Paul Haggis’ Crash: The Politics Of Stereotyping

A compilation of stories entwine during a thirty-six-hour period in Los Angeles. They revolve around a drugged out mom and a lost younger brother. We also have two, black car robbers who debate American society and race. There’s the white DA (Brendan Fraser) and his annoyed pampered wife (Sandra Bullock), and a racist cop (Matt Dillon) with his more liberal-minded partner (Ryan Philippe). An affluent, black Hollywood director (Terence Howard) and his wife (Thandie Newton) must deal with the racist police officer. An Iranian-immigrant man must buy a gun to protect his store and a Hispanic locksmith (Michael Pena) has to fix the Iranian’s lock, amongst other things.

DA Rick Cabot (Brendan Fraser) waves race around like he’s wielding a baseball bat. He uses it to score political points, but all he does is make himself sound ignorant. After their car is stolen by two black men (Ludacris and Larenz Tate), Cabot’s wife Jean Cabot (Sandra Bullock), believes her stereotypical views on people of colour are justified and can’t be considered racism. The same thieves use their race to justify their actions. Aren’t they both wrong? It is both wrong to judge another based on race, religion, sex and so on, but it is also wrong to break laws. This is a film that says there is no honour in racism, nor is there honour in using it as a tool to prop yourself up.

Is stereotyping ever justified? Well, I guess that’s based on each person’s experience of different groups 
(Crash, Lions Gate Films)

Then there’s the cop who hates his partner, but then at the end of the film we see he has the same views in his subconscious. The fear of the black male runs deep, and that’s an ideology propagated by western society. The black, male, film director (Terence Howard) shows us police brutality at its most proactive. His wife (Thandie Newton) thinks he doesn’t support their blackness, even more when he doesn’t come to defend her when the racist cop touches her more than what is necessary, molestation if you will. Regardless of sex, what does it mean to be black in the West? Crash is a portrait non-white America, and the things that happen on a regular basis.

We are also witness to the Muslim perspective, showing that ignorant Caucasians can blame every Muslim or anyone who looks remotely like an orient for acts of terror. America will never get over 9/11 and the scene with the Iranian-immigrant Farhad (Shaun Toub) in the store with the white assistant is merely one example of what white people do to people of colour, whether they black, East Asian, Hispanic or otherwise. Farhad believes he isn’t getting what he deserves from American society. This isn’t what he hoped for in coming to America. In a post-9/11 world, being anything but white is a constant struggle, as you’re under the constant scrutiny of the white man.

Crash made me feel that NWA were right when they said Fuck Tha Police in Straight Outta Compton
(Crash, Lion Gate Films)

After Trump’s threats to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, the story of the Hispanic locksmith (Michael Pena) is even more heartbreaking. He just wants to live a normal life in a country that has been immortalised into stories as being the land of free. But this is the same country that had two hundred years of slavery and then relegated its people of colour and women to second class citizens. Daniel (Pena) just wants to live his version of the American Dream; raising his daughter in a world he thought safe, and being with his wife as well. He wants to keep his daughter safe but when you’re a person of colour in the West, the odds are hardly ever in your favour.

Encircling two road traffic collisions, a car theft, workplace vandalism and the shooting of a police officer, Crash is set to the landscape of the notoriously racist LAPD and the Los Angeles justice system. The various plots move around different characters, who’s lives melt into each other as each of them stare down their own dilemmas of ethics and morality. This is a film about decisions and how some decisions are either a do or die, even if you need the help of your oppressor. Each of these characters experiences some kind of epiphany in one form or other, like having your handsy cop save you from a potentially fatal situation. Brutal to the point of desperation.

John Haggis’ sociopolitical masterpiece further proves what a great actress Thandie Newton is
(Crash, Lions Gate Films)

From the simplistically brilliant cinematography to the acting performances to the music to the film’s message, Crash is a sociopolitical masterpiece and an ideological haemorrhage on the mind that is more relevant today than it was over ten years ago at the time of its release.

A film that shows how the West continues to divide and conquer, told through the poetic and artistic brilliance of the moving image