We face racism, prejudice and stereotypes every day in our lives. We may not initially recognize these three acts, but subconsciously we know they exist. At some point in our lives, we have all experienced racial slurs, segregation and grouping of people one way or another. These ignorant feelings are portrayed well in the movie Crash, written and directed by Paul Haggis. The film depicts racial and social tensions in Los Angeles and involves several characters of different races. The plot evolves quite rapidly and shows just how their seemingly different lives intertwine.
The movie’s title is not based on a simple car crash; it actually originated from cultures and races “crashing” or colliding with each other. Crash is the perfect analogy of how the human race deals with the intricacies of life. These intricacies are felt by interacting with the people around us and those experiences shape our views and actions. Experiences can certainly change our racial views. A prime example of this is viewing all Middle Eastern people as terrorists after the 9/11 attacks. This example significantly shows the lack of tolerance of racial differences that are formed based on generalizations and stereotypes.
This difference is displayed throughout the movie Crash. Officer Tommy Hanson, a white rookie cop played by actor Ryan Phillipe, is originally the partner of veteran Officer John Ryan, played by Matt Dillon. As a policeman serving and protecting all of the people of Los Angeles, Officer Ryan is a white “racist prick” and this bothers Officer Hanson. In their first scene together, the two policemen were off on their evening patrol when they came upon a black Lincoln Navigator. The interesting part was that a Navigator had been reported stolen earlier.
Despite discrepancies in both the descriptions of the carjackers and the license plate numbers, Officer Ryan shone his bright lights on the car. As a result, they observe an African American women jump up suspiciously. Ignoring Officer Hanson’s plead to refrain from pulling them over, Officer Ryan proceeds anyway. The driver, TV producer Cameron Thayer, was cooperative but his wife, Christine, had a few drinks earlier and became argumentative with Officer Ryan. Christine exclaims that she and her husband were merely pulled over by the color of their skin. Thus, Christine continues to fight with Officer Ryan.
This frustrates Ryan so as the situation escalates, he purposefully makes Christine uncomfortable in a routine pat down. Ryan touches her inappropriately and put his hands inside her dress. Cameron, completely embarrassed, does nothing to defend his wife. After this incident, Officer Hanson becomes disgusted with Officer Ryan. Officer Hanson becomes so appalled that he visits his Lieutenant, Dixon, and requests a new partner. Dixon fearful of losing his job over a rookie cop informs Hanson the only way to get away from Officer Ryan is to use a medical excuse that will allow him to drive his own patrol car.
After Officer Hanson and Lieutenant Dixon come to an agreement, Hanson runs into his old partner Officer Ryan in the parking lot. Officer Ryan emotionally tells him, “Wait till you’ve been doing it a little longer. You think you know who you are. You have no idea! ” This foreshadowing farewell hints that the rookie’s untarnished views may soon change with more experience and time in the police force. After Officer Hanson is on his own patrol, he receives a police scanner “call” about a black Navigator. Officer Hanson arrives at the scene and quickly realizes it is Cameron again.
Unlike the first time, Cameron becomes uncooperative with the police and begins threatening them. As a result, police threaten to shoot the TV producer but Officer Hanson steps up to radically defend Cameron. Officer Hanson asks for a minute to talk with Cameron saying he is an old friend. It seems Officer Hanson felt bad from the first time he stopped Cameron, and he tries to make it up to the producer. Officer Hanson tries to calm Cameron down and guides him back to his car. In this encounter, Cameron acted like a completely different person than Hanson had met the first time.
Officer Hanson could not understand why Cameron was acting this way towards the officers. The only idea Hanson could think of was that Cameron was acting out to the policemen because Officer Ryan had acted inappropriately with his wife Christine. Officer Hanson saved Cameron’s life since the other officers were threatening to shoot him but Cameron was let go with another warning thanks to Officer Hanson. In the final scene, Officer Hanson finds a man hitchhiking on the side of the road. The man’s name is Peter and Hanson stops and offers him a ride.
The two begin having a normal conversation until Peter sees Hanson’s St. Christopher figurine on the dashboard. Peter instantly starts giggling and starts reaching into his pocket; Hanson does not understand this reaction and demands Peter to explain. Peter, however, continues to giggle and puts his hand in his pocket. Consequently, Officer Hanson feels threatened by the movement and shoots Peter. This fear may in fact emanate from a stereotypical view. Officer Hanson may not feel he is racist, but he has developed stereotypes during the course of his career.
These stereotypes and conflicting views are obviously what Officer Ryan was referring to in their final meeting. It turns out that Peter was only reaching in his pocket for his own St. Christopher figurine and wanted to show Hanson that they had the same one. Unfortunately, Officer Hanson panics and dumps Peter on the side of the road, then sets his own car on fire and escapes from the scene. Although Officer Hanson may not have been as racist as his ex-partner Officer Ryan, he developed a certain prejudice or stereotypical attitude towards African Americans and obviously random hitchhikers.
Racism is not tolerated in our society; in fact it is severely looked down upon, yet people are unable to change their feelings and judgments of people. Even though we are all “God’s children,” we are distinguished by certain characteristics like the color of our skin. Every race and culture can be viewed differently in society and this certainly applies in Los Angeles. The movie Crash depicted many of these racial views and relayed a resounding message about the negatives of society.
Racism and segregation should be eliminated from the real world because all people are created equally. Crash was an influential wake up call to viewers that all people are in fact not treated equally, especially here in America. As shown by Officer Hanson’s negative character progression, even good people can change for the worse depending on their environment and situations. Hopefully in the future this progression is instead positive, and the attitudes toward people of different race, culture, or gender are both improved and accepted with a more open mind.