Sunday, April 09, 2006

Review of 'Crash'

'Crash' is about racism. It is set in big-bad LA, where the multitude of its characters seem to be relentlessly subjecting each other to racist behaviour. Racism is dangerous in that it is unpredictable, and veiled until it gets triggered resulting in hurtful behaviour. 'Crash' takes a look at it, but comes up short.

There are several problems with 'Crash'. First, there are way too many characters hammering home a variation of the same story, and all of them are spread too thin. We don't know what motivates them, or what their other concerns in life are.

Second, a lot of the characters are movie and tv stereotypes. So you have a bad cop/good cop combo. You have the black boss (actually two) who has put in years of hard work to get to where he is (presumably the white guys don't need to). The DA is white, and wants to appear squeaky clean. The locksmith is mexican, the Iranian is hot headed . We don't see the medical
insurance administrator woman, but she has a name (shanicwa or something) that
can't get any blacker. There is a rich black couple outinsulting each other by comparing each other's blackness. There are two black guys engaged in an analysis of why/whether they were discriminated against in a white diner, and how they should be the ones feeling scared in a white neighbourhood. and just when the irony gets you to sympathize with them, they pull a gun to carjack a lincoln navigator (There are two of those too). Later, the white woman victim of the jacking admits to feeling suspicious about the two would-be black thieves. So was she right, and should white people be afraid of black people or not? There is a old black mom who is on cocaine. Why did she have to be black? Why couldn't the DA's wife be on cocaine, she is neurotic and lonely to begin with.

And then (altho a couple of my friends thought that was the director/writer being blunt) the movie democratizes racism. Everybody is doing it to everyone else. The latina cop telling an asian woman driver how the latter would have been able to "blake" had she being looking over the wheel, imitating almost honestly how a lot of older asian women dlive their cars. Her black cop boyfriend couldn't care less about the difference in hispanic ethnicities, because he wonders aloud "why then do they all park their cars on the grass". The bad cop is eventually redeemed, maybe forgiven too. A hitchhiker discovers, to his discomfort, that the good cop isn't as race-blind as he is made out to be. So is it that everybody is flawed, and racism and prejudices are par for the course? and we can be bad at times but there is the good to offset it? The only characters that come out clean are the mexicans, both the locksmith and the DA's maid. Again stereotypes of migrant workers that never complain.

Coincidentally, I am reading Amartya Sen's new book, 'Identity and Violence, Illusion of Destiny'. Haven't finished reading it yet, but his thesis is that it is wrong to adopt or assign singular identities to people. i.e, wrong to label anybody on the basis of one major affiliation, black, white, rich, poor, muslim, catholic, western,eastern etc. He says we are a mix of several attributes, making this reductionist approach fundamentally wrong. What makes it worse is that once we accept this classification, we tend to propose solutions on the basis of the super sets, each by definition incompatible with the other. 'Crash' i thought is guilty of this approach. It compartmentalizes its characters. And the characters also see themselves as belonging to these compartments. And having done that, they behave in the way those compartments are expected to behave.

Not unmissable. And don cheadle was way better than matt dillon.

Nikhil Pednekar

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