A Film Review on the 2004 Film "Crash"
Blind Racism in Crash
In the film Crash by director Paul Haggis, a variety of Los Angeles citizens experience random life-changing experiences based on racist or sexist acts committed by all of them. The film focuses on each character’s personal life showcasing how racism, sexism, classism, and prejudice can only lead to negative outcomes and anger. The film takes place during the early 2000s all over the city of L.A. with members of the L.A.P.D., doctors, store owners, car thieves, movie directors, and other average people. The film had quite a few lessons, but I think the ultimate theme was how a person’s blind hatred for another group of people will always lead to the unhappiness and violence.
The many forms of oppression that face society cannot be looked at separately as they are all connected to everyone in society in some way. Interlocking forms of oppression affect everyone even if avoided. A perfect example the film shows is Daniel, the young Mexican locksmith’s story. He was trying to avoid the racism being shown to him by multiple people and was only going home to spend time with his family, but racism showed up on his front lawn holding a gun to his head. The store owner’s blind hate for the person whoever wrecked his store was substituted for his racist mentality towards a stereotype built around young Hispanic men with tattoos. While Daniel did nothing, his daughter still almost got shot. The ideas of “color blind racism,” explained this way “The central component of any dominant racial ideology is its frames or set paths for interpreting information. These set paths operate as cul-de-sacs because after people filter issues through them, they explain racial phenomena following a predictable route.” (Bonilla-Silva 26) The store owner had a set-path he was basing his assumptions on, therefore trying to filter his issues through these pre-determined thoughts of violence towards a community of people. In this case he was wildly wrong about Daniel and was given a second chance Daniel’s daughter leaping in front of the bullet and “protecting” her father from being shot, which we later find out are blank bullets.
The blind racism that the shop owner had for Daniel is no different than a white man (or any man) assuming he has claim over a black female body. In society the black female body is seen as a commodity that can be bought, or “for the taking”, disposable, and is hyper-sexualized in all forms of media; which is only encouraging this myth that it is. “Cultural concerns about race, class and beauty often intersect with mass-mediated depictions of the female body.” (Brown 81) This, leading society to believe that all black women’s bodies are free to whomever. The scene in the film when Officer John Ryan sexually assaults Christine Thayer is a clear example of the black female body being seen as free. It is also the perfect example of white femininity being forced upon black bodies as ultimately desirable. Because of Christine’s thin body, long straight hair, and light toned skin, she had all of the aspects that resemble white femininity, but she was a black woman. The difference is that her body is open to be assaulted, as a white woman’s is not. “Ironically, many African Americans deny the existence of sexism, or see it as a secondary concern that is best addressed when the more pressing problem of racism has been solved. But if racism and sexism are deeply intertwined, racism can never be solved without seeing and challenging sexism. African American men and women both are affected by racism, but in gender-specific ways.” (Collins 5). As Collins explains, sexism and racism are intertwined in different gender-specific areas.
While black women are seen as either the jezebel or the mammy, young black men are constantly being looked upon as criminals. Just as Christine Taylor’s husband was automatically assumed to be stealing his own vehicle. When he was only trying to save his car from the actual thief. The handful of white cops all were willing to shoot him down based on his skin color and harsh actions. “Not only are sexuality and violence part of representations of Blackness, these mass media images circulate in a climate where social institutions are increasingly saturated with relations of sexualized violence.” (Collins 20) The movie is the perfect reflection of this idea of “lightness” being superior to blackness. All of the darker skinned folk in the film, in the end, suffered the most hardships. Don Cheadle lost his car thief brother, and his mom was addicted to crack. The light-skinned couple suffered hardships in the beginning but in the end Christine was saved by the same cop that molested her and her husband was forgiven and let go with a warning by that cop’s partner, Officer Hansen. The topic of skin tone surfaces again when the District Attorney suggests that his Iraqi acquaintance was “black enough” to be photographed with to better his image. This suggests there are different levels of oppression depending on the amount of lightness a person can obtain. This harmful way of thinking leads to violent acts not only within a community but inflicted on oneself, leading to things like bleaching. A common problem in places like Jamaica.
The movie closes with a scene of another car crash which then leads to a race-driven argument. This shows how all forms of oppression work in an interlocking vicious repetitive cycle that only people can break themselves from. The store-owner calling the young child his “angel” is a sign of hope for the future generations. As she was the only young person in the film, she is representative of all young children coming into the world. The fact that she survived this act of blind racism is a sign that the new generation of people will be the change to a racist world or at least be the light of hope that there will ever be a change.
The scene with Sandra Bullock’s character, the D.A.’s wife on the phone in the end of the film explains the message of the movie well. Although Bullock showed multiple acts of racism throughout the film, in the end, she realizes she wakes up every day angry at the world, with no explanation. This scene when she is on the phone portrays racism eating away at society’s happiness. If a person hates one person for a certain reason then they have to hate everyone for that reason. The lesson learned is that all racism is unavoidable in today’s society and it only leads to hate, which leads to unhappiness and violence.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism Without Racists. Lanham, MD, 2006. Book.
Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York, NY, 2004. Book.
Brown, Jeffrey A. Feminist Review. Class and Feminine Excess: The Strange Case of Anna Nicole Smith. 2005. Palgrave Macmillan Journals
Crash. Dir. Paul Haggis. Lion’s Gate Films. 2004. Perf. Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillion. DVD.