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Crash (2004) is American drama film directed and produced by Paul Haggis. The film focuses on racial and ethnic tensions in the Los Angeles area involving a diverse group characters from all different backgrounds. The film shows how all walks of life are subscribed to a stereotype and that these stereotypes affect how we interact with one another. In Chapter 2 of “An Introduction to Intercultural Communication: Identities in a Global Community” Jandt explains how stereotypes, prejudice, and racism are a “pernicious stumbling block to intercultural communication” (Jandt, 41) Not only does this film shine a light on racial on the negatives of stereotyping but it also forces the viewer to do some soul searching as well as I caught myself making judgements while watching the film as well.
Crash gets straight to theme of the movie with the opening crash scene. Ria (Jennifer Esposito) and Kim Lee (Alexis Rhee) get in an argument about who caused the car accident. Ria is of Puerto Rican descent while Kim Lee is Korean. Both characters are guilty of having predetermined views of one another, not knowing whether they are accurate or not. Kim Lee shouts “Mexicans no know how to drive!” assuming Ria must be Mexican simply because she looks Hispanic. Ria fires back and starts making fun of Lee’s english and accent “I brake too fast, you no see my brake light.” Instead of having a civilized conversation to search for a resolution, both sides resort to crude language which further distances them apart. Haggis is showing us with this scene how stereotyping can create a barrier in communication between two individuals. (Jandt, 45)
How it works
As a male of color and someone who has been racially profiled by the police in more than one occasion, the scenes that involved Officer Ryan (Matt Dillon) and Officer Tommy (Ryan Phillipe) really caught my attention as I watched the characters evolve throughout the film. They exemplified anxiety, white privilege, prejudice, racism, and while watching I found myself stereotyping as well. We first see Ryan pulling over a Black couple in a black SUV while knowing the vehicle did not fit the description that was warranted. We see Tommy come off as a “good guy” in this scene because he states that that was not the car they needed to pull over and throughout the interrogation, Haggis wanted us to see the discomfort in Tommy’s face. Ryan abuses his police power and molestes Christine (Thandie Newton) while her husband watches and doesn’t react because he doesn’t want to go to jail.
Ryan is abusing his power and his white privilege, he knows he will not face any consequences for his actions and understanding he is at the wrong. (Jandt, 48) Ryan is seen as cruel and racist and one point in the film he speaks to a Black women working to help him and states “I can’t help but think about the 5 or 6 more qualified white men who didn’t get your job”
Ryan’s character and the way the audience views him changes in the latter half of the film. When Christine is involved in a serious car wreck, it’s Ryan who risks his life and comes to her rescue. Christine did not want Ryan’s help whatsoever due to their previous encounter but Ryan insisted. His language towards her is not racist and comes off genuine. “Please, I’m sorry, but there’s no one else here yet and that’s gasoline there.” Ryan’s desperation to help Christine even when his own life is at risk also shows that Ryan’s character is not what it had first seemed-he is much more courageous and cares enough about saving Christine to do so even when it exceeds his call of duty
Tommy’s character also goes through a drastic change. At first he’s someone who is disgusted by his partner Ryan’s acts. He sacrifices where he stand with his peers by sticking up for a Black civilian he encountered before and by leaving his partner by lying and saying he had extreme flatulence. However his character changes for the negative and is shown as a racist and a murderer. Tommy’s character shows racism when e finds it impossible that Peter could like country music because he is black and assumes he is mocking him “Oh you think that’s funny”.
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