Sheila ran out of our English classroom in tears. Several friends bombarded her with sympathy and comments on Miss J?s mindless comments concerning Sheila?s Iranian ancestry, but they didn?t understand. Her family was kind, loving and compassionate; how dare our English teacher state that no Iranians cared about anything but their own country? In the form of a good friend?s experience, this crude generalization was my first time witnessing racism firsthand, but it was certainly not my last. Though you would expect a teacher to be someone to look up to, many people or things that influence us do so in an unexpected way, such as furthering our prejudice subconsciously.
Crash is a film that supposedly exposes the issues of society: racism, sexism, miscommunication, and judgment, to name a few. Director Paul Haggis? intent was to break down the barriers between simple film and the real status of our world, but in attempting to do so he relies heavily on stereotypes that we logically know are untrue, but still often buy into. To the average viewer, this movie leaves them feeling emotionally drained, and therefore accepting. The issues presented by Haggis are, after all, a lot to take in over the course of two hours. However, Haggis is human, and he seems to accept the way things are portrayed just as readily as a viewer. Looking at Crash through a critical lens reveals that issues concerning prejudice in society are not only supported but also furthered in Haggis? attempt to create a revolutionary piece of work.
Though Haggis? most prevalent message is the damage racism creates, he tends to contradict himself by actually reinforcing racial hierarchies. This is shown especially in the cases of Farhad and Daniel. Though the issue between the two men appears resolved at the end of the film, the racial hierarchy set up by Haggis shows the true problem of racism is far from over.
Imagine a man named Farhad. The visual that the mind draws immediately reflects a person from the Middle East. However, our mind does not stop at an image of a tan-skinned man in a desert climate. There are several social assumptions that are attached to such an image, especially in the 21st century, an era where foreign relations are shaky and every race comes with a preconceived notion of their values and activities.
Early on in the movie, we are introduced to Farhad and his daughter Dori encountering a racist gun shop owner. As the movie progresses, Farhad is convinced he is being tricked by everyone around him, and his English is not strong enough to understand what is really going on. ?You cheat me!? he exclaims several times in his first encounter with Daniel. At the climax of Farhad?s journey, he attempts to shoot Daniel, who he believes has ripped him off. Farhad unknowingly has his gun loaded with blanks, so he escapes murdering Daniel?s daughter in his arms. The resolution, however, does nothing for the audience since Farhad shows little remorse. Farhad does not reveal any signs of regret, just shock, as he believes, ?[Daniel?s daughter] is my angel.? This leaves the audience thinking no differently about the intentions of people of his culture.
Farhad?s turn to violence is so expected it is almost sickening. In a time of turmoil in the Middle East, Haggis fuels a racist fire in which we are afraid of the abilities of Arab cultures. He paints Farhad as a violent man who speaks little English, which is exactly what we as a society would think if we saw Farhad walking down the street. If we are honest with ourselves, we know certain judgments come to our minds when we see people from the Middle East. This is because the media creates an expectation of how people of those cultures think and act, and Haggis choosing to bring Farhad so close to being a murderer supports the fears we already hold about people of his descent. He essentially turns Farhad into a stereotype.
In some instances, Haggis succeeds in breaking down barriers between races by proving certain stereotypes untrue. Daniel, the Hispanic man who is targeted by Farhad, is judged by Jean early on in the movie. Haggis shows us that those assumptions of Daniel?s character are far from true by painting Daniel as a hard-working family man. Since the assumptions Jean has about Daniel are proved false