Theme of Stereotypes and Prejudice in Film 'Crash'
The film Crash attacks stereotypes that are often seen in both past and present societies. Each character lives and tells a different story, but they all share the same thought that prejudice is prominent among all ethnic groups. The underlying theme in the film is that each character, regardless of what race or ethnicity, possess certain beliefs of internalized stereotypes, even though they themselves are not entirely aware that they hold certain misconceptions. The characters’ assumptions prevent them from realizing who is standing before them and their true identity. This theme digs deep into every person because it illustrates how we all leap to conclusions based on race/ethnicity. In the many ethical dilemmas throughout the film Crash, there is social inequality present and there is also sympathy for these characters because the film portrays the characters as victims at times, but they are actually the perpetrator and vice versa. Discourse on Inequality written by Rousseau will defend how the social inequality affects that situation, and Theory of Moral Sentiments by Smith will dramatize that each character has their own ethical decisions they make in a situation and rationalize that there is more than what we perceive.
Possibly the most dramatic and controversial ethical dilemma involves a racist police man. Officer Ryan and his partner Officer Hanson pull over a vehicle because it matches the description of a stolen vehicle. Both police officers discover that this vehicle does not match the description of the stolen vehicle because the license plates do not match. Officer Ryan pulls the couple over because he suspects sexual activity taken place while the couple drives the car. Officer Ryan approaches the vehicle and asks for the driver’s, a movie producer license and registration. Cameron questions why and Officer Ryan immediately asks him to get out of the vehicle. As this is happening, Cameron’s wife, Christine, gets out of the car questioning why the officers are doing this. Officer Ryan then tells the couple that they need to stand against the car, so he can frisk them. He forcibly shoves Christine against the car, and he reaches his hands up into Christine’s crotch in front of her husband, Cameron, and Officer Hanson. Officer Ryan feels his position and police discretion gives him the right to belittle any non-Caucasian individual. ‘The first man who having enclosed a piece of ground… You are lost if you forget that the fruits are everyone’s and the Earth no-one’s” (Rousseau 23). This quote emphasizes that the development of institutionalized inequality roots from past institutional structures where the powerful play tricks on the weak. Furthermore, Officer Ryan takes advantage of Christine because his veteran experience provides him a safety net, so he won’t be fired, and justifies his racist behavior. This creates a huge conflict for Officer Hanson, who is an unseasoned rookie trying to discover his place in the department along with his morals and values in the world, because he witnessed Officer Ryan molest Christine and he knows what he witnessed is morally wrong, however Officer Ryan has been with the task force for 17 years and reporting this incident might cause Hanson to lose his job. As an officer it is his duty to protect the people, but on the other hand as an officer he must have his partners back.
Furthermore, Officer Ryan has a very sick father with terrible insurance. Officer Ryan finds out that his dad’s insurance will not reassign him to see a new doctor. This different perspective of Officer Ryan that sympathizes for him. Smith quotes “The propriety of our moral sentiments is never so apt to be corrupted, as when the indulgent and partial spectator is at hand, while the indifferent and impartial one is at a great distance.” (Smith 147). This quote rationalizes the relationship between our conscience and society. Smith states that if you only experience perspectives from people you know, such as close family and friend, then their perspectives will be biased towards you, therefor you will not be able to distinguish how to act morally. This is seen in how Officer Ryan reacts to the nightmare situation of his dad not getting a new doctor. Officer Ryan demands to see a new physician for his father however the request gets denied. He then belittles the representative of the insurance agency and expresses his belief that her job should be replaced by a white man because she is an African-American female. Officer Ryan’s decision to push the blame on to someone that is a different race from him shows he lacks the ability to make ethical decisions. Not to mention, he makes it hard for people to trust him and only worsens his father’s situation in getting the assistance he needs.
Similarly, police officers like Officer Ryan that negatively affect people because they lack trust and cooperation with the police force. Later on, in the film, this is clearly evident, when Christine’s car catches on fire during an accident. Officer Ryan arrives at the scene and willingly crawled into the car to help Christine escape. Unfortunately, Christine was traumatized from her previous interaction with Officer Ryan and she screamed for someone else to help her. Christine rather stay in the burning car than and accept help from someone else than be saved from Officer Ryan. Too much surprise, Officer Ryan displayed an inexplicable amount of formalism and he was genuinely trying to save her life. He gained her trust by staying in the burning car and talking her into him saving her life, which allowed him to eventually save her. Christine initial decision to resist help from Officer Ryan dramatizes the sympathy you express for her. She was so scarred from her previous interaction that her decision to remain in the car portrayed an ethically moral choice. Equally important, one must note that Officer Ryan expressed a completely different side of himself and he shows that there is more than one perspective to everything.
On the other hand, Officer Hansen found himself where he remained with minorities. Soon thereafter, Officer Hansen wound up grabbing a young African-American at the edge the street. A couple of words were traded and in spite of the fact that he was at first uneasy, the African-American was more than upbeat and eager to have the lift back to the opposite side of the slope. Things ended up fascinating when the officer talked up regarding why the young fellow would even be on the opposite side of the slope and why he was so cheerful. It didn’t relate to the officer, it was essentially that he was simply grateful and believed in God as did the officer yet that the individual was threatening and taunting him. At the point when the African-American male reached into his pocket to haul out the coordinating St. Christopher statue as the officer, Officer Hansen shot him because he feared his own life and was unaware of what the young Africa- American would pull out of his pocket, leaving him to die on the side of the street. Officer Hansen was praised by many when he stood up and fought for Camron, but in the end, he murdered an African- American. The first perception of Officer Hanson is that he wants to find his identity as a police officer while keeping his morals and making ethical decisions. However, it seems Officer Hanson possessed the same qualities as Officer Ryan, by unfairly identifying someone by their race. The sympathy that we once possessed for Officer Hanson quickly changed because he let prejudice skewer his decision making and that makes him no better than Office Ryan who both make ethically wrong choices.
Ultimately, each character depicts an alternate moral framework. In the film Crash, formalism, morals of consideration, ethical decisions, racial prejudice and uprightness are on the whole splendidly delineated. Each character is confronting a moral issue in the case of making them a self-seeker, spoiled apple or outright degenerate. There is only one by and large moral issue; regardless of race, amazing or weak, every individual is characterized by prejudice. They are for the most part casualties of and blameworthy of racial profiling. Although that they did in some cases ascend above it, their preferences, situations, ethics, and moral qualities tragically set them back.
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