The movie Crash, created by Paul Haggis, incorporates the many struggles faced by today’s racial stereotypes, into a collage of various interconnected, cultural dilemmas encountered by the film’s multi-ethnic cast. Most people are born with good hearts, but as they grow up they learn prejudices. “Crash” is a movie that brings out bigotry and racial stereotypes. The movie is set in Los Angeles, a city with a cultural mix of every nationality. The story begins when several people are involved in a multi-car accident.
Several stories interweave during two days in Los Angeles involving a collection of inter-related characters, a police detective with a drugged out mother and a mischief younger brother, two car thieves who are constantly theorizing on society and race, the white district attorney and his wife, a racist cop and his younger partner, a successful Hollywood director and his wife, a Persian immigrant father, a Hispanic locksmith and his young daughter. As the movie progresses each character goes through a life changing event that changes their whole perspective.
Paul Haggis shows these changes not only through the character’s actions but the mood tone, music, and settings of the movie as well. Paul Haggis introduces the theme of the movie right from the beginning with the very opening line. The opening shots are of headlights and rainy windshields with a voice in the background saying “In LA nobody can touch you, always hiding behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much we crash into each other just so we can feel something. ” It is the perfect analogy of how we as a human race deal with life, people and our own experiences.
Physical characteristics and racial differences may be interpreted as two distinguishing traits that separate us. I think it’s what keeps us apart. That leaves several questions that we should ask ourselves when watching this movie. What are the origins of personal prejudice? Do individual experiences fuel standing stereotypes? Is it easier to perpetuate existing stereotypes because “things will never change? ” Can people battle internal struggles within their own ethnic group? What prohibits us from overcoming these prejudices?
The writers of the Crash managed to extend my viewing experience beyond the 90 minute film, thus forcing me to analyze my own prejudices and racial stereotypes towards others. I always thought that racism occurred as a result of a person’s upbringing. If your parents were racist, there is a good chance that you will be a racist too. At first glance, Matt Dillon’s character exhibits characteristics typical of this theory. Dillon exhibited a close bond with his father and later, we discover the roots of his racism. I naively assumed that Dillon was absorbing external cues from his father regarding his attitudes towards black people.
It turns out that his father was not racist towards black people. It was Dillon who, in combination with his father’s negative experiences and his own as a member of the LAPD, formed his own perceptions towards blacks. The first scene that uses a stereotype is within the first five minutes of the film, with a white woman mocking a Chinese woman, faulting her driving for a small bump between two vehicles. She makes a rude comment typically specific to the Chinese about their lack of height “…maybe if you could see over the steering wheel”.
Although she was quite short, it is obvious that the remark would have come from the stereotype that Chinese people are short, which is furthered by the patronizing and insulting attempted Chinese accent the American woman uses. The film uses a technique where each person is aware of racial segregation, ranging from the two main young black male characters, one of whom doesn’t stop complaining about how everyone is racist, to a character played by Sandra Bullock who isn’t a racist, but is aware of stereotypes and therefore is cautious.
Christopher ‘Ludacris’ Bridges’ character, Anthony, is terribly paranoid about how black people are perceived in the community, and has deluded explanations for everything to try to make it seem like black people are targeted. “The only reasons there are big windows on buses is to humiliate people of color reduced to riding them” and “Are we dressed like gang bangers? Do we look threatening? No. Fact, if anybody should be scared, it’s us: the only two black faces surrounded by a sea of over-caffeinated white people, patrolled by the trigger-happy LAPD”.
He talks about, how blacks are targeted unfairly and have reputations for being criminals, everything he hates to be associated with, he does. He car-jacks two white people, pulls a gun on them thus fulfilling the stereotype, fair or not, and still expects sympathy. The film also explores people’s interpretations of others because of their color of skin. For example, a Persian man, with limited English is referred to as “Osama” and has comments made about “…flying 747’s into your mud huts and incinerating your friends”.
It also explains later in the film how the Persian family is thought to be Arab, and so is the reason for their abuse. Not only does the film show racism it shows capitalism, sexism, and patriarchy. Racism is shown with the Cop’s pre-judgment of the Medical case worker the TV show producer insisting on stereotypes for the language of a black man on his show. Capitalism is demonstrated with the human trafficking storyline. Sexism is displayed with the intimate relationship between the two detectives. Patriarchy plays two different roles with the example of the store owner and his daughter and the locksmith and his daughter.
The title ‘Crash’ can be seen as metaphorical- the collision of different peoples lives. The actual event, however, reveals the most poignant effect of racism stereotypes in Officer Hanson, previously very PC in his dealings with black people. The black man he shot, thinking his own life was in danger says much about the subconscious effects of racial stereotypes and our responses to them.
- Crash [Blu-ray]. Dir. Paul Haggis. Perf. Ludacris, . Lions Gate, 2004. DVD.
- Jensen, Robert. The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism And White Privilege. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2005. Print.