Culture, Social Class, Gender, and Race in Crash - Essay Example

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This essay focuses on culture, social class, gender, and race in Crash. Crash, a movie directed by Paul Haggis, underlines discrimination as a constant reality for many people. Their cultural identities are shaped by their social status, which in turn, is a product of their gender, class, and culture…
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Culture, Social Class, Gender, and Race in Crash
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Culture, Social Class, Gender, and Race in Crash
Modern society continues to be a place where people endure racial, social class, and gender discrimination. Crash, a movie directed by Paul Haggis, underlines discrimination as a constant reality for many people. Their cultural identities are shaped by their social status, which in turn, is a product of their gender, class, and culture. At the same time, the movie also demonstrates that even if some people hate others because of racial, gender, and cultural differences, their lives still intertwine and affect each other. Cultural identity is an important concept that will be analyzed in this essay. Identity is “the earliest expression of an emotional tie with another person” according to Freud (1921, qtd. in Hall & Du Gay 3). Crash portrays the search for and development of cultural and gender identity or identities in films (Everett), the relationship between culture and social relationships and issues of individualism and community (Sefcovic), as well as relationships between high and low culture (Barnett and Allen).
Understanding cultural identity entails the identification of cultural contradictions, doubts, and uncertainties that shape the formation and changing of cultural identities (Everett 2005). One of the contradictions that people experience is characterized by their race and gender. Cameron Thayer, and his wife, Christine, experience discrimination when a racist cop, Officer John Ryan, stops and searches them. For John, there is a contradiction between being black and being rich and successful. In order to humiliate Cameron further, John molests his wife by touching her private parts. Christine looks to Cameron to defend her, but Cameron is paralyzed by his fear for authorities. He has doubts in his own masculinity, because of his race. This scene explores gender and racial discrimination, where the white male exhibits power over the females and black people. Dorri also undergoes sexual offense, although in a verbal way, because of how the gun shopkeeper speaks with her. At the same time, her race is a subject of uncertainty. Her father’s shop has just been attacked because they were seen as Arabs, even when in reality, they are Persians. They see the large difference between being an Arab and being Persian, and yet society treats the Middle East as a homogenous region. These women undergo psychological hardships because of how men perceive them as sexual objects, and how society demarcates and assigns different values to people because of their racial characteristics.
The African American youth culture is a sub-culture that the dominant white society feels threatened of. The youth culture, in particular, is gangsta culture, with its repulsion of law and control, as well as parental authority. Peter abandons his mother, while his brother is a police. The youth becomes particularly chaotic when compared with the formalities and orderliness of conventional society. Two young black men, Anthony and Peter, leave a restaurant, and Anthony claims that they have been victimized by racial discrimination. Then, when they see Jean and Rick Cabot, a white couple, walk down the sidewalk, Antony notices that Jean clutches Rick's arm, after seeing them. Anthony believes that they are once again being prejudiced, because they are two young black males. Apparently, however, Jean is right, because the two draw handguns and carjack Cabots' black Lincoln Navigator. Inside the car, Peter sticks a St. Christopher statue on the dashboard, an act that shows the divergence between him as a criminal and as someone who has faith in God. The film shows that the black youth destroys itself with a self-fulfilling prophecy. It, however, shows that the youth have problems creating their own identity also. They have problems in defining their sense of self and how they align individual and group ideals. Peter must feel the pressure from his successful brother, but he is young and reckless. He wants to be independent, and yet he hurts himself and his family in the process.
Social relationships also drive social identities and affect people’s perceptions and actions towards one another (Sefcovic 2002). The uneven social relationship that arises from gender, class, and racial differences create tension among different groups. Cameron feels being attacked as a black man, when his director declines changing a black character into a more intelligent youth. He “loses” his patience with society who has berated and undermined him all his life, and almost gets himself killed. Lamont and Lareau (156) stress that cultural capital can be seen in terms of “widely shared, high status cultural signals (attitudes, preferences, formal knowledge, behaviors, goods, and credentials) used for social and cultural exclusion” (quoted in Barnett and Allen 147). Jean has goods and attitudes that differentiate her from her lower-class employees. She has poor social capital with them, because she has a superior attitude when it comes to the lower class. Her Mexican housemaid, whose race, gender, and social class render her an easy victim of abusive treatment, endures being maligned under Jean’s household. Jean, nevertheless, realizes that her only friend is this housemaid, whom she just treated badly. Daniel’s daughter almost got killed by Farhad, who also has racial discrimination against Mexicans.
The movie shows that people’s identities crash with each other, because of how they see one another’s race, gender, and class. They feel threatened with the differences they have, without understanding their human connections. Many of them are developing a greater understanding of their identities through their interactions with whom they call “the other.” Crash, fortunately, shows some changes in these people’s hearts and minds. They begin to understand the frailty of human existence and that the last thing they need is to crash with each other violently and needlessly. Their humanity binds them, and so if they want peace and happiness, they should learn to respect and tolerate their differences.
Works Cited
Barnett, Lisa A. &Allen, Michael Patrick. “Social Class, Cultural Repertoires, and Popular Culture: The Case of Film.” Sociological Forum 15.1 (Mar. 2000): 145-163. Print.
Crash. Dir. Paul Haggis. Perf. Karina Arroyave, Dato Bakhtadze, Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon and Michael Peña. United States, 2004. DVD. Artisan Home Entertainment.
Everett, Wendy Ellen. European Identity in Cinema. 2nd ed. UK: Intellect Books, 2005. Print.
Hall, Stuart and Paul Du Gay. Questions of Cultural Identity. New York: SAGE, 1996. Print.
Sefcovic, Enid. “Cultural Memory and the Cultural Legacy of Individualism and Community in Two Classic Films about Labor Unions.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 19.3 (Sept.2002): 329-351. Print. Read More
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