The Secondhand Lions is an American film, which tells about a boy named Walter who was dropped off by his irresponsible mother in front of his uncles’ front door. The two uncles, Hub and Garth, were living on the farm and were extremely wealthy for the reasons unknown. They did not spend their money and guarded it by sitting on the porch with their guns. There are several remarkable things about the way different cultures, worldviews, subcultures, and sets of values are portrayed. Hence, the paper discusses the message of the movie from a cultural standpoint as well as the cultural conflict, which poses one of the main driving forces of the story.
First of all, Garth and Hub are already in their 70-s as the events in the movie unravel in Texas during the 1960s. Hence, the uncles portray the conservative set of values and perceptions of masculinity (Kellman, 2003). These values are centered around their perception of manliness, which includes power, standing for one’s beliefs, lack of trust towards other people, especially women, as well as aggression and violence. Hence, the uncles may resemble a stereotype of rural lifestyle in Southern states of the United States.
The first conflict of cultures arises when the boy from the city who is brought up by a woman arrives. Both uncles react aggressively to the boy from a city culture, calling him a “sissy” and a “weenie,” and instantly decide to cure him of his ways by making him live in a dusty bar (McCanlies et al. 2003). However, Walter does not complain and cry about it as he adapts to the environment and starts to get to know his uncles better. As a result, Garth decides to share the story of his youth and adventures in the North, where he and his brother had spent nearly 40 years.
This leads to another instance of the portrayal of the world culture and the way colonialists perceived the colonized peoples and their customs. Garth tells a story of how Hub fell in love with Jasmine, who was the love of his life, but she had to marry the rich and influential sheikh (Kellman, 2003). Here, Hub neglects the local customs and flees with Jasmine, justifying it as an act of true love. Sheikh starts hunting them to return his future wife and make Hub pay. The Arab sheikh and his henchmen are portrayed stereotypically, almost like a caricature, with henchmen picking their teeth with knives and sheikh being greedy and having a harem of many women.
There is another instance of conflict of cultures within the United States. The scene where Hub fights four greasers, who wanted to attack him with switchblade knives in the bar. During the fight, Hub tells a speech, which opens the essence of his character’s masculinity and his attitude to the events in his North African past. “I’ve seen the headwaters of the Nile and tribes of natives no white men had ever seen before. I’ve won and lost a dozen fortunes, killed many men, and loved only one woman with a passion a flea like you could never begin to understand” (McCanlies et al., 2003).
Here, greasers who represented the American youth subculture engaged in sexual promiscuity and also violence is portrayed as weaker and less decent men who are defeated by the man of old values. In addition, Hub’s attitude to the world cultures is rather hostile, as they are mentioned in the context of war and armed conflict.
However, the film shows that even though the uncles are devoted to their beliefs, they still can learn something from other cultures and from Walter, in particular. Walter brings new value and new richness to their lives by suggesting ways of spending their money. For a city dweller, masculinity is not measured in power but in his financial success and the way a man spends money. Hence, the film portrays the way the city culture of spending money brings a new sense to the old worldview of conservative rural men.
Kellman, S. G. (2003). McCanhes Tim. writ./du.” The Sound of Two Men Roaring Review of” Second hand Lions. Southern Quarterly, 42(1), 147.
McCanlies, T., Caine, M., Duvall, R., & Osment, H. J. (2003). Secondhand lions. Myndform.