Study Guide

Crash Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon)

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Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon)

Trigger Finger

Officer John Ryan is a racist LAPD cop. Considering the LAPD's history, "racist LAPD cop" might be a redundancy. More than being a racist, however, John Ryan is a power-hungry jerk. He molests Christine Thayer during a traffic stop, but we imagine he'd do the same to any woman who spoke to him the way she did. Or maybe it is because she's Black and he feels the need to "put her in her place."

Whatever the reason, Ryan justifies his actions to his partner, Hanson, who applies for a transfer right after the traffic stop incident. How does Ryan react to that?

RYAN: Wait 'til you've been on the job a few more years. […] Wait 'til you've been doing it a little longer. You think you know who you are, hmm? You have no idea.

Basically, Ryan's just saying that the older you get, the more you realize that the world sucks, and it's someone else's fault. Especially if that someone is Black.

Do you believe his justification for his racism? Would any cop behave the way Ryan does after years on the force? Consider Hanson's shooting of Peter Waters at the end of the movie. Was he acting like Ryan when he pulled his gun?

Number One Dad

Underneath the race issues is a problem everyone in Crash appears to deal with—specifically, the fact that they're all simply awful people. But awful people have a reason for being awful, right? Well, Officer Ryan's excuse for being a jerk is that his dad can't pee.

Seriously. Dad has trouble peeing, so Officer Ryan takes it out on the world. Specifically, he takes it out on Shaniqua Johnson, an insurance agent who refuses to make an exception for Daddy Ryan so that he can get his prostate checked. Her refusal to help the man go number one sets Ryan off on one of the movie's biggest diatribes, which we have reproduced here, notated for your convenience.

RYAN: You know what I can't do? I can't look at you without thinking about the five or six more qualified white men who didn't get your job. (1) […] I'm saying this 'cause I'm hoping that I'm wrong about you. I'm hoping that someone like yourself, someone who may have been given a helping hand (2), might have a little compassion for someone in a similar situation. […] You know, you don't like me, that's fine. I'm a prick. (3.) My father doesn't deserve to suffer like this. He was a janitor. He struggled his whole life. (4) Saved enough to start his own company. Twenty-three employees, all of them Black. Paid 'em equal wages when no one else was doing that. (5) Thirty years he worked side by side with those men, sweeping and carrying garbage. And then the city council decides to give minority-owned companies preference in city contracts. And overnight, my father loses everything. His business, his home, his wife. (6) Everything! Not once does he blame your people. (7) Now, I'm not asking you to help me. I'm asking that you do this small thing for a man who lost everything so people like yourself could reap the benefits. (8) And do you know what it's gonna cost you? Nothing. Just a flick of your pen.

All right. Let's break this down.

  1. How does Ryan know this? Did they call him? Did he review their résumés and compare this to hers?
  2. Why does he assume she would have been given a helping hand?
  3. Yes.
  4. Struggle should exempt someone from cancer? Who does deserve to have prostate cancer, then?
  5. He paid people a fair wage, you say? Someone get this man a medal. 
  6. Did minority-owned companies make this guy lose his wife?
  7. Good, because it was the city council that decided it, not them.
  8. Does he think all Black people are related? Why does he think his father deserves help, while if a Black person asked for help, it would be a handout?

Shaniqua denies Ryan's claim, which only serves to reinforce the guy's racial stereotypes. But Shaniqua didn't deny the claim because she is Black and Ryan is white. She did it because he is a condescending jerk.

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