Have you ever wondered if Hollywood could ever produce an Oscar winning movie that is extremely racially insensitive from not only implying the racial tensions, but also scripting the most racial slurs I’ve ever heard in one movie? Well, Hollywood did this when they created the 2004 movie, “Crash”. Actually, they could have made this movie without the actors ever speaking because the facial expressions were enough to tell the entire stories. There are several stories told over a two day period in Los Angeles involving many inter-related characters brought together by stereotypical situations.
The storyline includes a black police detective that cares for his heroin addict mother all the while listening to her praise his wrap-sheet littered younger brother, two young black car-jackers who ironically are always discussing and trying to theorize society and race, the Los Angeles district attorney who seems to care more about his election numbers than anything else along with his racially irritated and pampered wife, an extremely racist veteran policeman (caring for a sick father) that thoroughly disgusts his more open-minded younger partner, a very successful and talented black Hollywood director and his wife who have to overcome the racism of the veteran cop, and Latino locksmith and his little girl who address guns and bullets through the intertwining of lives with a Persian immigrant that buys a gun to protect his shop.
The character most liked was definitely Daniel. Throughout the entire film he only did what was ethically, morally, and socially correct. Although he truly looked like a Hispanic or Latino hoodlum with the way he dressed, kept his hair, and the tattoos he displayed he was only trying to make a better life for himself and his family. Even when his first encounter with Farhad, the Persian man that owned the convenience store with the door issue of not closing or locking, and the man would not listen to him that the door was the problem and not the lock. He had every right at that point to lose his temper, but he didn’t, he just walked away. The only other person that was likeable was Farhad’s daughter, Dorri, whose good act was when her father was purchasing the gun. The gentleman that owned the gun shop was terrible to her father as well as to her, but she kept her composure with him just to get the transaction completed. She also was looking out for her father because she knew he would probably do something foolish with the gun and that’s why she chose the blanks over real bullets and in the end this was a hugely successful decision that she would have never thought could happen.
She saved Daniel’s daughters’ life by choosing those blanks when her father went to go shoot Daniel and his daughter jumped in the way. The character least desired was basically each and every one in this film with the exception of Daniel, the locksmith. Jean and Rick Cabot were your typical snobbish white people who looked down at everyone else and didn’t really realize it at first. Christine and Cameron Thayer were not favored because they were very affluent African-Americans who pretended to know about the black race and all the oppression that was experienced, but these two were raised in wealthy environments receiving the best of everything. Detective Waters earned his dislike when he took the bribe of clearing his brother’s criminal record by covering up the internal affairs issue that would have embarrassed and/or hurt Rick Cabot’s political career. Anthony, just being Anthony won him a dislike and being a criminal didn’t help either, but he was the most entertaining to view in the film.
He was your stereotypical black man that feels slighted by everyone especially the white man. Officer Tommy Hansen ironically was going to be the most like character until he picked up Detective Waters’ brother Peter and then killed him. John Ryan, Matt Dillon’s character, goes out of his way to be racist towards blacks and basically everyone he passes along the way. From the traffic stop he did to Christine & Cameron where he tried to steal Cameron’s dignity and molested Christine was just enough to win him the most disliked character in the film. But if you really read into his character, the reason he such a hatred for blacks in general was because he blamed the race for his father being sick, losing his business, wife, and home because of government laws helped black small business owners start companies in which put his out of business. He did redeem himself somewhat towards the end of the movie when Christine was in the car accident and he refused to let her die and consoled her after he rescued her from the burning car.
Later into the film he was driving past the spot where he had originally pulled over Cameron and Christine and the expression on his face read that he was rethinking the way he’d always treated people. The main white characters all appear to be living comfortable lifestyles, both socially and economically. Rick and Jean Cabot are well-to do Los Angeles socialites. Tony Danza plays a television executive producer who demands his black producer Cameron Thayer (who is one of the only non-white characters to be financially secure, but still not socially) to make his black actors speak “more black” because the characters he was producing were supposed to be the dumb ones.(Rasing, 2013) Also, all the main white characters are never shown in any kind of struggling manner in regards to finances, but many of the minority characters are portrayed as destitute or powerless socially. Daniel, the Latino locksmith, is not depicted as either wealthy or poor as he’s portrayed in the stereotypical manner of most Latinos. He’s working class to everyone else, but when you see his family and where they live, he’s depicted as middle class that is trying to do the best for his family.
This is proven through his daughter’s character in the clothing that she’s wearing as she has a on a schoolgirl uniform which suggests that she is in a private school for one of two reasons. First, the parents value education and are willing to make sacrifices so she can attend the better school or second, their neighborhood is so bad that they don’t want her in public school. Either way it shows economically how they make it work to provide the very best for their daughter. Politics are addressed in this film through Rick Cabot, the L.A. District Attorney, after the carjacking had taken place. His exact words were, “I’m the (blank, blank) District Attorney of Los Angeles, if my car gets “jacked”, and it’s going to make news. Why do these guys have to be black? No matter how we spin this thing, I’m either going to lose the black vote or I’m going to lose the law and order vote.” He was not trying to solve the problem of what had just happened to them, but just the exact opposite, he wanted to bury it.
He then turned to one of his employees and said for him to get the “black” fireman that had recently made news for a heroic event and to make a photo opportunity out of it with him to give the fireman a metal. But the irony here was that the fireman wasn’t black, he was Iraqy, named Sudam, and the look on Rick’s face was priceless as you could see he just recognized himself as being racist. For a societal issue, the scene with Jean and Rick Cabot are back home after being carjacked, this summed up the majority of people in our society and how their true feelings are. Sandra Bullock wants the locks changed once again because she feels the tattooed, shaved head, low pants hanging Latino is a gang member and thinks he will give copies of the keys to his other “amigos”. Her rant which was sparked by her husband’s patronizing of her addressed societal topics that we deal with and hear of every day. She directed her husband to call the locksmith company and remind them to not send a gangbang member referring to the Latino locksmith man (which she classified by his appearance).
She insulted the black woman that worked for her husband by saying, “I just had a gun pointed at my face and it was my fault because I knew it was going to happen. But if a white person sees two black men walking towards her and she turns and walks in a different direction, she’s a racist right? Well, I got scared and I didn’t say anything and ten seconds later I had a gun in my face. Now, I’m telling you, your amigo in there is going to sell one of our keys to one of his homies and they will come into their home.” As she exits the room, the Latino locksmith man shakes his head in disbelief and you can almost read his mind that he knows she is so wrong in her assumptions and that it’s just sad. The kicker in this scene is when Daniel, the Latino locksmith, finishes the locks and places the two sets of keys on the counter right next to Jean Cabot and gives her a look of disgust and Jean’s face expresses her thinking that maybe she could be wrong in her assumptions. Culture through stereotyping in this movie is all over the place and the landscape is set to portray how the interaction and “crash” is into each other. What someone looks like influences how they are understood regardless of their accent is the overall message to the film as the visual is what is received and processed first.
The Mexican American is one of the characters that stand out the most to me, as Daniel the locksmith is simply trying to support his family and keep them out of harm’s way. He is a hardworking man who moved into a better neighborhood, taking his daughter out of the environment where bullets had gone through her window. He is on call to work any job necessary, and keeps his head down in the process, but still he is profiled and faces unjustified hate. He looks like your typical Hispanic gang member, with tattoos on his neck and shoulders, which lends others to judge based on face value, accusing him of selling keys to his assumed “homies” or of committing the Persian store vandalism after he informed the owner of the true problem (needing to fix the door, not just the lock). He is trying to live the American dream and his actions speak of his upstanding character, but his visual appearance allows others to stereotype him without giving cause. The Asians were another stereotype within the movie, but contributed very little to the story.
They are involved in the black market and for their culture is a business venture to aid in making their way in society and the showing of the strong bond between husband and wife is very apparent. The Persians also have strong family ties as their highlight role, as the three of them must stick together to face the diversity and racism of others. Being accused of being “towelheads” and facing store vandalism leaves them broken and feeling isolated, they are judged sole on face value and perceived cultural ties, rather than people getting to know them and realize the depth of their cultural values. The African American stereotypes are portrayed through numerous characters, such as the producer and his wife, the detective and his criminal brother, Anthony the criminal ringleader of the pair, and the police sergeant. The range of character roles covers the high middle class African American as the producer attends cocktail parties, drives the same car as the white DA, and is an outstanding member of the movie business, down to the lowest role of typical Black criminal profile with Anthony and Peter.
The Caucasians in the film are the DA and his pampered wife, who’s power and influence is assumed, their victimization with the carjacking is the largest tragedy of their protected lives, and their responses to racial diversity to those around them is appalling.(Goodwin, 2011) Another cultural issue was in the scene with Detective Waters and Ria when they were interrupted during sexual relations by a phone call from Detective Waters’ mother and he told her he couldn’t talk because he was having sex with a white woman. This seemed to raise some tension with Ria as she was already dealing with the fact that he doesn’t let anyone in close to him and keeps people including her at a distance. He then began to refer to Ria as Mexican in which really set her off because she isn’t Mexican.
She proceeded to tell him that her parents were from Puerto Rico and El Salvador and ironically that neither one of these places were in Mexico. Now, for my opinion of the film Crash, it was just ok. The message that was being sent was good, but the movie itself didn’t approach the topics fully. For one thing, it was not portrayed at all that the way the “white” people thought and acted was incorrect; it appeared to attack all the other ethnicities instead. I had rented this film years ago primarily for all the “A” list actors that were on the billing and I think that’s where my dislike started. With this many of them in one film and it winning an Oscar for Best Picture, one would surely think it would have been a masterpiece. I think it would have been better if there was a more solid storyline to follow because the bits and pieces here and there made it difficult to stay focused. In the end, I did like it enough to not dread watching it a couple of times to ensure I didn’t miss anything.
“Crash.” http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002WQB0Q8/ref=avod_yvl_watch_now, 06 May 2005. Web. 28 Feb 2015. Goodwin, Nelia. “Cultural Crash Main Paper.” http://culturecrash.wikispot.org/cultural_crash_main_paper?action=Files&do=view&target=main%20paper.docx, 13 Nov 2011. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.
Rasing, Maridette, “A Critical Analysis on Crash: Classism and Racism”, http://ws350ol.blogspot.com/, 11 Mar 2013. Web. 28 Feb 2015.