The movie, Crash, demonstrates the lives of various individuals from divergent socio-economic classes, who have life changing experiences in between their conflicting prejudices and stereotypes. The theme of multiculturalism has also made its influence on the major characters of the movie: a white American district attorney and his wife who is constantly scared of “the other”; two African American thieves who steal their car, a racist police officer who offends an African American TV producer and harasses his wife, a non-racist police officer, a Latino lock maker, a Persian family and another African American detective in the search of his brother. The plot of the movie intersects all characters’ lives and their attitudes towards each other after 9/11, while making the audience question the validity of prejudices and racial stereotypes. In this brief essay, we are going to discuss how racism and stereotyping have the impact on the lives of some main characters in the movie, considering the development of the storyline and the impact of various incidents that change their perspective towards themselves and each other.
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Racism, prejudice and stereotyping, as the major themes of the movie, Crash, dominate all the sub-stories that are somehow connected to each other. Moreover, as the stories go on and events develop, it becomes possible to see how characters start to have changes in their perspective and attitude towards each other, either in a good or a bad way. An example can be the change that is observed in the behavior of the White police officer during his conflict with the African American hitchhiker (who was also responsible from the previous car theft of the district attorney and hitting the Japanese man). Before the shooting incident, we understood that the young officer actually hated racist behaviors, as he tried to be reassigned and get away from his racist partner and later on, he protected and defended the African American man who got surrounded by police men in the alley, and whose wife was offended and sexually harassed by the young officer’s partner the day before. Until the scene with the hitchhiker, he portrayed of a wise, young man who defended justice and wanted to treat people as equals, regardless of their sex or race. However, during his interaction with the hitchhiker on a personal level, when he was having a daily conversation with his attitude, he reaches out for his gun after the hitchhiker sees the voodoo charm, laughs and reaches out his pocket to show him “something”. When he shoots the African American hitchhiker, the young officer crashes everything that both himself as an individual and the audience have believed in. This is one of the most significant incidents of the movie, where the individual realizes that the “other” person can be as “innocent” as himself, and he might have just acted out badly, out of his prejudice. Moreover, incidents such as these also make the audience think that the “other” person is no different than one’s self; just another person, flesh and bones. For the audience, this scene is also capable of challenging the viewers to think about deeper of the stereotypes in their own environment, while also making them improve the sense of empathy about how these stereotypes are influential on their behaviors.
“The role of immigrants in American society is under scrutiny and fire as local governments strapped for money for services have passed ordinances evicting illegal aliens. This in turn has created racial tensions between White people and people of color. Immigrants come from all walks of life; some come with resources and support, while others arrive with just the hope of making a better life in America.”
Considering the level of prejudicial intensity, it is also possible to address another incident, which bonds the audience with characters and make them reconsider their own attitudes especially on stereotyping. The conflict between the Persian man and the Latino lock maker shows us how stereotyping and prejudice can also exist between the members of minorities. The Persian shop owner tells the Latino lock maker to change the locks and after fixing the lock, the lock maker says that it is not secure enough, since there are still problems with the door and the door itself needs to be changed. The conflict arises when the shop owner does not understand what he has really meant, and he accuses the lock maker of cheating him. The next day the shop owner finds his store robbed and thrashed, with racist messages spray-painted on his wall. Out of his anger and frustration, he remembers the previous discussion with the lock maker, and since he has already had a prejudice against the Latino man as a person who was trying to cheat him, he immediately puts the lock maker into a stereotype of a racist, criminal man, disrespecting his family, his business and his honor. So, he finds out the lock maker’s name and address from the receipt, grabs his gun and waits for him for a payback. The climax of this scene occurs when he points out the gun to the lock maker and shoots his daughter. This incident creates the resolution afterwards, with the shop owner feeling heavily guilty and ashamed of his actions. Just like in the previous scene, we can still observe how such kind of a “life-related” incident makes the boundaries and separations among people disappear and leave them with the realization and recognition of the “other”, as a “person” no different than themselves.
Another incident which can demonstrate our thesis on racism and stereotyping and how it might change in just one moment which brings people closer could be shown as the conflict between the racist police officer and the African American woman who gets harassed by him, and whose life is saved by him on the next day. The first encounter of the woman and the officer resulted with the woman’s humiliation not only racist, but also in a sexually discriminating way in front of her husband. Her reaction to this incident and the discussion she has had with her husband even makes her marriage become on the rocks. The next day when she gets frustrated by her husband, after a failing attempt for dialogue, she gets involved in a car accident and gets stuck in her car. She reacts aggressively after seeing that the racist, sexually perverted police officer is actually trying to get her out of the car. After a while of resistance to the officer, she gives up when she realizes that the car is about to explode in a while. During the attempt of rescue, the flames around the car grow, and the other officers try to get the racist officer out of the car. Here, we can see another climax which creates an impact on both characters and the audience. The police officer gets away from his friends and keeps on trying to save the woman. In this moment we can see how both characters change the way they see each other, as a mutual point of basic contact and decent human communication. After saving the woman’s life, the change in the officer’s attitude can be immediately observed, just like the change in the woman’s defensive attitude: They leave their negative impressions aside and recognize each other only as “human beings”.
“â€¦With that said, we see the unraveling of con¬‚icted feelings/stereotypes that whites and racial ethnics hold about each other over and against the self-stereotypes held by racial ethnics about themselves. This dichotomy portrayed over and again throughout the ¬lm forces viewers, regardless of racial heritage, to face our own prejudices and confront feelings of self-hatred typically unspoken, but very much vibrating below the surface of our conscious mind.
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Crash uncovers the reality that people do hold stereotypes about others that drive us consciously or unconsciously to live out in sort of a love-hate duality. In a liberal, politically correct culture that grooms us to deny ambivalences that exist between people of color and people of white mainstream society, and vice versa, it is unnerving, sobering, yet refreshing to see how the producers of this movie have stricken our sensibilities with the “in your face” portrayal of divergent and unacceptable feelings whose existence is typically denied.”
Consequently, it is possible to agree with the quotation above and claim that Crash is a movie, which is able to make the audience face with the stereotypes they have among their own environment and community. Moreover, the movie is also capable of how the prejudices in both parts of the society, minorities and the majority, can crash at some incidents and cost someone’s life, honor and dignity. In addition to these statements, it is also possible for us to conclude that such incidents as given in the movie and some of it exemplified in this study, have the capability of forcing individuals to leave the stereotypes, ways of discrimination and the racist attitude aside, and just focus on the “human condition”. Such incidents can lead to the self-explanatory moments of resolution, where individuals start to change the way they feel or think about not only themselves, but also about the “other”. Therefore, Crash is not only a movie which follows the “in your face” tradition, but it is also a movie which emphasizes the significance of the recognition of the “human being”, instead of the recognition of the “other” .
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