Crash Movie Review

1074 words | 4 page(s)

Paul Haggis’ Oscar-winning crime-drama, Crash, lends itself to an analysis from a number of different perspectives. One of the most intriguing themes displayed throughout the course of the movie; however, is the portrayal of racial/ethnic issues and stereotypes. The movie depicts several ethnic groups (e.g., Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Caucasian, and African Americans) and through the use of irony and juxtaposition of scenes, each ethnic group is portrayed as both the perpetrator and victim of racial and ethnic discrimination. With such techniques, Haggis gives the audience the impression that no one race or ethic group is “innocent” when it comes to racism and discrimination, and that many people resort to using racism as an “excuse” for their personal frustrations and/or ignorance. The following paper will analyze the movie from this perspective, using specific scenes to illustrate how it is portrayed in every race throughout the movie.

In the opening scene, we are confronted with an accident that takes place at night between a Hispanic and an Asian-American woman. Within a matter of seconds, the Hispanic woman (Ria) is shown getting out of her car and confronting the Asian-American woman, and soon the two are in a racial name-calling altercation. The scene appears to play on the stereotype against Asians that they are bad drivers; meanwhile there is no real hard data to substantiate this claim. Here, Ria needed an excuse to justify her anger and frustration about the crash, so she defaulted to her prejudice of Asian drivers.

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While the aforementioned scene showed Hispanics as the offenders, there are several scenes throughout the movie that shown them in a victim role. Hispanics are portrayed in a negative light mainly through the character of Daniel, a Hispanic single father, who works as a 24-hour locksmith to support his daughter. In one scene, Jean Cabot tells her husband that she wants her locks changed again (while Daniel, a Hispanic man, is in the process of changing them) because she thinks he will sell their keys to one of his “gangbanger” friends. Jean is emotionally distraught and needs an outlet, so she falls back on her stereotype of Hispanics as gangbangers with shaved heads and jail tattoos. Ironically, Daniel hears the entire conversation and as he leaves, he places all of the keys on the table in front of Jean, who looks sincerely embarrassed and ashamed. In another ironic twist (that contradicts Jean’s stereotype of Hispanics) Daniel is shown with his young daughter showing her love and compassion after he finds her hiding under bed for fear of being hit by a bullet. Sadly, he is the one trying to protect his family from “gangbangers” and violence.

Another ethnic groups that is represented in the movie is the Middle Eastern culture, as shown through the characters of a Persian family that own a convenience store. In one scene, the father and daughter are trying to purchase a gun, and while they are speaking in their native tongue, the clerk quickly cuts them off and makes a derogatory statement, calling the man “Osama” and instructing them to “start a Jihad “ on their own time. He calls the Persian man ignorant, but ironically shows his own ignorance by grouping him with the people that caused 911. He further demeans the woman by making sexual innuendos when she stays behind to settle the argument; but again, by acting like that he in fact demeans himself. In another scene; however, the father is depicted as the one who is acing in a discriminatory manner, where he has a disagreement with Daniel regarding a lock that he was suppose to fix. Although the entire argument is due to miscommunication or lack of understanding (due to a language barrier), the Persian man; nonetheless, yells at Daniel and calls him a cheater. In a twist of irony, the convenience store gets robbed because he did not get the lock changed (as Daniel had tried to tell him), but he tries to blame Daniel for the incident. Like Jean, when he is alone (and after he is denied compensation by the insurance company), he begins to reflect on the situation and begins to feel remorse, or at least a sense of responsible for what had happened.

Whites are shown generally as doing well, with higher position than the minorities. They are often portrayed as derogatory or prejudice towards minorities, as having (or thinking they have) more rights, privilege, and authority. This I mainly illustrated by Jean and her District Attorney husband and a cop that abuses his power against a black couple. As with the other races; however, Haggis also shows some of the same people as victims of discrimination. For example, the cop that had sexually harassed a black woman during a traffic stop is the same man that suffers injustice at the hands of the medical insurance system when he is denied help from a black women regarding treatment for his father.

Blacks are shown as underprivileged, misunderstood, discriminated against, and as fulfilling their own “prejudicial prophesies.” For example, when two black men leave a restaurant and one is complaining about being discriminated against (even by a black waitress), the other one asks him whether he tipped. His response was that he does not tip for that kind of service. The other man begins to laugh, which is where the movie tries to illustrate a perpetual cycle (because there is not only one side to blame) between blacks’ anticipation of how they will be treated and then acting on those assumptions, thereby affirming what the other person thought of them in the first place. Irony comes into play when the one man complains about a white couple being scared of them as they passed them on the street, but then seconds later they are shown robbing the couple at gunpoint. Conversely, Haggis depicts several black characters (a movie producer and two police officers) who are are successful, yet they are all in an ironic way guilty of racism. For example, the black Lieutenant in the police force denies a partner change to a younger white officer, even though it was because he did not want to work someone who sexually harassed citizens. The Lieutenant’s explanation was that he worked too hard for his position and did not want to lose it. Ironically, he is displaying the same behavior that he claims made it difficult for him to achieve his status.

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