Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Crash into Me

You've probably encountered a myriad of reviews extolling the merits of the movie Crash. Well, given my overall skepticism about Hollywood's ability to effectively address issues of race relations in the unmelting pot of America, I approached the movie with great wariness this past weekend. I'm glad to say I was proven wrong (as I so frequently am.) Crash was easily one of the best films I'd seen in many years. It's a clever film, interweaving the complex stories of varying characters in and around L.A with subtlety and finesse. I'm not in complete agreement with most critics (most who happen to be white) who are in a frenzy to extol the bravery and honesty of the movies portrayal of racism and intolerance in America. Other than repeatedly reminding us that "Everybody is a little bit racist, sometimes." (borrowing from Avenue Q) - except for Latinos, the movie does little to nullify or break with traditional racial stereotypes. According to the movie:

White people are afraid of black people and think every black person in a position of power got there through preferential treatment. Rich white people are rude.
Asian people are secretive and furtive and bad drivers.
Persian/Middle Eastern people are angry and their wives are subservient to their husbands.
Black people are druggies, thugs, and carry guns or if they are successful they have sold out and are essentially oreos. (Sidebar: Well acculturated black people are called oreos. Why not ring dings or yodels? Those are all black on the outside and white on the inside. And what do you call a white person who wants to be black? And white men who have an asian fetish?)
Latino people are all former gang bangers or maids and they send their kids to catholic school.

The only real fact the movie got right is that guns are really easy to get in this country.

It's not so much the honesty of the movie that makes it superb, the true strength of the movie lies in the storytelling itself. The movie is able to develop and maintain the distinct identities of nearly a dozen different characters without getting muddled or lost. No character is wholly good and no character is wholly bad. Each character has a moment of nobility and each has a moment of cruelty. The real message communicated in the movie is this: Humans cannot live in isolation. We are each creatures of touch, connection, and community. We crave touch. Touch allows us to maintain our humanity. It is when we deny our natural instinct to commune with others that we lose our empathetic abilities and we are capable of committing very bad acts.

Crash gets 5 Skittles out of 5 (that's the full rainbow of flavor.)

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