The media plays a crucial role in society. It is responsible for developing viewpoints through the images it represents. People form opinions through what the media provides. However, more often than not, the media is also responsible for presenting inaccurate and biased images which greatly influence the perception of people. Naturally, the wrong kind of representation sends the wrong kind of message. The 2004 movie “Crash” is a good example of how the media promotes unfair judgment, as its story increased the stereotyping of African-Americans through the negative depiction of one of its black characters.
The movie “Crash” is not a typical film with one story told in a linear fashion. Instead, it presents multiple vignettes woven in a web of a single narrative. In essence, the movie is about the different lives of people living in Los Angeles. It features the life of a police detective and his lover partner, 2 car thieves, a locksmith, a store owner, a TV director and his wife, the district attorney and his wife, and 2 police officers. While the stories of the characters are introduced to each other’s lives through car crashes, these are more importantly connected by one thing: racial discrimination.
The issue of race sits at the core of the story, as the film exhibits the conflict created by the various races of people residing in Los Angeles. All races are represented in the movie: African-American, Asian, Caucasian and Hispanic. These races collide in the story and the end result reveals the prejudices they have against each other. The story of each character ends differently; while some change for the better, some remain the same. Hence, “Crash” can be considered as the film which explores racial discrimination and its consequences through the point of view of diverse personalities.
Upon watching the movie, Director Paul Haggis seems to convey two messages through his masterpiece. He intended the audience to recognize two realities that are often overlooked. First, he wanted to show that everyone is guilty of racial discrimination. Regardless of which race a person belongs to, this person may have judged another based on their race. The traditional notion is that only white people are guilty of having prejudice towards African-Americans and other races. However, the movie showed that those who are often victims of racial discrimination are also guilty of participating in it.
The second reality that Haggis intended to show through his film is the interconnectedness of people. No matter how different people are, they are all linked in the society they live in. He showed that actions of one individual affect the actions of another, which explains the gravity of the consequences of racial discrimination in society. Thus, the intention of the filmmaker was to open the eyes of the audience about two realities. “Crash” can be considered as a remarkable piece of cinema, but it does have its flaws. It is an award-winning film with a socially relevant story to convey.
Nevertheless, despite the film’s noble intention to preach against racial discrimination, it is guilty of giving a negative depiction of African-Americans, specifically the character of Anthony. Anthony, who was played by rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, is a young African-American man who is a thief by profession. With his friend Peter Waters (portrayed in the film by actor Larenz Tate), Anthony steals vehicles to be sold to a chop shop. In fact, the first time they appear in the movie is when they steal the Lincoln Navigator which the Rick and Jean Cabot (Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock) own.
However, it is not only the act of stealing that gives Anthony’s character its negative portrayal. It was the discrepancy between his attitude and actions that set him in a negative light. Anthony is depicted as an African-American fighting against the racial discrimination of his race. When Anthony first appears on screen, he was ranting to Peter about the unequal treatment he received from the African-American waitress. He complains that he was not served at the same speed as white customers, despite the fact that the waitress was of the same color as he.
At this point, the audience recognizes Anthony’s awareness of the racial discrimination African-Americans suffer in society, sometimes even from people of the same racial background. Then, Anthony reveals his hatred of white people when Rick and Jean Cabot walk towards their direction; he becomes enraged when the Jean clings closer to her husband when she sees Anthony and Peter. Eventually, both men force the white couple out of their vehicle and steal their vehicle. Throughout the story, Anthony continues to react against the discrimination of blacks in society.
He says that he would not hurt his fellow African-Americans, though by the latter part of the story he broke this promise. The depiction of Anthony’s character is negative because it shows the audience the contradictory nature of African-Americans. Anthony is a character who strongly opposes the unfair treatment against his race. Initially, such fervent opposition may seem as a good thing. However, his own actions encourage others to discriminate about him. While he hates the way white people discriminate against African-Americans, he gives these people enough reason to unfairly judge his race.
The fear of white people towards blacks originates from the crimes or criminal activities that African-Americans are associated with. Instead of doing good things and proving society wrong about black people, he steals cars and justifies the fear. At one point, he even robbed an African-American man (Cameron Thayer as played by Terrence Howard). In addition, his actions also reflect his discrimination of others. He has extreme hatred of white people. Just as the white people discriminate against them, he also discriminates against them.
He is also guilty of racial discrimination towards Asians; he ran over an Asian man he called “Chinaman. ” Hence, the character of Anthony was depicted in a negative light as an African-American man who does not like to be discriminated but participates in the discrimination of others. The character of Anthony is also depicted negatively because it follows the stereotype of African-Americans in media. The media has often portrayed African-Americans as involved in criminal or illegal activities. The portrayal of Anthony is no exception.
He was a young black man who lived on stealing other people’s vehicles. A stereotype is a representation of those who belong to a specific group which upholds common belief or unjustified bias. The stereotype of African-Americans in the media paints an unpleasant picture of a race, as it presents them as citizens who disrespect the law. Due to Anthony’s depiction in the film “Crash,” this stereotype remains. Again, African-Americans are categorized as those that are not capable of living without breaking the laws. In real life, this is not the case.
While there are black people who are involved in criminal activities, there are also African-Americans who live honest lives and earn money through hard work. Because of the stereotype that is used in the movie, the behavior of those who abide by the laws are discredited while the behavior of those who break the laws overshadow them. The negativity of a portrayal or depiction is based on the unpleasant or unfair presentation of a character. For instance, Anthony is negatively depicted because the movie upheld the stereotype of black people being criminals.
The existence of such stereotype is obviously pleasant and remarkably unfair. As was earlier established, not everyone from the African-American community is involved in illegal activities. Because Anthony was portrayed as a car thief in the movie, the general perception of people that blacks are criminals still remain. Through Anthony’s negative portrayal, the movie contributed to the existing stereotype of African-American people. “Crash” by Paul Haggis is a movie which explores racial discrimination in Los Angeles. It highlights the existing tension between different cultures and races.
While it is a distinctly fine film, it contributed to the stereotyping of African-Americans through the negative portrayal of the character of Anthony. By presenting a black man as a criminal who also discriminates against others, the movie helped little in improving the general perception of black people in society. Instead, it furthers the public’s unfavorable opinion about people of color. Therefore, the story of the movie “Crash” increased the stereotyping of a group. Reference Reimer, R. , Korbelin, J. , Grasic, M. (Producers) & Haggis, P. (Director). (2004). Crash [Motion picture]. United States: Lionsgate.