The film “Crash” written and directed by Paul Haggis was taken place in Los Angeles. This movie illustrates how discrimination and prejudice has affected our everyday lives, due to the misconceptions we have of each other. All the characters in this movie are either victims of prejudice and discrimination or are guilty of it. To help us give more understanding about this movie I am comparing the movie Crash to Joseph Healey textbook, Race, Ethnicity, Gender & Class.
In this movie we see a wide range and depth of prejudice and discrimination and it is not only the whites who are prejudice or discriminate but also minorities who are prejudiced and discriminate against other minorities. For better understanding first we need to learn the meaning of prejudice and discrimination. According to Joseph Healey “Prejudice is tendency of individuals to think and feel in negative ways about members of other groups.” Discrimination on the other hand, is actual, overt, individual behavior” (Healey 96). Healey thinks these two concepts do not always occur together.
Healey believes that there are four different combinations of prejudice and discrimination. The first one is Timid bigot, Healey asserts, “A person who is prejudiced but doesn’t discriminate is a timid bigot” (Healey 96), An example of this is shown in the beginning of the movie Crash, when Dorri and her father, Farhad, are in a gun shop and the owner of the gun shop makes references to Osama bin Laden and Jihad thinking Farhad was Arab. When Dorri tells the gun shop owner that “You can give me the gun or give me back the money and I am really hoping for the money” (Crash), the gun shop owner gives her the gun because he is in a gun shop business for the money. This scene from the movie Crash shows a perfect example of timid bigotry; the gun shop owner is prejudiced but doesn’t discriminate due to his nature of work, he is a business owner and his interest is to make money. The second combination of prejudice and discrimination Healey mentions in his book is “Fair-Weather Liberal.” Healey states that “a person who discriminates without being prejudiced is fair-weather liberal.”(Healey 96).
It’s more like Officer Hansen who gets upset with Officer Ryan’s treatment to Cameron and Christine; he watched this whole scene but couldn’t stop Officer Ryan who is superior of him. He files a complaint against Officer Ryan and obtains his own squad car. Officer Hansen didn’t say anything to Officer Ryan instead he went back to his department and took an action against Officer Ryan. The third combination of prejudice and discrimination Healey mentions in his book is “All Weather Bigot” is when a “person is prejudiced and does discriminate” (Healey 96). In this case we can relate this definition to Officer John Ryan, who is white and racist against all color of people. Right after learning that the person who is handling his ailing father’s insurance case is black; he decides to take his frustration out by pulling over Cameron and his wife, who were black.
This is also an example of the Scapegoat Hypothesis mentioned in Healey’s book, which describes how “people sometimes deal with personal failure or disappointment by expressing their anger on a substitute target, not against the object or person that actually caused their frustration” (Healey 98). In this case, Cameron was driving and did not violate any law; still Officer Ryan treated him and his wife Christine as inferior, and went so far as to molest Christine right front of her husband. Officer Ryan showed prejudice and discrimination by misusing his powers; he held Cameron and Christine until they surrendered their dignity. On the other hand, I believe Officer Ryan is not a bad person, because he is fighting for his ailing father and later in the movie he also saves Christine when she gets into car explosion.
These different scenes from the movie illustrate that Officer Ryan who is racially prejudiced is ironically both villain and hero. The last combination of prejudice and discrimination Healey mentions in his book is “All-Weather Liberal” “a person who is neither prejudiced nor discriminate” (Healey 96). The best example for all weather liberal in the movie Crash is Daniel the locksmith. In the whole movie I did not see Daniel being racially prejudiced against any character. He is very quiet and the peaceful person in the whole movie and due to nature of his work, he usually works late at night. However, to me it seemed like that he doesn’t really care about working late nights rather he wants to spend more time with his family.
Moreover, Crash demonstrates some other examples of stereotyping that are mentioned in Healey’s book. According to Healey’s book, “Stereotypes are exaggerated overgeneralization” (Healey 99). It means that people often have distorted perception of another person or a group. They are based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, physical appearance and many other factors. An example can also relate to Daniel the locksmith, who comes to change the door locks for Jean and Rick’s house.
By looking at his appearance and tattoo Jean sees him as a gang banger. She thinks after he leaves from her house he is going to give a copy of her house keys to his gang members and they will come to rob her house. That’s why she asks her husband Rick to get the locks changed again in the morning. Jean stereotyped Daniel based on his appearance. To me Daniel is a good guy, but Jean didn’t think of him as a family man. By looking at his appearance she made her judgment and thought of him as a gang banger but nothing else.
There are some other terms that are mentioned in Healey’s book that can be related to the scenes in the movie. Another term from Healey’s book that is closely related to the movie Crash is “Selective Perception,” which means that “people often see what they expect to see, so stereotypes are often confirmed in a vicious circle.” The example can relate to Officer Hansen; from the first scene he is in, we can tell that he is not prejudiced and it seemed to me that Officer Hansen doesn’t have lots of experience with people outside of his race. In the movie he helps Peter, who is walking on the road side, by offering him a lift. This was the first time Officer Hansen seen prejudiced in the whole movie.
Peter began laughing without explanation and Officer Hansen asked him to leave the car. Peter wanted to show him what he had in his pocket that was so funny. While Peter was reaching in his pocket, Offer Hansen panicked and shot Peter, who was innocent. That was the first time Officer Hansen had shown prejudiced; even though he was shown as a good man in the movie, he end up killing an innocent man. I think Office Hansen shot peter because he was afraid that his own life might be in a risk. Officer Hansen thought Peter was reaching his pocket for some kind of weapon and in seconds he made his decision and fire at Peter.
The movie Crash shows many aspects of prejudice and discrimination. Crash explores many social encounters that are defined by different characters of the movie. I think Crash represents the race relations in America and shows that how misconceptions and lack of communication makes our life situations very unstable. On the other hand, Healey’s Book Race, Ethnicity, Gender & Class have helped us with more understanding of prejudice and discrimination by giving us different combinations of racism and prejudice and by providing all important definitions.
He even mentions that education have helped us with better understating of each other. But in my opinion we will never have that fully understanding of each other because somewhere on the line we forget who we are and the different people we are dealing with. Most time we think we don’t prejudiced or discriminate and sometimes we don’t even realize that we are prejudicing and discriminating against other people. I guess we are in modern racism.
Courtney from Study Moose
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