Crash, written and directed by Paul Haggis, was another film that I was able to see from a completely different perspective after having learned more about race and gender issues in the media. Crash is quite a unique film in that it attempts to compile various stereotypes about several races and ethnicities into one story that serves to show the humanness, bad and good, found in all people when forced to face unexpected situations with one’s guard down.
Although Crash can come off to some, myself once included, as a film in the right direction for humanity and togetherness, I was disappointed to find that it actually falls into the hegemonic institution of white male supremacy discussed in the book, “America on Film.” Crash ultimately leaves viewers with the notion, whether consciously or unconsciously, that the white male characters are overall strong heroes who’s random acts of courage make up for their evils they have committed against others. The male lead characters in this film have the most complexly developed characters, because they’re character’s were written with real conflict within their personal lives that were not originated from other characters crashing into their lives, as were the issues of the undeveloped female characters played by, Loretta Divine, Jennifer Esposito, Sandra Bullock, and Thandie Newton. For example, Thandie Newton’s character, Christine Thayer, experienced her conflict created during the action of the story when Officer Ryan came into contact with her character, however, Officer Ryan’s character had a backstory written into the script that allowed viewers to see personal conflict at home with his Dad who was very sick and didn’t have good health insurance. Furthermore, viewers also saw some personal conflict of Cameron Thayer, Christine Thayer’s husband in the film, that had been written into the script when a co-worker on set pointed out to Cameron that his actor didn’t sound black enough. The lack of background stories for female characters in comparison to male characters perpetuates the stereotype that female roles and characters aren’t as important as male roles and characters.
There were several stereotypes in this film because it was about stereotypes, as a result, I will address a stereotype that was not resolved by the end of the film. The first was the issue with the Lt. Dixon, who encouraged Hanson to create an elaborative story as to why he could no longer work with Officer Ryan because Lt. Dixon did not want anyone to know that he had kept a racist cop on the force for so long because Lt. Dixon felt like it could jeopardize his own job. Lt. Dixon’s character fit right into the stereotype of “an Uncle Tom,” who loves will shuck and jive in order to keep his master happy. Lt. Dixon’s character never developed further after his bribe of Officer Ryan was proven to viewers to be successful. Therefore, in my opinion the film’s portrayal of Lt. Dixon was a stereotype that was perpetuated instead of broken.
Unfortunately, Crash was not as great of a film I once thought. Nonetheless, it serves as a great tool for analysts to discover subtle biases in films that can ultimately serve to perpetuate stereotypes and unfair beliefs about race and gender in a film about race.