By Tara DeLorenzo
Focusing on the themes of race, class, life and fate, the sociology and psychology clubs met together for a joint movie night to watch the 2004 film Crash on March 27.
The movie, which focuses on a post-modern depiction of race in Los Angeles, was open to all who wanted to discuss the issue. At the conclusion, the students and Dr. Victor Thompson, assistant professor of sociology and one of the club’s advisers, analyzed themes seen in the film. Dr. Stephanie Golski, associate professor of psychology and the other adviser, was unable to attend, but left notes to be involved in the discussion.
“You may have to look hard to see it, but Crash is a film about progress,” Golski said. “But it’s also about the collision of race, cultures and classes.”
Crash connects characters from all different aspects of life — from a district attorney and his wife, to immigrants who have nothing but the store they own to give them hope, to young adults who have to steal just to make a living. Interwoven into every scene is the most prevalent theme: race. Each aspect was linked to race and how it influences society and interactions, depicting how judgments are made in this post-modern world.
“The film is propelled by one basic equation,” Golski said. “It’s that personal disappointment clings to people until they find a way to vent.
“They always seem to do so by venting to the others. The others? You know, the different ones, different skins, different cultures, different heritages, different politics, but the eternal, evil other guy.”
Dark and dramatic, Crash is a film that works hard to pull at the audience’s heart strings. It creates a version of Los Angeles that is filled with corruption and people who cannot look beyond what their eyes can see.
Once the film had ended and students were able to digest their thoughts, a discussion commenced to debate two main criticisms of the movie. The first problem was found with the characters. The second, and most dominant aspect of the talk, focused around the very obvious theme, which Thompson noted is “people are racist.”
On the first discussion point, those involved addressed the many inconsistencies and contradictions of the characters, as well as the lack of development throughout the movie. Many, including Thompson, felt there was no progression and movement in the characters, explaining that they were stereotypical and lacked depth. All seemed frozen in their views and were not able to see beyond their past judgments.
More thoroughly discussed, though, was the theme. The discussion became limited to how redundantly it was seen throughout the course of the film. Even with all its efforts to evoke emotion from the audience, the movie became trite and one of, “Racist people doing racist things,” according to Thompson.
“This postmodern portrayal of life as a series of racially interrupted moments is old and tired — seen it, done it, over,” Thompson said. “What exactly is this supposed to suggest? I get lost in these moment-to-moment portrayals of race and encourage all of you to resist the temptation to boil racism down to a series of racial anxiety moments.”
Those in the discussion agreed with Thompson’s standpoint. In the end, they said, Crash is a film that simply shows that racism exists and helps inspire discussion on the topic of race.
However, some commented even more about the complexity of race and how fragile it can make society.
Crash itself makes the point that, as its opening lines explain, life becomes about the sense of touch, the sensation of it all and about how “we’re always behind this metal and glass [where] we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”
Printed in the 3/29/13 edition