The movie: Crash
Nowadays, labeling is a common issue, accepted by most individuals, as no-one is able to avoid putting labels on others and remove those, which they bear. On the other hand, labeling is a major source of discrimination, as the presence of labels is associated with particular stereotypes concerning the group or population. The discriminatory ideology consequently breeds countless -isms, which become an integral part of human life. The present paper discusses the –isms, portrayed in the movie “Crash”.
Discussing briefly the plot, it needs to be noted that the film is in fact a collection of episodes and personal stories, which the investigator knits together in order to reveal the perpetuator of a murder. First of all, “The district attorney and his wife are carjacked at gunpoint by two black men. At home, the wife orders the locks changed and then changed again because a Mexican did the first job” (Travers, 2005, p.7). Furthermore, an African American TV director involves his wife into sexual contact while driving a car and is consequently stopped by two white officers. “One officer gropes the wife to humiliate the husband, while the other cop watches helplessly” (Travers, 2005, p.7). In the next story, a Persian entrepreneur purchases a car in order to ensure his safety, as he has been recently confused with an Arab. The investigator deals with race-related homicide and is soon becomes clear that all characters are involved into the same criminal story.
The participants thus engage with criminal activities and act aggressively toward the person of different cultural background. The lack of racial tolerance is extremely obvious, and the violent dimension of racism, as it has already been mentioned, forces a Persian store owner to wear arms. The realm of human leisure is thus challenged by isms, as both the movie and the book by M.Allison demonstrate (Allison and Schneider, 2000).
The issue of racism is most apparent in the film. For instance, one of the first episodes shows carjacking, in which African Americans seek not merely to steal the couple’s car, but also humiliate them. In Allison’s book, there is a brilliant explanation of the proportion of participation in leisure activities among different minority groups: “The first is the marginality hypothesis, which states that the underparticipation of ethnic and racial groups results primarily from limited economic resources. This marginal position leads to o disadvantages for racial and ethnic group participants such as fewer recreational opportunities, lack of access to transportation […]” (Chavez, 2000, p. 183). This means, driven by their inferiority complex because of poor access to transportation and other infrastructural facilities, the young African Americans decide to “pay back” to the members of the “enemy group”. This deviant act thus appears to them not merely a means of obtaining the necessary item, but also a method of re-establishing justice and proportion in the distribution of resources. The overall inequality in fact provokes this aggression against the dominant racial group.
The episode of racism also takes place when two police officers stop a car, driven by the African American TV director. They seek to offend him for two reasons: first of all, the man seems to have made a successful career, which contradicts to the popular stereotype about African Americans, living under the poverty line. In addition, his professional advancements seem more considerable than those of the two policemen, so they feel a half-conscious dissonance between the conviction that African Americans must be less successful and active in career-making than whites on the one hand and the current situation on the other. Consistent with the inferiority of the other racial group and viewing this order as a true balance, the two policemen, similarly to the African American carjackers, attempt to re-establish it, using violence and the entitlements, related to law enforcement profession. Finally, using abusive language and physical power, the police officers re-assert their own “white privilege” – this is probably the core of intergroup conflict in the film.
The instance of sexism can also be found in this episode. The officers also commit sexual harassment of the TV director’s wife, demonstrating their disrespect for women as well. They consider abusing the relatively vulnerable and defenseless woman the easiest means of influencing her husband, as this experience is likely to appear stressful and degrading for the spouses. The perpetuators of the harassment also seek to re-assert the female’s inferiority and demonstrate that the woman is practically rightless against the law enforcement professionals with proper powers and entitlements. Notably, the officers treat the husband and the wife in different ways, as sexual subtext is visible in their cruel behavior against the woman, these acts point to the male officers’ conviction that woman deserves and should endure greater disgrace than man.
The slight demonstration of elitism can be found in the attorney’s wife’s behavior towards the Mexican American worker, who should repair the lock again and again up to perfection. The woman treats him as a servant and reveals elitist arrogance, which points to the conviction that the person, who changes her lock as a mechanism, serving to improve her life in the lush and comfortable world. Her behavior can be characterized as a caprice, an exaggerated manifestation of her rights as a buyer of the expensive product. This aspect, in addition, can refer also to consumerism, or the “Customer is always right” stereotype, which obliged organizations to adjust their performance to customer’s desires and preferences. With reference to leisure, this episode clearly shows that the members of lower classes work in order to provide comfortable leisure to the elite.
The movie also provide an interesting portrayal of racial groups. For example, “A pair of young black men emerge from a restaurant, and one of them complains that the waitress gave them lousy service because they’re black, “and black people don’t tip” “ (Travers, 2005, p.7). The perception of such behavior undergoes a negative transformation in the consciousnesses of those of different ethnicities and they begin to believe that a woman, who, seeing two blacks, goes to the opposite side of the street, is a racist. Similarly, the so-called elite groups perceive themselves as “omnipotent”, whereas all women in the movie are portrayed as non-working wives of influential figures, – this, in turn, develops a stereotype of female’s weaker inclination to self-actualization in the spheres other than housekeeping. The group values, presented in the movie, are mainstream, as each group seeks to protect itself using the traditional tools – from violence (the African American hooligans and Persian entrepreneur) to manipulation (women). Leisure stereotypes are mainstream as well: whereas African Americans tend to spend pastime for sex, entertaining deviance (carjacking) and alcohol use, the majority group doesn’t seem to prefer such risky activities and do shopping, watch TV or eat out in brand restaurants.
In conclusion, those encountering different isms in daily trifles, finally begin to suffer from a kind of paranoia and classify individuals as ‘friends’ or ‘strangers’. Racism divides American population into a number of camps, which retain hostile attitude towards one another. The movie “Crash” symbolically begins with a traffic accident, which gradually reveals a number of issues like racism, prejudice and discrimination. Although individuals of different cultural backgrounds are gathered under the roof of the United States and are supposed to coexist peacefully and establish friendly relations, they are nevertheless taught to isolate from one another. On the other hand, when this imaginary wall of separation disappears, it becomes obvious that different lives and different cultures crash into one another, and the outcome of this collision depends upon human tolerance and acceptance.
Allison, M. and Schneider, I. (2000). Diversity in Recreation Profession: Organizational Perspectives. Venture Publishing.
Chavez, D. (2000). Invite, Include and Involve! Racial Groups, Ethnic Groups and Leisure. In Diversity in Recreation Profession: Organizational Perspectives by M.Allison and I. Schneider. Venture Publishing, pp.179-191.
Travers, P. (2005). Crash. In Rolling Stone, May 5, p.7.