nubian reviews Crash: Viewing White Hollywood Through Minority Colored Glasses
last night i finally saw the film “crash” which i have been told to see many times before. i already knew that the premise for the film was about the racial undertones of the multicultural multiracial city of los angeles (my home)
first off, if you havent seen this movie, i think you should. not because i think that it does anything to educate folks about racism, i just think that in some instances it was well written and it told a story very well. since i am a filmmaker myself, i really enjoyed the cinematography and visual imagery.
however, my main problms with the film are as follows:
out of the characters of color, one was run over, one was fatally shot, another was publicly molested by a cop, one was a crack head, one shot a 5 year old child (with blanks however), and another was involved in human trafficking–the only thing badthat happened to a white character was when sandra bullock tripped and fell down the stairs of her house. but don’t worry, as the lovely white women that she was, she ended up being fine. this made me feel like the filmmakers were getting at the idea that white peoples lives are much more valuable.
the white people in the film were portrayed as the saviors of folks of color. the racist cop played by matt dillion molested a black woman on a routine traffic stop, but eventually saved her life when she was in an accident. the other white cop played by ryan phillipe saved terrence howards character from being shot by another cop, but eventually shot and killed larenz tate’s character then dumped his body on the side of the road. the mexican child was not fatally shot because the white storeowner saved her by selling the iranian daughter character blanks that filled the gun.
the message of the film implied that racism exists in all facets and it is not just a black and white issue, but that white people are somewhat immune to its effects. white people will never die from it, maybe fall down the stairs, but never suffer as much as folks of color. the film also implied that racism is not institutional, rather it is the fault of the citizens who perpetuate it. which, i think holds some weight, but i also think that racism is fundamentally institutional, whereas it is in every facet of american life. it is a disease that reproduces itself through the exploitation and subjugation of darker skinned folks, whether through equal access to education, healthcare, economic stability, or plain and simple…a healthy life. by ignoring this salient issue, the film then perpetuates the idea that racism can be eradicated if people simply stopped seeing other people’s skin color. this idea promotes “individualism” and denies the collective histories of people of color within this country. unfortunately, seeing people as “people” rather than as a white person, asian person, black person, etc is impossible because we do not live in a vaccuum. by that i mean, we are always affected by other people’s perceptions of race whether positive or negative; we are affected daily by the racist images produced in the media; we attend school within a system of education which systematically excludes the experience of folks of color–rendering our experiences as inferior to whites; and as american citizens and arguably, citizens of the world, we are controlled by a government which has blatantly and historically created policies which deny people of color the same mobility and equal opportunity and access afforded to whites. it is also highly unlikely that we can just up and erase the past 230 years of sterotypes that have grown, developed and changed and been ingrained into the core of the united states to see people as “just people.”
the sterotypes in the film were plentiful, but were not depicted in a way that challenged them–they were only reinforced and presented as truth. asians were bad drivers, black women were big and loud and named shenequa or big and loud and crackheads, iranians were shopkeepers with short tempers, black men were violent criminals and disrespectful towards women, latinos looked like gang members or didn’t speak “good english.” now, in a film that was supposedly produced to have us question our own prejudices, why wasn’t it produced in a way that portrays people of color differently? i argue because it wouldn’t make sense. the film needs to depict the stereotypes that maintain the racial social order to have the audience be able to relate to it—basically, to be able to consume it. if the film was about poor white people, rich and educated black folks, latinos who weren’t houskeepers but doctors or lawyers and so on, who would go see it? would it make any money? probably not.
in short, the film reinscribes racist stereotypes, which do not contradict hegemonic conceptions, but rather maintain the dominant social order regarding race. secondly, the film keeps racism at an interpersonal level without exploring race at the structural and institutional level, deeming it as a problem that can easily be solved if the world were “color-blind.” finally, “crash” follows the overtly racist claim that people of color “need” whites to save them from racism, since whiteness is depicted as a path of redemption and necessity for racially marked bodies.
its films like this that continue to fuel my fire to make better films….