I’ve dealt with the obvious issue of race, now on to gender.
This entire post is very SPOILER heavy, so I don’t recommend you click on the link below unless you already know what happens in Gran Torino, or if you don’t mind finding out.
Sue (Ahney Her) is the first of the family to actively befriend Walt, after he rescues her from some black gangsters when her white psuedo-date lets her down (yeah, it’s a loaded scene, no question about that). He shares several scenes with her, until the film suddenly shifts when her brother Thao (Bee Vang) is sent by his fatherless family to do manual labor in order to atone for his attempted robbery of Walt’s titular vehicle.
Vang is definitely less charismatic than Her, partly by design, but also less stilted, and in any case, the somewhat familiar “mentorship in masculinity” plot (variations on exhortations to “be a man” and not “a pussy”) sweeps Sue aside entirely. Walt’s ideas about masculinity are not completely endorsed by the film. His first attempt to drive off the gangsters who pushed Thao towards crime (driven entirely by self interest) succeeds, but his later attempt, when he viscously beats an obese gangster in a bid to convince the gang to stop harassing Thao, by this point gainfully employed, backfires horrifically when the gang carries out a drive-by on his home (no serious casualties), and rapes Sue off-screen (some or all of them are her cousins).
Walt immediately recognizes his tremendous error, and although he never admits it to the family, he ultimately atones for it in an overblown, yet apparently successfully, gesture of sacrifice. But the inclusion of rape still rankles for two reasons. One is that, early on, the guests at one of the Hmong family’s frequent gatherings complains that Thao is being feminized by his pushy mother and sister.
Sue later, in referring to her deceased father, repudiates Hmong masculinity and the scenes with the gangsters fulfill the same role, while holding up Walt’s American masculinity as comparatively enlightened (much to his confusion, as he of course doesn’t view himself in this way at all). Thao is shown to clearly need a savior (Walt) from overbearing matriarchal rule, and as he is schooled in the ways of normative American masculinity, the plot’s punishment of Sue can easily be read as a further repudiation of her earlier power over Thao (certainly, this couldn’t have been intentional on the part of the filmmakers)
The second problem is that Sue’s rape is shown to be important only insofar as it affects the male leads, Walt and Thao. We never hear her reaction to it, in fact we never hear explicit verbal confirmation that it occurred until Walt’s final showdown with the gangsters. Rape is just a motivation for the two men to avenge her honor, or at least want to (Walt resorts to trickery to keep Thao out of the fray). Considering that Sue was, earlier, a major voice in the film, rape seems to be the final even that eradicates any sense of her self-presentation, as she barely speaks in the last part of the film. To make matters worse, Eastwood ends the film with a scene of Thao smiling while driving the Gran Torino, Sue nowhere in sight. The audience is supposed to be content with this as a resolution, something sufficient to make us forget about Sue’s unimaginable trauma.