Friday, March 17, 2006

"Investigating the Crash Scene" - Black Commentator

Derik Smith in Black Commentator:

"In coming semesters, this year's winner of best picture at the Academy Awards likely will become one of the more frequently discussed films in American higher education. Because Paul Haggis's Crash offers a convenient and generative entryway into a myriad of discourses swirling around the ever-interrogated category of race, many instructors and professors in the humanities and social sciences will undoubtedly turn to it in reference, or screen it as a surefire text in the perpetual quest for meaningful classroom discussion. With an appealing and accomplished ensemble cast, slick production and climactic moments in plenty, this movie about a difficult subject has appealed to diverse, youthful audiences and inspired many earnest conversations. I knew I needed to see Crash when I found myself in a large group of twenty-somethings who all had informed opinions about it. However, since watching it for myself, I seem to have developed some ideas about the film that don't fit neatly into the Crash conversation. [...]

Once our judgment of the police officer has been softened by his tale of woe, he goes on to perform his heroic rescue. It just so happens that the black woman he will save from certain death is the same black woman he assaulted earlier. There is something perverse about the structures of this strained coincidence. For one, the black woman - played by Thandie Newton - is again powerless and must be acted upon by the figure of white male authority. While she is terrified when she first recognizes her liberator, the mortal circumstances dictate that she accept his help. However, as Officer Ryan calms her hysteria and nestles close in order to cut her free, it seems that something more than acceptance has developed in Newton's character. Because of its intimacy (their lips nearly brush), the rescue becomes their second, forced, quasi-sexual encounter and by the time it is over the black woman is grateful for it. Once they are clear of the wreck, she clutches Officer Ryan in a further expression of her helplessness and gratitude before the bigoted lawman.

What meaning can audiences take from all this?" read more

Should we (black women, black people) take from it the stunning re-realization that our lives depend on those very people who have so grossly and repeatedly violated us? That in the saving is a new violation, barely suppressed, that we must be grateful for?


At 2:45 PM, Blogger Naro% said...

SAY IT LOUD!!!!!!!!
I had to start off with that just because we are brining these types of issues to the forefront. I peeped your link to the Smith article in rachels joint, so you know i had to drop in and run my 2cents worth.

First off why is it that white people always clamour back with "crash brought so many things to the surface" (that one gets me real hot) or "this is a really important movie". Why is it that movies like crash which "identify" with race issues become a banner for white people (those who think this movie actually addresses any constructive attempt at a dialogue)? Derick was also on point with his "crestling-esque" critique of the sexual over/undertones of the movie (the love/hate relationship we blacks have with good ol massa) and the "ungreatful mammy" role played by the HMO. I even love the Play on the usage of racism/sexism by "minorities" among "minorities". It shouts of the need to affrim (by whites)that "we" (white people) arent the only ones that spread hatred etc. Every time I see a movie like crash I wonder who it was really made for and why they parade it around "black or other minority venues" like it says hey I'm down with your problem, when in all actuality it shows THE GALACTIC DEGREE OF SEPARATION that so called "progressive" "Pathfinding" "Daring" white saviors (getting heated just reading all the worthless brown nosing)actually possess. Crash brought some crappy concepts (tired ass concepts)to the big screen, abolsoved Rodney King (and any other white cop related beatdown recieved in history) to some questionable form emotional distress (we all got problems, what makes yours any more serious than mine).
In the words of Jamie Fox's Grandmother "Any body that stupid, gots to have AIDS"

The ol black and mexican thing was weak too, but i guess the "misery loves company" plan is a go in Hollywood. There was no love in the black cop/mexican cop interaction just casual sex. The Black man (mandingo) and the (exotic) Latina. This movie is way to easy to rip up, way to easy.

What really makes me laugh is that white people think this movie is a good means of stepping in to the race convo. Note to all good intentioned white people saying this is a good vehicle for race relations is like saying walking in front of a firing squad is good exercise, but i guess in the end thats the paradox we must retool before any sensible dialogue can begin.

That all for now,HB thanks for posting this.

At 4:49 PM, Blogger Michael said...


Those that do not want to be essentialized, should also avoid essentializing...


I am teaching "Crash" (Haggis, not Cronenberg) this coming week in my film courses simply b/c it won the best oscar (and this caused some controversy amongst my students--most of whom had not seen the film), but I'm showing it in conjunction with Spike Lee's Bamboozled to put into play their two very different discourses about the problems of race in America...

I would be curiouis to hear what you (or others) think about Bamboozled...

Thanks for the post on this...

Michael aka Thivai

At 5:28 PM, Blogger hysterical blackness said...

Crash as liberal response to hurricane Katrina.


It's been a long time since I saw Bamboozled. I'd like to hear how you're putting them together. Without having thought I about it in any detail I think it could be interesting but each film raises problems that make me wonder if each one does more that has to be undone than makes it worthwhile.

At 3:10 PM, Blogger Naro% said...

Mike I hear you, but please elaborate, I dont want to assume anything. Maybe if you could enwhithen (oopps enlighten me ;)) on some of your views about the movie it would be helpful, especially since you are teaching a class about it. Its good to know whats going down in the halls of acedemia. I am REALLY interested to hear some of your views about bamboozled, because I know this should be really good.

Let me essentialize just abit more...

you are showing Bamboozled "to put into play their two very different discourses about the problems of race in America..."

What are those two very different discourses? Are we talking about about approaches to the themes, or delivery (because spikes take tends to be a little "progressive" for most whites)

I hope you dont use this as an opportunity to polarize spike as I have seen many (white mostly, and some black) do in higher learning. I am still a little unsure about your stance so I'll just use some of your most recent to base my next point.
(your take on jarhead)
This film is going to produce extreme reactions. It will be one of those polarizing films that will be an ideological litmus-test of the people who watch it (like Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing) because it doesn't make an explicit stand either way on this war, or war in general. It simply presents Swofford's personal story of training to be a Marine scout and his experiences in the first Gulf War.

I dont think you are "Assuming the postion", when I say this i mean the actualized position of the subject/subjects. Jarhead does take a position on the war (you may not see it as a civilian) just as Do The Right Thing does for each of its characters. Right Thing is actually very concise in its delivery, it comes down to the POV of the viewer and his willingness to accept the truth of subjects environment. This is the tipping point for "most whites" when dealing with spike; one they are offened (it not my fault get over it) two they dont even recognize POV's of people of color and pass it off as paranoia (Crash is an excellent example of this see Ludacris). My question to you is whats so polarizing about the truth? If you break crash down to what it is: a conglomerant of streotypical cliche's tweaked in the usual "1960's civil rights playbook" where "liberals" address race issues and expect a pat on the back.

one more thing, this is the second Spike Lee connection I just hope his work is not on the foul end of the spectrum for your teachings. While I do agree (with others) that he is a great director, I am just curious to know why is it that he comes up as YOUR standard of measure (for movies in particular).

That all I have for now Doc.
I'll be sure to hit up your blogs on the regular, especially your film joints!

Sorry for hogging up the spot!

At 10:51 PM, Blogger Ruminations of a Racial Realist said...

I'm reading so much about "Crash" in all the blogs - I'll have to see it...the impression I'm getting here is that much is being made of it but it's not particularly progressive and the target audience is white liberals.

At 12:33 AM, Blogger s.c.squibb said...

this is probably a bit late...

i think crash is an impossible film. And, thus, I think that it is a mistake to think it as an example of realism, as somehow indicative of a certain truth or honesty about race. I think it is interesting that we will give much leeway to any film that grapples with the question of representation so long as it doesn’t touch on something like race.

clearly, to my mind, there is nothing honest or true about crash's portrayal of race, racism, race relations, whatever. Its truth, rather, is about the nature of popular representation with regard to these issues. Insofar as crash is an impossible film, it is also a perfect one, an absolutely unbelievable collection of perfectly balanced and sympathetic characters doing perfectly balanced and sympathetic things. If only racism where so simple! if only it could all be explained in a way that is so satisfying! but it cannot, in fact, the only place that it can be so explained is... in a hollywood movie.

Thus I think the question of intentionality is also besides the point, clearly we have to think the writers and producers of crash as primary sources too, indicative, as is their film, of popular attitudes. They have no agency, no humanity, in this estimation. So be it. Rather, what is crash's supreme achievement is to present to us not racism as it is, but racism (only) insofar as it can be presented. Insofar as racism can be discussed, it must be rendered with such exacting 'objectivity' as to render the conversation politically moot.

no one who hates black people does so for the reason matt dillon does. that’s just fucking retarded. however, today, in hollywood, the nature of representation demands such an account.

what insidiousness is here?

that is what crash represents, though it would say something completely different.


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