Earlier this year, I decided to watch as many of the Academy Award’s Best Picture winners for an all but ignored Youtube video that attempted to figure out if the Oscars were racist (check it out here). Of the fifteen winners from the past two decades (2000 to 2015), I missed two of them because they slipped past my radar back when they were showing in cinemas. Specifically, those titles were CRASH (2004) and 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013) and after watching them and cross referencing every single Best Picture winner and snub in a case study I made up because I have nothing better to do with my life, I only grew to hate the Oscars even more and the cause for all that loathing can be pinned down on one movie: CRASH.
CRASH on paper sounds like a surefire winner: it’s an anthology of mini character examinations about normal people living their mundane lives in 2004 Los Angeles and dealing with the struggles of modern day prejudice and outright racism. That concept right there should’ve been the perfect cinematic introduction for anyone who’s interested in the subject of modern day passive racism and it also had the potential to be a memorable Period Piece for the 2000’s in the making but what viewers got instead was one of the stupidest interpretations of one of the most divisive social issues of modern society.
Now before I go in-depth, I’d like to put a convenient disclaimer here and say right off the bat that I’m no expert in the topic of racism. Truth be told, all I have to my educational background is a useless art degree in Graphic Design and a bunch of Political Science units. Yeah, throw in all of those fucking Millenial jokes my way. I’m already used to that bullshit.
All done feeling superior because your birth year is different from mine? Good. Let’s get going.
That being said, if someone who’s not even an expert in social theories was able to pick up on certain questionable elements in a movie like CRASH, then obviously the movie’s creators weren’t able to iron out shit enough to make their final product even passable to some random dude watching it.
One of the biggest problems CRASH has when it deals with racism is that it literally operates on nothing but stereotypes. It’s one thing to show a stereotype on film and then subsequently demolish that misconception as the story goes on to imply depth in the cast (i.e. Deconstruction), while it’s another to just show a stereotype and then make a character remark negatively about it maybe once before they go back to their usual business (i.e. Lazy Fucking Writing). CRASH deals with misconceptions brought about by social prejudice by making its characters follow their respective skin color’s stereotypes to the letter and then get offended when someone calls them out for it. Imagine telling someone in the cinema to stop taking selfies and get back to watching the fucking movie and then that person causes a loud fucking scene, all the while blaming you for having the motherfucking audacity to tell them to stop talking on their phone so that everyone else won’t get distracted while watching the movie with a dual machine gun wielding ape on a horse (as you can tell, my experience of watching DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES wasn’t as good as I hoped it to be).
That’s exactly how the entire cast of CRASH behaves: they all perpetuate the worst aspects of their stereotypes while yelling at the top of their lungs and then bitch like motherfucking angry internet nerds fighting online feminists when they get called out for perpetuating shit. In a movie that deals with a very human problem, not one of the characters here is a fucking human being. What you have here is a strange collection of Cartoon Characters and Walking Ideologues; characters who can’t live like normal people and instead talk about their exaggerated political views 24/7 to anyone unfortunate to be in their vicinity.
One of the worst examples of this happened right in the movie’s fucking opening, where it shows a pair of African-American guys walking out of a diner located in uptown LA. While walking towards their destination, they bicker about the negative misconceptions their skin color brings them every time they go anywhere outside of their village and admittedly, as cringe worthy as the scene was, it would’ve been the perfect dark comedic routine that precedes the big acts where the characters just go a no-holds barred call-out session ala George Carlin. After they bitch about how obviously racist a white woman was for clutching her husband’s arm the moment the couple passed by them, the talkative conspiracy nuts immediately pull guns out of their fucking jackets and carjack the couple that they accused of racism.
What the fuck.
Literally ten to fifteen minutes into the movie, CRASH shows just how its creators views racism: basically, everyone’s an asshole but those negative stereotypes? Yeap, they’re all fucking true because it’s in their blood; there isn’t jackshit they can do about it. All the Women (regardless of skin color) do in this movie is bitch, the Black Guys are all hot-headed and quick to react, the White Guys keep it together by nobly holding all of their anger inside and the Immigrants live in the projects. The only character arcs that reeked of actual humanity were that of the Latino father, his family and how they cross paths with a Persian immigrant who mistakenly blames them for a crime due to his sightless anger. At least these character arcs focused on how people lived their lives that were changed by one bad day instead of eagerly betting on whether or not they’ll perpetuate their respective stereotypes and suddenly whip out god knows how much fucking cocaine and suicide vests.
It’s hard to give a shit about any of these Cardboard Cutouts but things get really weird when the only character to be given any sense of justification for their negative behavior is the racist white cop whose entire personal ideology of hating every movie that stars Samuel L. Jackson is based on Daddy Issues. Throughout the entire movie, only Officer John Ryan is shown to be a legit racist when everyone else only has hints of prejudice in them. While other characters would simply be assholes to anyone around them, John Ryan would literally take a break from his work schedule just to exercise some good ol’ fashioned racism that would’ve made FOX News proud. And yet, even if he’s the worst of the cast from a moral standpoint, the movie goes out of its way to paint him as a sympathetic guy, who only hates everyone because he blames Black People for fucking up his father’s health.But don’t hate him too much. Why? BECAUSE HE LOVES HIS DAD.
One might argue in his defense that this was done to show how human he is and how stupid racism can be but in a movie filled with nothing but caricatures of what real people are, it’s highly questionable that a lot of effort was put into making sure that the most despicable bastard in the story gets away with everything he did and by the movie’s end, is somewhat proven right when his junior officer takes his hateful advice seriously. Hell even Don Cheadle, who’s the moral opposite of John Ryan complete with a tragic family backstory, doesn’t get that much character development (or at least what passes as that in this basic movie) because while John Ryan keeps bitching about his dying dad whenever someone brings up his unjustified hate for black people, all Don Cheadle does is mope and walk somberly when everyone older than him treats him like a retarded child. But considering that the Oscars usually favor the most pandering movie for Best Picture, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a voting bloc made primarily of old white motherfuckers sympathized with CRASH and its views.
It’s melodramatic, it’s pretentious, it’s fucking basic and it won the fucking Best Picture award back in the 2005 Oscars race. Technically, CRASH looks great with its sweet urban cinematography and even if some of the scenes are horridly paced and hammy as fuck, at least everything else was nice to look at but none of that can excuse the fact that CRASH is a movie about modern racism written by a bunch of middle aged white dudes who read an online list of stereotypes for research material.
Apparently, all it takes to win the Best Picture trophy is to have a movie that’s based on the most basic understandings of modern day racism based not on human experience or even personal events but rather, is based on what some senior aged Clint Eastwood looking motherfucker from the days of 50’s Americana thinks of those darn kids in the years of the 2000’s. Just make sure said demographic eats up 77% of the entire Oscar voting bloc and all those awards are yours.
Fuck this movie. Go watch DO THE RIGHT THING (1989) instead if you want a good character study of modern day racism.
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