Connect This Essay

Submitted By suzie1995
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White Power: An Analysis of Racial Tensions in Crash by Tori Goyette In 2004 Paul Haggis directed the Oscar winning film Crash, a drama fundamentally about race and its effects on various people in Los Angeles. The acclaimed movie earned rave reviews from average viewers, as it asked hard questions about racism on an individual level and showed some harsh realities that are usually avoided on the big screen. The movie promotes racial awareness, but like any conversation about race, it demands close inspection. Upon telling a friend I was watching the film and was struck by how heavy the material is, he responded, Its reality. I am not so sure. Crash shows realities, but in a not-so-realistic way.
We do not learn very much about each character in Crash, but we know enough to figure out how Haggis wants us to understand them. We see a variety of African American men and women, several Hispanic characters, a Persian family, and several Asians. A scene will switch to another only because the initial characters story line is intersecting with that of the next. We meet the Cabot family because two young black men, stars in the scene, steal their car. Likewise, the Hispanic locksmith looking to make a living for his family is hired at the shop of the Persian man struggling with life as an immigrant. These are the lead characters, all intertwined in their daily lives. This technique of interconnected characters keeps viewers watching. The audience is not stuck with one story or scene for too long. An idea or event is presented from the perspective of one person or family, and then the same event is expanded on by another characters connection to it.
Critics receive the film very differently. Victor Villanueva, in College English, wrote about the limitations in Haggiss attempts to present racism: Most of the characters are provided life circumstances to help us see where they are coming from (4) The circumstances include Officer Ryans sick father, Jean Cabots depression, and the shopkeepers struggle with being a new immigrant. Each serves as an excuse for the characters racism (or at least a way to lessen its severity). He continues, but those life circumstances are themselves most often made up of the cheap rationalizations for racism. (4) Villanueva argues that illness, depression, fear, and poverty do no make racism excusable. These are to him insufficient attempts to find reasons for immoral behavior. The films effort to rationalize intolerance leaves its potential for a powerful message about racism feeling incomplete and shortchanged. Crash presents many races and their intersections, but the white characters appear to be less complex, and ultimately more forgivable, than the other races. I have chosen to analyze Haggiss objectives with the portrayal of white characters.
The first white characters we meet are Jean and Rick Cabot, an L.A. District Attorney and his wife, played by Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock. These are beautiful, confident, well-off characters whose social status is evident at first sight. Jean grabs her husbands arm upon seeing two young black men in the street and Anthony, played by Ludacris, notes she is a typical racist white woman for expressing her fear in such a safe place. Anthony goes on to steal her car. In a sense, Haggis demonstrates Jeans racism by having her clutch her husband for security, but goes on to right her decision when the black men actualize her fears. We do not leave the scene feeling her actions were reprehensible. This is not the first time, even within the same character, that Haggis conveys approval of the white characters racist action. Sangeeta Ray, also in College English, criticizes this scene, which always gets a lot of laughs, but what exactly does it confirm? Our fears, our prejudices are correct, and spatial segregation is a necessary evil. (3) As the scene plays out, Jean reaches for her husband in fear because she apparently should be afraid because her car is