An Analysis of the Crush Movie Directed by Paul Haggis
Robert Heilbroner defines stereotypes as “mental laziness”, a reflex grown from many years of exposure. He says “We not only grow up with standardized pictures inside us, but as grownups we are constantly having them thrust upon us.” He noted that stereotypes mostly propagated by people in the form of jokes and the mass media through newspapers, films and television. Like Heilbroner, I believe stereotypes are formed early in life and people come to accept is as the truth. Just as Heilbroner suggests, we are often guilty of stereotyping others because we are too lazy to think critically.
The implications of stereotypes are many and varied. They range from the seemingly harmless ones like distrust, to the more ugly ones such as hatred and fights among two different races. From time immemorial, we have seen how stereotypes can aggravate intolerance to a point where the conflicting groups feel that they cannot live in the same environment with each other. For example, Hitler loathed the Jews in German so much that he had them annihilated in the infamous Holocaust. Similar situations still happen today albeit with less intensity (Heilbroner, 24).
Most movies over the years have been promoting the mindset that stereotyping people is acceptable, just like Heilbroner had noted in the 20th C. The film makers behind the production of those movies do not pause to thing what effects the message of the movie could have on the viewers. Children especially are the most affected since they are innocent and naive and are most likely to ape what they see in the media. Paul Haggis however, tried to deviate from the norm when he co-writing the script of his widely acclaimed 2005 movie Crush.
The Crush movie largely portrays racism and the extremes that people go to manifest their prejudices. The setting of the story is in Los Angeles. Haggis has lived in the City for over three decades, and he used the movie to portray the extent the racist nature of the Los Angeles residents. He concurs with heilbroner that racism is usually fueled by deeply entrenched stereotypes that the residents have condoned as the benchmark of judging people’s character over the years. The movie brings out the aspect of bigotry that exists in the society along the lines of class and ethnicity. The races represented are the Asians, Latinos, blacks, whites, Iranians and Koreans.
Paul Haggis brings out this aspect perfectly in his film through his characters. He uses different stylistic devices such as coincidence, and fate to bring out the issues. The plot revolves around four different storylines. In one of the scenes we see the district attorney and his white (Sandra Bullock) wife who is quite racist; the two appear to be from an upper class according to their dressing code. The wife gets scared when she spots two black around the corner looking at them suspiciously. The black men are Ludacris and his companion larenze Tate, who impersonate Anthony and Peter in the movie. She quickly grabs her husband’s hand and expresses her fear that the black men intend to steal from them. The men are well aware of the woman’s racist opinions.
They confirm her suspicions and go ahead to steal their car from them. In another scene we see that jean is still holding on to her racist beliefs when she is suspicious that Daniel, the locksmith that they have hired to replace their lock, could have ill motives. She feared that he might go to give his fellow Hispanic immigrants the spare key to their lock. She imagined that the locksmith was part of a gang and that a theft attack was in the offing for them.
In reality however, the locksmith is just like any other caring family man. He goes home and consoles his terrified daughter. In a different scene there is a black couple driving on the highway, they are stopped by a racist cop who mistakes the light skinned woman for a white woman. He is ruthless towards her as he conducts a body search on her to the chagrin of his fellow officer who just stares on. The husband is too afraid to defend her because the police were armed. The racist cop later tells his colleague “You do not know who you are yet until you stay in this job long enough.” He tries to justify his actions by claiming that he was just acting normal since the society has shaped his behavior through stereotyping.
We later see the hostile police officer nursing his ailing father. In yet another scene, we see Faroud, an Iranian immigrant who goes to buy a gun with his daughter but the shopkeeper, who strongly is prejudiced against Arabs, mistakes them for Arabs and treats them disrespectfully. The Iranian man later invites the Hispanic locksmith to repair the door of his shop, and they disagree when the locksmith advices him to replace the door as well for a better security measure. Later when thieves broke into the shop and vandalized it, the Iranian’s suspicions were heightened. He was filled with vengeance for the locksmith who he suspected was the mastermind behind the theft (Heilbroner, 23).
There is also a black police officer who is dating a Latino colleague but never seems to get the name of her home correct. He simply does not care to find out more about her because of their different cultures and backgrounds.
Towards the end of the movie we see a hardworking detective who finds a young black American murder victim that he recognizes and an injured police officer in a murder scene. Apparently, the policeman had been involved in similar shootouts before where he ends up killing a black person. The killing was another case where we see that racism has permeated the law and justice system. The movie depicts police officers as being biased towards certain races other than their own.
The director meant to satirize the issues that the society has been perpetrating over the years. He gives viewers an opportunity to step back and look at themselves from an objective perspective. However, critics have argued that Paul was more empathetic towards the white characters and exonerated them of their mistakes by giving excuses for their racist tendencies. The situation is apparent when he explains that Jean was prejudiced towards the black youths who carjacked their car due to her depressed state. Nevertheless, the movie ends as the characters wake up to their senses and realize that racism is wrong and that there is no need to distrust someone due to their race (Heilbroner, 34).
In conclusion, the movie is to some extent a mirror of how the society is today. The director tries to show the folly of assuming that every stranger is out to harm you and that people from different races have nothing in common. In my opinion, Just like Heilbroner observed, Stereotypes are not going to be uprooted from the society any time soon but it behooves every sensible person to avoid using them as a basis for judging others.
Heilbroner, L. Robert, ‘Don’t let stereotypes warp your judgements’, Readers Digest, 6th June 1990, 45-47, Print.