Classism and Racism
A Narrative Analysis of Paul Haggis’s Film:
By: Alexis Couillard
In 2004, Paul Haggis directed the Oscar winning film crash, a drama about race and class and its effects on those residing in Los Angeles, California. This film paints a vivid picture of the harsh reality that classism has and will always exist and it is intertwined with racism in this film and in our realities. This film promotes racial awareness which is a topic not typically seen on the big screen and it demands a close inspection. Haggis wanted us to understand each character and to see them as real flesh bleeding humans that make mistakes and aren’t perfect. We ...view middle of the document...
Each scene addresses some kind of prejudice or discrimination that we as Americans have read about, seen or heard of before. First we meet characters Jean and Rick Cabot, Rick is an L.A District Attorney played by Brendan Fraser and the wife is played by Sandra Bullock. Their social status is evident from the moment you see them. They get out of the car and Jean grabs her husband’s arm upon seeing two black men; Anthony (Ludacris) and Peter just walking down the street. Ludacris then expresses to Peter that she is a typical racist white woman because she got scared in a safe neighborhood and had that reaction towards them for no other reason than the fact that they were black. Anthony goes on to steal her car, in a sense, Haggis demonstrates Jeans racism by having her clutch her husband for security, but goes on to right her decision when the black men actualizes her fears. We do not leave this scene feeling that her actions were reprehensible. This is not the first time, even within the same character, that Haggis conveys approval of the white characters racist actions. This scene is saying that our fears and prejudices are correct and that spatial segregation is necessary in certain situations. This scene also leaves one to think, was she right all along to feel how she felt? Later on in the film Jean complains about all of the domestic workers and why they aren’t meeting her demands. Because of the car being stolen from them she wanted to get the locks changed so they called a locksmith company. A Hispanic guy with tattoos came to change it and when he was almost finished he overheard Jean arguing with her husband that the locksmith is a “gangbanger” and he’s going to go sell the keys to his “homies”. And shortly after that when she falls down the steps and her Hispanic housemaid finds her and is there for her she then she hugs her. They take this white racist woman and turn her into a positive light. She then realizes that it’s not the people around her but it is the problems she has within herself and her unhappiness that is causing her to be evil towards others. Is Haggis saying that personal troubles are an excuse for racism? We don’t know for sure but the structure of the white characters is that they convey racist behavior then simply undo it after a certain act of kindness such as Jean hugging her housekeeper and calling her her best friend. The audience is assumed to be majority white and on some level we are supposed to forgive Sandra Bullock’s character because she is white. This scene brings up a lot of questions concerning white society. Why do we have to accept and forgive a characters racism the instant she claims personal difficulty? She is a wealthy housewife who doesn’t work, realizes she’s unhappy and is in a crisis. Haggis is not allowing the white characters to become villains in the film.
We come across this scenario again with character Officer John Ryan. We first meet him while he is on the phone making racist...