Sunday, May 22, 2005

My Take on "Crash"

If you haven't seen Crash yet, do yourself a favor and go and see it. Personally, I believe Crash to be the most essential and well-written movie of the year. Not since Hotel Rwanda and The Corporation in 2003 has such a relevant movie been released. Crash is a work of art - with beautiful writing, great acting, and a very powerful message. Note that if you have not yet watched the movie, I would recommend not reading this blog entry until after you have had a chance to watch it, as my discussion will contain SPOILERS.

Where Hotel Rwanda intended primarily to inform the world of the genocide taking place in Africa, and The Corporation served to educate the public of corruptive role that corporations play in today's society, the primary role of Crash is to illuminate the public to the pervasiveness of racism that still exists just underneath the surface of common civility in today's society.

Racism is a touchy subject, and the wide spectrum of reactions to Crash serve as witness to that fact. Walking out of the theatre, I heard a wide variety of reactions - In general, the movie has received raving reviews, yet many people will no doubt feel offended by the stereotypes portrayed in the film.

I think that this was the primary motive of the film. The movie was obviously designed to offend the sensibilities of everybody watching the film - to force you to imagine yourself in each of the movie's stereotypical roles - to make you squirm in your seat and make you feel uncomfortable.

A primary example of this is the scene where Officer Hanson, played by Ryan Phillippe, ends up shooting Peter (played by Larenz Tate) in a misunderstanding, after mistakenly assuming that Peter was pulling out a gun. This is a very deep scene that can very easily be taken in different ways, but I believe this scene to be one of the keys to the movie.

Officer Hanson's decision to pull out the gun and shoot came from a very deep-seated form of psychological racism hidden deep within his psyche. This racist action came as a total shock to Officer Hanson, who believed himself to be a upstanding, progressive and understanding individual. This racial prejudice did not stem from an overt or pervasive discriminatory worldview on Hanson's behalf, but from a systematic fear that resided deep within his psyche, due to years of conditioning from a racist worldview presented by the mass media.

We have made tremendous progress over the past century, but, as a society, we still have a long way to go. We are still only decades removed from segregation, the Civil Rights Movement, and Martin Luther King, Jr. We live in a society where slavery was originally legalized by the constitution. With none to proud a historical record on the subject of racism, the United States should not be too quick to discard the subject of racism as a thing of the past. In today's politically correct environment, it is all too easy to brush racism under the rug, and try to pretend that it doesn't exist, but it is simply not reality.

All too often, I hear racist comments made. Law enforcement and our legal system are both inherently racist, with black far more likely to be tried and convicted for similar offences when compared statistically to white men. The media plays a large part in this perpetuation of racism and stereotypes - With local newscasts more likely to cover stories that perpetuate the role of the black man as the criminal, and television shows and movies also doing the same.

My personal interpretation of Crash is that the movie is intended to raise awareness of the issue of hidden prejudices, and to force you to re-examine your own beliefs and prejudices. Only through continual awareness of the issue, and open discussion can we continue to work towards a more progressive society. And by the way, don't forget to take the time to enjoy the movie during all the introspection and self-examination -- Personally, I hope this movie receives the Oscar recognition it is so deserving of.