"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?