In April 21, 2005, a movie that mirrors what was going on in our society today in regards to racism and stereotyping was released. That interesting movie, to say the least, have moved, shocked and stricken the soul of its viewers by the amazing twists and turns of the story. The acclaimed movie has also received rave reviews from average viewers. Roger Ebert even called it the best movie of 2005 (Ebert, In Defense). That movie was Paul Haggis Oscar-winning Crash, which screenplay was written by Bobby Moresco and Haggis himself. Needless to say, Crash is about the collision of cars, it actually begins and ends with a car crash. But the notion of Crash in the film has a much broader meaning. It is more than just the collision of cars; it is also the interpersonal collisions between people from different ethnic groups, classes, ideologies, and even gender and age groups. The movie presumes that assumptions and prejudice are what caused these collisions. It also depicts that everyone has racism in them, but everyone can still be a good person (Goyette).
Crash is a crime drama film about the racial and social tensions and its effects on various people in Los Angeles, California. It depicts the racial and stereotypical prejudices that every ethnicity and race experience in everyday life. A self-described “passion-piece” for Haggis, Crash is inspired by a real-life incident in which his Porsche was carjacked outside a video store while walking with his wife (Crash (2)). He also claimed that the movie was initially supposed to be a movie about fearing stranger, but turned into a movie about race (Goyette). The movie has proven even more that it is worth-watching after winning three Academy Awards, including the Best Picture, which made the movie controversial after beating the critically favored Brokeback Mountain (Crash (2)).
In the introduction of Crash, Detective Graham voice-over and says, “It’s the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other just so we can feel something” (Crash (1)). These lines are full of weight, just like the movie itself which tackles some weighty issues that made it stand out. The word crash refers to the collision of worlds of people while the touch pertains to people’s connection. The introduction tells us that people are gradually losing the connection to one another because of the barriers built around them, built by assumptions, prejudgment and stereotyping, which made them doubtful about trusting others. Collision of worlds seems to be the only way to reach out and empathize with each other. It seems to be the only way to understand where the other person is coming from and to have the connection back again.
The movie Crash gives an impression that everyone is a racist. It shows that people make assumptions on people they don’t know. It illustrates how people jump to conclusion based on race, class, appearance, name, etc. Pointing finger at everyone in regards to racism, Joshua Tyler states that there is no one without spot her (Tyler). Everyone is infected. Jean (character played by Sandra Bullock) showed that she is a racist when she held her husband’s arm and squeezed it tight as they walk by two black guys. In that scene, she is not overtly racist, but she is, subconsciously. Another example from the movie is Officer Tom Hansen who hated was his racist partner was doing. He even asked to be reassigned because he can’t stand him anymore. But at the end of the movie, we discovered that he is a racist as well. He killed a black guy because he assumed that he carries a gun.
But before he killed the black guy, he looked at him starting from his shoes up to his ripped jacket as if calculating him, figuring out what kind of person he is. That is when he started to distrust him. Then the gunshot happened. These scenarios demonstrate that we are all racist at some point in our lives. No one is exempted. People are racist in one level or another, even those who think that they are tolerant, enlightened and fair-minded. Officer Ryan told his former partner, “You think you know who you are? You have no idea.” This line is actually intended for the audience, for everybody.
In the movie, an Iranian-American visited a gun store for a purchase with his daughter. But he was sent out by the Caucasian clerk who was prejudiced against Arabs. The clerk thought that he is an Arab based on his appearance and his language, Farsi, which sounds a lot like Arabic. The clerk even called him “Osama”, who was known to be the founder of Al Qaeda terrorist group that is responsible for the September 11 attacks in the United States that have killed thousands of Americans. This scene has clearly shown that people are paranoid of other groups. They treat strangers as potential enemies or combatants (Brusette). Addressing the assumptions that has been one of the issues presented in the movie, Ebert states, “One thing that happens again and again [in the film], is that people’s assumptions prevent them from seeing the actual person standing before them” (Ebert, Crash Movie Review).
An example scenario from the film is when Jean made an assumption that Daniel, the Latino locksmith, was a gang member and would be back with his “homies” to attack them based on his appearance—shaved head, pants around his ass, and those what she called the “prison tattoos”—which we found out later on was not true; he is just a simple struggling family man. This illustrates that people make an assumption and prejudgment on other people without trying to know who they really are. The reason is because people believe that they already know other people based only on their preconceived conclusions on them. But in actuality, people don’t really know other people, neither themselves, and their preconceived conclusions are often wrong which result to a divided society.
The characters of Crash were presented as guilty of racism, prejudice and making assumptions on other people. But before the movie ended, we have witnessed how the characters flipped sides and changed ways and became a better person after their lives intertwined and crashed to one another. We saw how Ludacris’ character, who has been complaining about the preconceptions on blacks, but did nothing but keep proving those preconceptions right, looked very proud of himself after setting the Asian slaves free from the white van he carjacked. Jean, who was angry of all the people that don’t meet her demands, came to a realization that it is not the people around her who have an issue, but it is her, saying “I wake up like this every morning.” She came to a complete realization after she fell on the stairs and nobody helped her but her Latina housekeeper, Maria, who in the end she called her best friend.
Another character is Officer Ryan, the vile and hateful cop who uses a lot of excuses for his misconducts, who victimizes others by exercising his power, became the savior of the same lady she molested. Haggis is telling parables, in which the characters learn the lessons they have earned by their behavior (Ebert, Crash Movie Review). The movie shows that everyone has racism in them, but everyone can still be a good person.
Furthermore, the movie contains powerful symbols to bring out its main ideas. “How far can bullets go?” asked Lara to her father. The bullets represent the assumptions that cause the conflicts between people. Assumptions are just like bullets that whoever was stricken, will get hurt, and they can be fatal too. Another symbol presented in the film is the cloak. The cloak symbolizes faith because it does not exist, it is just imaginary but the little girl still believed in it. Having faith, she becomes the protector of both her father and her father’s assailant. It suggests that if people have faith, they can be protected too.
There is also the St. Christopher statuette that is possessed both by Officer Hansen and Peter. The statuettes symbolize people’s values and beliefs, that even two people are of different color, class or group, it is not impossible for them to share common values and beliefs. And lastly, the snow that came down at the end of the movie. The snow symbolizes purification. We saw how the characters learned and were redeemed after what has happened to them. They were awakened and became open-hearted, making them pure again, removing the wrong actions they have done in the past, in the same way snow covers multitude of dirty things whenever it comes down.
In conclusion, Paul Haggis had been able to send the message he wants to get across to people through Crash. He expresses that people are one and they are all the same, regardless of different races or groups they came from. They are just blinded by the assumptions and prejudice they create that cause them to distrust one another. Crash demonstrates that people are interconnected to one another, but because of the assumptions and prejudice that are continually perpetuating in our society, people lose this connection. To be able to have the connection back again, people have to collide to one another, the kind of collision that will hit their heads hard.
Violent contact has never been good, but if it is the only way to awaken people and make them realize the reality that we are living in a divided society, which is not good, then I can say that there is still goodness in it. Crash is a movie with moral and it promotes racial awareness. It enables people to experience racism from every angle and make them reflect on themselves. It also allows them to walk in the shoes of other people to be able to understand deeper where they are coming from. Overall, Crash is a fantastic eye-opening movie that will truly change people’s views on society.
Brusette, Frederick and Mary Ann. “Film Review: Crash.” Dir. Paul Haggis. Spiritualityandpractice.com. n.d. 18 Oct 2013. “Crash (1).” The Internet Movie Database. IMDb.com, Inc. n.d. Web. 17 Oct 2013. “Crash (2).” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 14 Oct 2013. 16 Oct. 2013. Ebert, Roger. “In Defense of the Year’s ‘Worst Movie’.” Rev. of Crash. Dir. Paul Haggis. Rogerebert.com. 08 Jan 2006. 16 Oct 2013. —. “Crash Movie Review & Film Summary.” Rev. of Crash. Dir. Paul Haggis. Rogerebert.com. 05 May 2005. 16 Oct 2013. Goyette, Tori. “White Power: An Analysis of Racial Tensions in Crash.” Fresh Ink 13.3 (2011) Tyler, Joshua. “Crash.” Rev. of Crash. Dir. Paul Haggis. Cinemablend.com. n.d. 17 Oct 2013.
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