Crash, Boom, Bang
Crash, Boom, Bang Janie Bunce Abstract The movie “Crash” was voted the best movie of 2005 for good reason, it deals with subjects that others were probably afraid to tackle. As the name implies it starts with a car crash, but in doing so reveals only one of the metaphors used in the movie. Other metaphors used in the movie allow us to view the culture shock that many people see on a daily basis, especially when dealing with different ethnicities, religions and races.
Los Angeles is shown in its true colors where people live in a fast paced city where more than the cars move at a faster pace. These characters speed through their lives without notice of other people around them. It is as if some of them have blinders on that only allow them to see what they want to see. Until they “crash” into one each other. Crash is the kind of movie that makes you think twice about your actions, asking yourself tough questions, not just of yourself, but of those that are around you; could I have said that differently?
Was I acting racist? Do I discriminate against those I do not understand? This is the sort of movie that has us looking deep into ourselves to do some much needed soul-searching. Crash, Boom, Bang Paul Haggis directed “Crash” with an idea that it not only exposes multi-social, but multicultural differences in order to give us a small window into a few of the interactions and how these interactions, good or bad, affect behaviors and lives, in a relatively small group of individuals.
We are allowed to see how this group deals with situations that may be considered to be racially stereotyped and outright prejudiced. Voted the best movie of 2005, by the Academy Awards, “Crash” as the title implies starts with a crash, but that is only one metaphor for the culture shock that many people have when they ‘crash’ into people from different races, religions, and ethnicities. The city of Los Angeles is shown as a fast paced place where everything from the people involved in the first interaction to very last gasp of the movie, move faster.
The characters seem to speed through their lives, almost unaware and certainly most times without considering the connections and consequences of their daily actions. This is a candid film it clearly shows how a diverse group of individuals when pushed into one another’s lives can leave painful scars in their wake. When you watch Crash you begin to see just how much of what one feels, says, and does can impact so many others around them. There were those however that were shocked by the material covered in it.
It can be denied as much as anyone wants to deny it, but the movie is meant to be racist. It was made to make us think about our actions before we open our mouths and insert a foot into it. Some of the aspects in this movie are intended to remind us that no matter how we would like to think that America is a post-discrimination country, the sad truth is that discrimination and prejudice are far from gone in America. Although this movie opened in 2005, we still have the same problems today.
Young Black men are still being stereotyped, as are those of Islam and Latino heritage. Prejudice and discrimination are but two subjects that are covered in this movie. We see from the social stereotyping to the outright racism how painful it must have been for the actors to reach down into themselves and find the emotion needed to do their scenes and do them well enough to make us believe that they were real. Paul Haggis, allows us to see the different layers of the characters as if peeling an onion.
Many of us may have pre-assumptions about people from different cultures and how we interact with those people, often under stressful situations. The movie for me was a re-affirmation that all people must be treated with respect at all times. After all it is not their fault that you may be having a bad day, or vice versa. Crash had and has the ability to draw large audiences of different ethnicities, bring them together in one room without fear of arguments. This is partly due to the undercurrents of unacknowledged racism that occurs in American life on an everyday basis.
It is the kind of movie that can lead to some soul-searching from its lingering emotional potency. It remains one of the best movies I have even seen. I have always believed that the two most powerful characters in the movie are portrayed by Matt Dillon (Officer John Ryan) and Ryan Phillippe (Officer Tom Hansen). Officer Ryan is not only jaded and abusive, but a racist as well, this is later shown to be because of an ordinance passed by the city of Los Angeles. Officer John Ryan’s father loses his business, because most of his employees were working minorities.
From that one action we can determine the reason why John becomes a racist individual. This may also be the reason he blames minorities for the closure of his father’s business, thus influencing him to mistreat people of other races. This comes to light as Officers Ryan and Hansen pull over a vehicle that is only vaguely similar to the carjacked vehicle that the police are looking for. Officer Ryan mistakenly believes that it is a mixed couple, with the beautiful woman being white; he soon learns that the beautiful woman is in fact a light skinned black woman.
The young couple in the vehicle can only wonder what is happening as they see the lights flashing signaling them to pull over. Their confusion turns to fear as Officer Ryan begins to harass them. Instead of speaking up and doing the right thing, Officer Tom Hansen looks on, says nothing to stop it and becomes more dismayed by his partner’s actions by the minute. Officer Ryan, realizing he is in control and that no one is going to stop him; he begins to enjoy his power trip as he roughly handles the slightly tipsy woman.
As things progress he does almost everything to Mrs. Thayer except have sex with her as he checks her for weapons as her angered husband can only stand by and watch. Mrs. Thayer’s eyes beg her husband to do something, she sees the anger in his eyes but she also sees fear in his eyes as well. He feels helpless as he sees the fear in hers. These are two white men, two white police men that are in control, however badly, of the situation. He understands the consequences if he makes a move to assist his wife, at best he could be arrested, at worst killed.
Another powerful example of poor judgment on Officer Ryan’s part is to never get into a relationship at work is shown when Officer Ryan goes to see Shaniqua Johnson in her office, and has an ulterior motive for seeing her, he wants to enter into a relationship but only to help himself and to possibly get a favor or two later on down the line. From what we have seen so far, we can safely say that Officer Ryan is used to getting his way, becoming angry when he does not, and having his way when it comes to the having the balance of power.
However, here we find Officer Ryan in a predicament where, a powerful woman, a powerful black woman, has the upper hand over Officer Ryan. He knows she welds the power as well as she knows who is in control of this situation. She likes being able to give orders and withhold what she knows he wants. It is her choice to make and he does not like it, he can see in her eyes and hear in her tone that this is a futile situation. When she tells him that she will not be able to help his father, he begins his other strategy.
Pleading his father’s case and outlining what her actions might cost her in the end; she takes him by surprise and throws him out of her office without helping him. The last time we see Mrs. Thayer she is upside down in a car, having just had an accident and has found herself to be trapped in a vehicle that if she cannot get out of is going to explode and more than likely kill her. Officer Ryan comes upon the accident and calls in for help; meantime he has to get this woman out of the car. Mrs. Thayer recognizes him but the recognition is not mutual. Why this man? She wonders.
Is he here just to molest me again? Will he even try to help me out or will he only taunt me as I die? As she begins to weigh the costs and possible benefits of this exchange and what is about to happen she is at once adamantly opposed, and rightly so, to being rescued by a person who, twenty-four hours earlier, had molested her smiling as he did it in from of her husband and not caring who he is as long as he helps her get out of that car. As we look further into this we can see that at first Ryan does not immediately understand why she is so reluctant for him to help her.
Slowly recognition kicks in as he recognizes the woman. He does his best to calmly reassure her that he is here to help her that he is the only one here to help her, and the he will not harm her. Again he reassures her that he is only there to help save her and he does finally pull her from the wreckage. We then see as he holds her gently as he calms her that he is not entirely a bad man and that it is possible that his frustrations over not being able to help his father overcame him and turned him into a racist at least up until this point in his life.
The most powerful scene that I felt was shown, happened between Officer Hansen and Peter Waters, for me it clearly showed that the balance of power was ambiguous for them both. In this scene we see Officer Hansen, a cop, although an off duty cop, and he feels he holds the balance of power. However Peter Waters does not know that the man he is speaking to is an officer of the law. He believes that he has been picked up by a regular Joe, not a member of the LAPD. It is made clear that Officer Hansen has sized up Peter and made his own observations based on the manner of dress or lack thereof considering the current weather conditions.
Officer Hansen’s assessment allows him to correctly assume that this man was up to no good. However, what Officer Hansen does not correctly assess is that Peter is of no threat to his safety. Thinking that he is about to be threatened affects Officer Hansen’s judgment and he mistakenly assumes that Peter is pulling a gun, a tragic mistake that will affect Tom Hansen for the rest of his life. The action also affects Peter’s family as well, they have lost him forever and, in doing so the effect was that Peter, unarmed, was shot and killed.
Officer Hansen’s decision was to shoot. But, why would he do that? Police officers are trained to observe minute situations, determine from those observations what their actions and reactions should be. Tom felt that this guy was a bad guy from his observations. If Peter Waters had been pulling a gun out of his pocket, as Officer Hansen mistakenly assumed, then he would definitely benefit the most by acting first. The cost of not acting first could mean death, or at the very least being injured.
Regardless, of the outcome, Officer Hansen correctly identified Peter as a criminal, but his misinterpretation of the situation cost him everything. Although the movie does not tell us what eventually happens to Officer Hansen, we can use our imagination, and assume that his life would have been be changed forever. References: http://academic. udayton. edu/race/01race/whiteness19. htm Crash, DVD, Catalog #17938, Lions Gate Entertainment, 2004, ApolloProScreen GmbH ; Co. http://www. crashfilm. com/ http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Crash_(2004_film) http://www. imdb. com/title/tt0375679/fullcredits#cast