Crash

Highly Recommended for mature viewers (Lots of harsh “language”). This is an incredible movie about prejudice and bigotry that has an even-handed portrayal of all sides of the issue. Rather than just another cliché “victimizing” movie about racism against one minority by the majority, this film illustrates the prejudice at the heart of ALL classes, rich and poor, majority and minority, conservative and liberal, White, Black, Asian, Middle Eastern and others. It’s a special genre film that I have dubbed “Providential Ensemble:” A story about multiple unconnected character’s individual stories that providentially connect by the end of the film to reinforce a special theme. These movies have such great power to communicate theme because they portray the theme from so many angles, therefore being an exploration more universal or wide than a single story. But they also tend to reinforce a providential view of reality that we are all interconnected, even if we don’t think we are. That is, we all are experiencing our own stories with ourselves as heros in our own stories, but we don’t realize that every other person has just as complex and intimate human experiences as we do. By using multiple intersecting plots rather than merely subplots of one person’s main plot, we get a “God’s eye view” of the value of other people by seeing that they have stories just as important and valuable as we do. That is, all those people we see at a distance as we go through our own stories, have their own stories just as important to them as ours are to us, whether we know it or not. The “God’s eye view” of this helps us to connect the providential dots and appreciate the value of others. Movies of this genre are Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Three Days in the Valley, Go, Pulp Fiction, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, Magnolia, and others. And I think I would have to say that this is my absolute favorite genre of film. In Crash, we are introduced to the story at a large multiple car accident. One of the characters in the film telegraphs the theme of the movie with the very first words of the film, “In L.A. nobody touches you. We’re all separated by glass and steel. We have to crash into each other just to feel something.” And the movie then proceeds to show how we prejudge people who are “distant” from us, that is, different than us, separate from us. We have to “crash” into them to realize how human they really are and how they are very much like us. It’s so easy to reduce others to inhuman stereotypes in order to justify our anger when they hurt us. But when we intersect with them on a human level, we see our prejudices for what they really are: often reflections of our own anger, not reality. I say “often” because the downside to stereotypes is that they exist for a reason. Every lie is based on some truth, and the fact is that, culturally, we do tend towards homogeneity and this complicates things. There are in fact certain cultural patterns to every race, but these are cultural, not racial, that is, not intrinsic to the race. When we attribute it to the race, we are bigoted, but when we recognize its cultural origins, we go along way toward understanding the truth behind the lie. Anyway, the story is loaded with all the kinds of racial stereotypes you can imagine, black, white, Hispanic, Persian, Asian, etc. There is a litany of absolute idiocies, like how people make their racial claim about a person, and they’re not even right about the race! Which really shows the stupidity of much prejudice. For instance, a black man makes remarks about Lazy Mexicans to a woman he thinks is Mexican, but she reveals to him that she is not Mexican, but El Salvadoran! Another guy makes a remark about an “Arab store owner,” who he doesn’t realize is Persian, not Arab! A very light skinned black woman married to a black man is misperceived as a white woman in a mixed marriage. But she’s not! Then there are also the traditional victims of bigotry shown to have their own bigotry. A black kid complains of how racist every white person is in thinking he’s a criminal, just cause he’s black, and he DOES turn out to be a criminal! An Asian man and woman selling their own people into slavery! We see a rich white woman complain about her Hispanic housekeeper, and that housekeeper turns out to be the only one willing to help the white lady when she hurts herself in a fall! There is the Hispanic locksmith who looks like a gang kid, but is a loving father. But then he thinks he can get away from evil by moving away from the bad neighborhood, yet the crime follows him into the “safe” neighborhood when a Persian man filled with hatred FALSELY believing the Hispanic is guilty of having the Persian’s store ransacked, hunts him down to shoot him. And the reality is that it was the Persian storekeeper’s own irresponsible impatience that cause the ransacking! Tons of reversals in this movie makes you really think about the reality and blindness of prejudice on ALL levels. One of the most human and thought-provoking aspect was how the movie showed that even bigots are capable of great goodness and “non-bigots” are capable of great evil. The racist cop who hates blacks and even “molests” a woman while unjustly searching her, ends up saving that same woman later, in a “chance” encounter by risking his own life and pulling her from a burning car. Then the cop’s partner, who can’t stand the cop’s racism, asks to be reassigned, and he ends of shooting a black kid, thinking he’s pulling a gun on him, when the kid wasn’t! In another turn of events, the hard edged car jacking black kid who is racist against those he thinks are racist against him, ends up rescuing some Thai people from being sold into slavery because he recognizes the value of people! And as he is letting them go, we hear him spew out a few racial remarks of insensitivity, so that we see that we are not simple cut and dry good or bad people. And then there’s the black Sergeant at the precinct that allows bigotry against other blacks to maintain his own secure position in the force. There is also the situation where men use a racist claim to falsely frame a man in order to bring him down. In other words, the mere accusation of racism unfairly destroys people’s lives. We are all a confusing mixture of good and evil in this world. No one is exempt from prejudice. But the great positive power of this movie is that it also shows that no one is exempt or incapable of doing great good, not even criminals! This is a real redeeming movie because it’s not about MERELY showing our hypocrisy and concluding with a glib nihilism disguised as “realism” that we’re all hopeless, but rather it incarnates positive actions overcoming prejudice as well. But it’s kinda funny, cause when you think of it, the movie itself engages in stereotyping those who stereotype others. You have the “rich white woman” who is afraid of blacks, and the “rich white woman” who has a Hispanic maid. You have the racist cop who’s racist because of working around blacks, but he is loving to his own jerk of a father. You have the “Middle Eastern store owner who refuses to learn English.” You have the District Attorney liberal who thinks in terms of racial favoritism to help his career. Get photo ops of himself with a black fireman, that kind of stuff. HE doesn’t even realize his patronizing IS racism too! In other words, this film is truly profound because it does not reduce the issue down to a cut and dry accusation like a Spike Lee movie, it shows that prejudice cuts all ways, and prejudice is an evil, but it is not an all encompassing, total definition of a person because people we may call “bigots” are sometimes the most compassionate people in other ways in society. They have a blind spot. What is OUR blind spot? This is a complex issue that demands a wise balanced exploration and Crash gives it one hundred percent quality, like King Solomon would. I have one personal desire for a storyline I would have liked to see in the movie. In Crash they had a TV producer story that was good in showing how TV perpetuates stereotypes by forcing black characters to talk ghetto. But I would have liked to have seen what I happen to know is a major problem at Television studios, and that is the racism of affirmative action, where they force way too many minorities into roles that do not reflect the broader culture at large. I know personally of some one who has experienced a studio putting persons in roles BECAUSE they were minorities even though they were not the best actors for the parts. And the irony was that one person was supposed to be filling a Japanese quota, but THEY WERE CHINESE! Oh well, I guess you can’t do all stories.

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