Analysis of the movie Crash

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In the evident diversity in this world, the differences turn into a vehement clash which further widened the gap. Discrimination launched conflicts that did not only involve countries but were able to seep through into the smallest structure of society. Notions derived from hear-say, physical attributes, and pre-conceived view points that remain within the mores are unfortunately difficult to obliterate. Though the times have thrived for modernity which constitutes openness for other cultures, the judgmental views that originated from human differences still exist today.

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A clear depiction of the existence of discrimination in modern life is widely portrayed in the film Crash. Located at the diverse suburbs of Los Angeles, the movie revolves around strangers which interlink them with the events of racial discrimination. Each of the strangers represents various races which are commonly judged in the society. Some of them being black upper middles-class and thieves, white policemen, Hispanic locksmith, and a Persian store owner. Their lives intertwined when racial prejudices are encountered and their characters revolved on the way they perceived these events.

The series of shootings, carjacking, and accidents shaped the movie to show how the characters were able to interact and respond to discrimination. Starting from the road accident involving an Asian woman, A Latina and Black detectives, it already showcased a form of discrimination in a miniscule matter of driving. One can see that issues of violence shown in the film rooted from ordinary routines of life. Such example is the scene of Anthony complaining about a restaurant not rendering equal services to them because of their African American descent.

The events in the film that brought each character together resulted from the realities of discrimination. However, in the course of the film, the prejudice eventually prompted into behaviors of kindness amidst an incident that shaped their views and perspective with regards to people beyond their skin color. The white racist cop who molested a black woman whom he rescued during a car accident showed a shift of portrayal in his character. Anthony, who is always paranoid when it comes to issues of discrimination against him, freed illegal Asian immigrants. This particular scene posed a similar change in his perspective as well.  The ironies in the attitudes of the film’s characters depicted the reality that discrimination is committed by anyone and the stereotypes posed by the color of the skin can induce societal tensions that may be aggravated.

Social tensions such as those portrayed in the film have resulted into crimes and violence. Most of the characters comprised of people who enforced the rule of law. It has been depicted that the film’s detectives had associated some of the crimes with a particular race. The racial or criminal profiling was used as a basis to determine criminals and to move a criminal case forward.

 From the term ‘race’, racial profiling is referred to as making a selection on the basis of race to determine possible criminals. Racial profiling is further defined by Garrine Laney as:

…the practice of targeting individuals for police or security interdiction, detention, or other disparate treatment based primarily on their race or ethnicity, in the belief that certain minority groups are more likely engage in unlawful behavior. Assertions that law enforcement personnel at all levels unfairly target certain racial and ethnic groups, particularly but not exclusively for traffic stops and searches… (Muffler, 2006, p. 1)

Criminal profiling on the other hand, talks about a general make-up of a criminal which can be determined more on a psychological analysis of a crime. As described in Criminal Profiling: Principles and Practice, it is a “systematic analysis of an individual crime or related series of crime for the purpose of constructing a profile that describes the various characteristics of the offender(s) likely to have committed the crime(s) specifically under examination” (Kocsis & Palermo, 2006, p. 2).

From these definitions, racial profiling is more specific than criminal profiling. Racial profiling can provide the possibility of speeding up a criminal case since it targets a certain group of minorities as probable suspects. However, this particular notion of determining a criminal posed inaccuracy. It does not give out a proper method of investigation. There are no processes of conducting these minority or ethnic groups as suspects thus not being able to give an ample amount of evidences to support criminal accusations.

Racial profiling is not derived from any laws. It just erupted from customs and is practiced commonly at traffic stops. Since it is race specific, this is commonly used in cases of drug trafficking and an aim to stop terrorists (Muffler, 2006, p. 6). It is difficult to measure how much of the laws are being implemented in racial profiling. On the other hand, criminal profiling takes up a more extensive method of criminal investigation. It may involve racial attributes in profiling a criminal however; this is only considered as a single factor in this method.

The method of criminal profiling includes the examination of a criminal’s gender, geographical origin, legal history, family and social background (Kocsis & Palermo, 2006, p.7). However, though this method has continued to thrive in criminal investigation, the accuracy of the research evaluation of the profiles is difficult to determine. The interpretation heavily depends of the officers’ “perception of a criminal profile” (Kocsis & Palermo, 2006, p. 15). This particular aspect entails a possible bias towards the judgment of the case.

Taking the movie Crash into account, racial/criminal profiling can be seen when Officer Ryan together with Officer Hansen followed the Navigator car of a black couple and asked them to pull over. Officer Ryan accused Mr. and Mrs. Thayer of hazardous driving due to performing fellatio while on the road. He then searched the couple for any hidden weapons until it progressed into molesting Christine Thayer. All this triggered when Officer Ryan spotted an expensive car driven by a black man. He used the performance of oral sex as his justification to inspect them and have them searched mostly using his pre-conceived notion as his basis.

This specific scene from the film portrays how racial profiling is deeply rooted from the different stereotypes that are labeled to people. The film itself centered on these stereotypes which usually start from small ordinary matters until it resulted to a full-blown violence. Stereotype has been defined as

 …a very limited view of the average behavior in a certain environment. It exaggerates and caricatures the culture observed and, unintentionally, the observer…people often equate something different with something wrong. (Trompenaars & Turner, 1998, p. 26).

This can be considered as the very root of discrimination for – just as presented in the film – it processes an ideology which delimits people a particular label. Stereotypes, the moment that it is established will constitute attitudes that will later on turn into a behavior. Perhaps one of the attitudes that is mostly attached with stereotype is prejudice. It can be perceived as the result of stereotype. To be more specific, prejudice is seen as “a readiness to act, stemming from a negative feeling, often predicated upon a fixed over-generalization or totally false belief” (Kleg, 1993, p. 114). Thus prejudice, when turned into a behavior, can be seen as an attitude of misinterpreting normal gestures of people that are being typecast. It is the product of the ideology that is derived from stereotyping.

The stereotypes in the film often ended up in brutality. Perhaps, the most significant portrayal of stereotype from the film was from the car scene with Officer Hansen and Peter Waters. All throughout the film, Officer Hansen has been depicted as the non-racist of all the characters. He disapproved of his racist partner and who helped Cameron Thayer to escape during a police encounter, but not until Peter Waters hitchhiked into his car. Upon Peter’s discovery that Officer Ryan has the same St. Christopher figurine on his dashboard, his laughter was interpreted by the cop as a sign of mockery and an argument ensued. When Officer Ryan thought that Peter would pull out a gun when the black guy put his hand inside pocket, the cop shot him only to find out later on that an identical figurine is what Peter intended to show him.

 This particular scene has made the point that stereotype and prejudice can most likely happen to anyone. The concept of stereotype is an essential thing to understand to be able to determine why a society poses discrimination to a certain group of people. Discrimination has been an old disease in the society and in the world; and events such as the 9/11 have intensified views that were racially degrading. Films, such as Crash, have depicted how stereotypes and prejudices exist in all of us. It may even suggest that these concepts are innate within people. It is important to delve deeply into these for people to realize the harsh realities it brings.

Stereotypes can be crueler when the discriminated belongs within the confines of an institution. Such example of this would be Lieutenant Dixon, the black commanding officer of Officer Hansen. When Hansen’s request for a new partner is relayed to Dixon, the lieutenant disapproved annoyingly with this. It is not an easy decision for Dixon to make since it involves a white cop being accused of racism. With Dixon being black, such reason to grant Hansen’s request would be taken against him – as a black man accusing a racist white man. He pointed out to Hansen that using that argument might cause him his position he worked so hard to get.

Dixon is obviously bounded within the duties of the police department. The film gave an impression of the culture of the police institution which is still predominantly white and to be able to succeed like Dixon, one must conform to the norms within it. The discussion of racial profiling which was by Officer Ryan is a norm that Dixon might have done to his fellow black people before he ever got the position. Dixon clearly veered away from the subject of racism as this is a topic critical to him and to the department. He invented the reason of flatulence instead so Hansen can have his request be granted.

If Dixon has succumbed to the suffocating effects of stereotype and prejudice on the film, Cameron Thayer did the opposite. Though he can be compared with Dixon on the first scene where a white cop molested his wife, the pressure of stereotypes has taken its toll on him when he confronted the policemen during an encounter. His character was represented as an upper middle-class black man who is a film director. The scene with his wife portrayed him as a law abiding citizen who chose to be silent despite of the sexual assault. He is also seen as a submissive director who gave in to the comments of his colleagues regarding how one of his black actors should be portrayed.

The confrontation served as Cameron’s outburst from the discrimination. He chose to fight and speak out as a symbolism of defending his wife’s tampered dignity and his damaged talent as a director. He embodied a character that revolves around an ideal concept of the society. He has accepted and tolerated the prejudice around him despite finally feeling its realities hoping that things will change or it will be back to normal. However, when it did not, he finally had enough.

The film depicted that diversity equates discrimination. That ironically, stereotype is the one of the few things that does not discriminate because it occurs in all of us. It seems like this issue of discrimination, unfortunately, is deemed as a fact of life. However, just like what was shown in the film, as long as there are people who will make us realize that what we have prejudged is wrong then stereotypes will continue to be distorted and eventually, be destroyed.  What this film has brought is that before global campaigns can be done, racial discrimination must be addressed into the smallest structure of society. Though a city like Los Angeles embraced diversity into its districts, there is a crash happening because of these differences which are not realized.


Kleg, M. (1993). Hate, Prejudice, and Racism. New York: SUNY Press.

Kocsis, R.N., and Palermo, G.B. (2006). Criminal Profiling: Principles and Practice. New

Jersey: Humana Press, Inc.

Muffler, M.J. (2006). Racial Profiling. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Trompenaars, A., and Hampden-Turner, C. (1998). Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.

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