Cultural Differences COM/360 November 12, 2012 The movie Crash (2004) is about a handful of disparate people’s lives intertwined as they deal with the tense race relations that belie life in the city of Los Angelos over a thirty-six hour period.
All the players involved in the movie are: a Caucasian district attorney, his Caucasian wife who believes her stereotypical views are justified, therefore they’re not racist; two black carjackers that use their race to their advantage; two Caucasian police officers, one who is racist and abuses his authority to non-whites, and the other who hates his partner for his racist views; a black film director and his black wife, who feels her husband does not support their own culture enough especially with the wife being violated by the racist cop; the two detectives and sometimes lovers, one Hispanic female and a black male; an East Asian man who gets hit by a car, but is hiding valuable cargo in his van; a Persian store owner who feels he is not getting enough satisfaction or respect from American society when his store is continuously robbed; and a Hispanic locksmith who is just trying to keep his family safe out of harm’s way (Imbd, 2012). Each person’s story interlocks in some way as they all crash into one another through a series of racist endeavors and stereotypical judgments.
Hall argues that every human being is faced with so many perceptual stimuli—sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and bodily sensations—that it is impossible to pay attention to them all.
Therefore, one of the functions of culture is to provide a screen between the person and all of those stimuli to indicate what perceptions to notice and how to interpret them (Lustig & Koester, pg. 109, 2012). Hall splits cultures into high/low context and describes how high context cultures use high-context messages where the meaning is implied by physical setting or presumed to be part of the individual’s beliefs, values, norms, and social practices; very little is in the coded message. These cultures include; Japanese, African American, Mexican, and Latino. The low-context cultures prefer to use low-context messages, where the majority of the information is vested in the explicit code. These cultures include German, Swedish, European American, and English (Lustig & Koester, pg. 109, 2012).
An example of high-context communication; is when the two black carjackers interpret the same meaning and gestures in all their actions. Their actions do not need to be discussed explicitly because they both act the same and carry the shared understanding based on their relationship. An example of the low-context communication is when the Hispanic locksmith goes into the Caucasian attorney’s house to fix the locks and deals with the wife. She harasses him on how she needs every statement to be precise and all his actions to be accounted for. She is looking for his every move to be overt and very explicit because she immediately judges his performance and morale on his race.
Hofstede’s five dimensions were identified in his early research when he came to find which dominant patterns of a culture can be ordered, these are; power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism versus collectivism, masculinity versus femininity, and long- term versus short-term orientation to time. His findings have provided an excellent synthesis of the relationships between cultural values and social behaviors, which are identifiable throughout this movie. Power distance is one dimension believed to be most present throughout the movie Crash. One basic concern to all cultures is the issue of human inequality and knowing that all people in a culture do not have equal levels of status or social power. A persons power and social status depends more upon their culture and things such as; wealth, age, gender, education, physical strength, etc.
As Hofstede’s research expresses; “cultures also differ in the extent to which they view such status inequalities as good or bad, right or wrong, just of unjust, and fair or unfair. That is, all cultures have particular value orientations about the appropriateness or importance of status differences and social hierarchies” (Lustig & Koester, pg. 114, 2012). Power distance is extremely visible in this movie as far as each race having their individual degree of institutional and organizational power, and how to distribute it. For example, when the two Caucasian cops pull the black film maker and his wife over after leaving a work party and are blatantly playing the authority card based on their race and job description.
The one racist white cop violates the black woman right in front of her husband for no apparent reason, while the husband is made to feel that if he makes one move he will be punished for his actions. Another example is when the Persian store owner walks into the Caucasian male’s gun store and wants to buy a gun. He has his daughter with him to help translate and pick the right weapon. As they are exchanges words in their language, the white man insults him by referring to him as “Osama” and tells him to leave his store immediately. The Persian man yells that he is an American citizen and has every right to purchase a gun, the white man replies with, “not in my store you don’t, now get the fuck out. That of uncertainty avoidance is also seen within the movie from the more foreign cultures that feel they may be presented “under” the more dominant white race. For example, when the Hispanic locksmith is in the Caucasian attorney’s home changing the locks on the doors, the wife flips out on her husband about how the locksmith is going to go sell their house keys to his “amigos” and she wants them changed again. She storms off to the kitchen where she looks up to see the locksmith starring at her with a look of shame. He walks to her counter, drops the spare sets down and expects nothing from her, feels no room to express his feelings to her assumptions.
Because of his race he is immediately seen by the dominant race as being untrustworthy and sneaky. “Cultural Identity refers to one’s sense of belonging to a particular culture or ethnic group. It is formed in a process that results from membership in a particular culture, and it involves learning about and accepting the traditions, heritage, language, religion, ancestry, aesthetics, thinking patterns, and social structures of a culture (Lustig & Koester, pg. 142-43, 2012). The formation of one’s cultural identity is known to form from three different stages known as; unexamined cultural identity, cultural identity search, and cultural identity achievement.
The first stage is one’s cultural characteristics being taken for granted and not much interest in exploring cultural issues. The second stage is that of wanting to explore and question one’s culture in order to learn of the strengths and learn acceptance of both themselves and their culture. Last stage, is known as being the clear and confident stage of acceptance to one’s culture and self-identity. In this stage, a person has learned to develop ways of dealing with stereotypes and discrimination as well as being clear about the personal meanings of their culture. Throughout this film, it is justifiable through all the characters actions and perceived self-identity that all three stages are experienced by everyone.
A good example is the two black carjackers, in the beginning they questionable as to why their appearance caused them to wait over an hour to eat at a restaurant…they were paying customers like everyone else. The two men began to question their race and cultural backgrounds with one another, where they found it justifiable to carjack a white couples’ vehicle (being the attorney and his wife) when spotted in the streets. Towards the end, it became clear to the one black male that he can accept what cultural identity may be fixated on him, but he does not need to follow a society’s outlook, he can learn to deal with stereotypes and discrimination.
At this point of his realization, he took the stolen van he had planned to sell, filled with Chinese/Japanese people, and let them go free with $40 of his own money for them to eat. Cultural similarity and fluency allows different cultures to reduce that cultural bias aspect that many of us suffer from when interacting with people of a different race or culture. It has been pointed out that culture really does exist in the minds of people, but that the consequences of culture—the sared interpretations—can be seen in people’s communication behaviors. These provide people with guidelines on how they should behave, and indicate what to expect when interacting with others (Lustig & Koester, pg. 148, 2012).
This film indicates how each culture is so self- involved with their own beliefs and cultural patterns that they all seem as if they are unfamiliar with different cultures surrounding them. This is not the truth though. Each race and culture is assumed by those who are different because it’s the unknown, those who act similar to one another share interpretations that reduced uncertainty; create predictability, and also stability in their lives. Although, there are several different scenarios in the movie where interracial mixes are seen working together such as; the black and Latino police detectives, the Caucasian attorney working with the police (white and black) about their car being stolen.
Although, these type of interactions are solely based on the individual’s interpretation of the unknown culture. “Interaction only within one’s culture produces a number of obvious benefits. Because the culture provides predictability, it reduces the threat of the unknown. When something or someone that is unknown or unpredictable enters a culture, the culture’s beliefs, values, norms, and social practices tell people how to interpret and respond appropriately, thus reducing the perceived threat of the intrusion” (Lustig & Koester, pg. 148, 2012). “Your beliefs become your thoughts, thoughts become your words, words become your actions, actions become your habits, habits become your values, values become your destiny. ” (Mahatma Gandhi).
A good example of trusting those with similar cultural patterns is the white cop and his father; The frustrated and racist cop with a chronically ill father who believed, that only a “white” supervisor or person was competent enough to help him with his ill father’s medical needs (Wolfe, 2010). Another cultural pattern in the film is seen by the two black carjackers, “systematic and repetitive instead of random and irregular. ” The two young men and their discussion of why they should be scared being the only black people in an all-white restaurant, even though they were not, instead others being scared of them because of the color of their skin.
This in turn led them both to steal the car because it was expected of their race to steal. Nonverbal communication can send messages to the receiver just as loud and clear as any verbal communication message. There are many different instances of both these concepts being utilized in the film making each culture really “pop out” in their identity. Nonverbal messages can work to either complement or contradict the intended verbal message. They also help maintain the back-and-fourth sequencing of conversations, which function to regulate the interaction. Nonverbal messages can also work to substitute for the verbal channel by replacing verbal words. In intercultural communication, difficulties in achieving competence in another verbal code are compounded by variations in the nonverbal codes that accompany the spoken word” (Lustig & Koester, pg. 200, 2012). An example of nonverbal and verbal message in the film is a message of action that expresses emotion as well as specific information; How the racist white cop unprofessionally conducted himself after pulling the black Buddhist film maker and his wife over for a traffic violation. He physically man-handled and shamefully performed his search on the wife up against the vehicle. He aggressively communicated that he was in charge and he can do what he wants (Wolfe, 2010).
Another example of nonverbal and verbal communication is toward the end of the movie where the young white cop picks up the young black boy hitchhiking and they begin to discuss where the black guy has been, seeing how he was covered in dirt and visible blood spots. The white off duty cop continuously looks him over for evidence, when the boy starts laughing out loud about the statue that was sitting on the cops dashboard. The cop kept asking what was wrong and as the boy went to reach inside his pocket, the cop grew nervous, grabbed for his gun, and shot the boy. Only to realize that the boy was carrying the same statue that was sitting on the cops dashboard (Wolfe, 2010).
The film Crash, is a remarkable, must see film with bravery and honesty in showing fear, prejudice and the dismembered society that people live in. It truly expresses the characters in a way that they are able to see the ugliness inside them as well as others who work to redeem themselves after realizing their cultural beliefs and ways. This movie is socially important in teaching its viewers the meaning and emotions behind the lives people realistically walk through on a daily basis. It teaches the importance of understanding cultural identity and working through cultural bias. Far too often, people are quick to make judgments simply based on someone’s physical appearance.
It is imperative that people learn to accept their cultural identity but be mindful and respectful of those who are different around them. Initial perspectives, such as those presented by Hall, can be deadly towards others and lead to Hofstede’s dimensions that can destroy a relationship in many ways. References: Imbd. (2012). Crash. http://www. imdb. com/title/tt0375679/plotsummary Lustig, M. and Koester, J. (2010). Intercultural competence: Interpersonal communication across cultures (6th ed. ). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon Wolfe, J. (2010). Cramberry. Intercultural communication Indentifies in Movie- “Crash. ” https://cramberry. net/sets/28641-intercultural-communication-indentifies-in-movie-crash-by-j-wolfe