastwood’s neighbors are Hmong. The grandmother and parents of this Hmong family practice tradition and preserve culture, while their children lose culture and join gangs. The main character of this film, a Hmong teenager, struggles with articulating what it means to be an American, Hmong, and both in modern America.
#2. Tortilla Soup: This is the story of a Mexican family man who struggles to preserve and instill culture and tradition in is three Mexican-American daughters. The daughters are American raised and struggle between speaking Spanish and English. They also struggle articulating what it means to be Mexican, while living in modern America. The father, on the other hand, has a clear conception of what it means to be Mexican and an American. The father teaches his daughters that the Mexican culture has a definition, while American culture is constantly being reshaped.
#3. The Debut: This is a film about a Filipino-American high-school senior who has dreams of going to art school, while his immigrant father pressures him to accept a scholarship for medical school. The protagonist, Ben, faces his ultimate challenge of learning about his true Filipino culture on the night of his sister’s eighteenth birthday party. On this night, Ben is pressured to attend his sister’s birthday, which is filled with traditional Filipino culture, instead of hanging out with his white friends.
#4. Selena: Selena tells the story about a Mexican-American pop singer’s success. While this story is about the life of a music artist, it also presents the culture of a Mexican-American family. Selena’s father struggles to instill Mexican culture in his American raised children. His children, including Selena, do not speak Spanish. When Selena’s father discovers her talent to sing, he teaches her to sing in Spanish. He teaches Selena that singing in Spanish will allow her to stay in touch with her culture, and it will build a metaphorical bridge between Mexican culture and American culture.
#5. Grand Avenue: This powerful film portrays the lives of modern Native American families living in the ghetto. This film traces three generations of Pomo Indians. The oldest of the generations struggle to preserve their own traditions, rituals, and culture, and struggle to instill those traditions in their children and grandchildren, who are lost in the world of drugs and gangs.
#6. Soul Food: This movie is narrated through the eyes of an African American child. The narrator tells the story of his grandmother, and her four daughters. Soul Food deals with the grandmother’s struggle to preserve African American culture and tradition in her four daughters and grandchildren. The four daughters are modern day women who face the challenge of holding on to this cultural tradition after the grandmother dies. Furthermore, the narrator faces the challenge of carrying on his grandmother’s wishes to make sure that culture and tradition are preserved within that family.
#7. American History X: This powerful film tells the story of two opposing cultures (The Caucasian culture and the African American Culture). This film portrays the family of a neo-Nazi and his community of neo-Nazi’s, who are blinded by their own hatred of the African-American community. At the same time, the African-American community struggles with their hatred of the Caucasian community. Both ethnicities fail to preserve their ancestor’s traditional culture backgrounds due to their hatred of each other.
#8. My Big Fat Greek Wedding: This is a family comedy about maintaining Greek culture and tradition in modern day America. The main character, Tula, challenges those traditions when she decides to leave the family restaurant, go to college, and marry a non-Greek man. Tula’s entire family preserves and passes down Greek culture and traditions to the newer generations. Although Tula introduces a new culture to the family, she proves that all cultures can form an American identity, but still stay true to their cultural background.
#9. The Godfather Part II: In this sequel to The Godfather, the audience gets a clear picture of two cultures. This movie traces Vito’s childhood from Italy to becoming self-made in New York. The film shows how Vito preserves Italian identity and articulates what it means to be an Italian in America. While Vito’s story unravels, Michael, who now runs the family business, proves that he has no cultural traditions. Michael demonstrates that he no longer holds the traditions the Vito tried to instill in his children.
#10. The Joy Luck Club: This film adaptation of Amy Tan's novel, traces the lives of four immigrant Chinese mothers who are raising their four daughters in San Francisco, California. Much like the novel, this film tells the stories of the four mothers growing up in China and adapting to American life after immigrating. At the same time, the daughters tell the stories of their experiences growing up Chinese American and trying to live up to the expectations of their mothers to maintain Chinese culture. This is the story of preserving culture and instilling culture.