Study Guide

Crash Themes

  • Race

    Generally if you see the words "race" and "crash" together, you brace yourself for bad news from NASCAR. If we're talking about the movie Crash, on the other hand, the relation is a little different: here, people are being mean to each other, and it might be because of a difference in skin color. Either way, things are going to get gnarly. You need to buckle your seat belts and make sure your airbags are in working order.

    Questions About Race

    1. What does Crash have to say about race?
    2. Which characters would you describe as racists? Why? How are their actions motivated by race? Are any of the characters not racist in some way?
    3. What do the characters learn about race during the course of the movie? Be specific.

    Chew on This

    Crash treats race as skin deep. Regardless of skin color, everyone in this movie is the same: a total jerk.

    Crash conforms to racial stereotypes—angry Black man, racist white cop, Mexican housekeeper—more than it challenges them.

  • Prejudice

    We always want to pair pride with prejudice—thanks, Jane. And even though racial discrimination wasn't what the lovely Ms. Austen had in mind, these two words still go together well in the world of Crash.

    When race is factor, as it is in Crash, people are often prideful of their own race, and that pride leads them to be prejudiced toward other races. It makes us wonder: if someone's own race is so great, why do they have to tear down others to prove it?

    Questions About Prejudice

    1. Is there a difference between racism and prejudice? If so, what is that difference? Would you call certain characters prejudiced but not racist?
    2. What kinds of actions are committed as a result of prejudice against certain characters? Is Farhad's store targeted because of prejudice? Are Jean and Rick Cabot targeted due to prejudice?
    3. Which characters have prejudices? Are their prejudices corrected by the end of the movie? Explain.

    Chew on This

    Jean Cabot's problems have less to do with racial prejudice than they do with class prejudice.

    Many characters in Crash confirm the prejudices of others: the Persian shopkeeper commits an act of violence, the rich white woman is rude to her help, and the Korean woman is a bad driver.

  • Fear

    People in Los Angeles have a lot to fear. Bad traffic. The Big One. And, if you're a character in Crash, you fearpeople who have little control over their cars and their anger.

    Anger is a secondary emotion that is triggered by humiliation, guilt, or—you guessed it—fear. Being on the receiving end of anger makes people scared, and they get angry in return. It's like if you sneeze on someone and give that person the flu. Anger is the sneeze, but fear is the sickness.

    Questions About Fear

    1. What are the characters in Crash afraid of?
    2. How does Jean react to fear? Is her reaction rational? How else could she have handled her situation differently?
    3. Farhad is scared for his family's safety. Why does he react with violence, endangering another family's safety?

    Chew on This

    In Crash, when characters are scared, they make bad decisions and lash out at others. Sometimes they lash out at characters who hurt them; sometimes they don't.

    Christine's fear, as valid as it may be, almost gets her killed. Fear puts the characters in dangerous situations in which they could hurt themselves.

  • Principles

    Crash was filmed in 2004, when not everyone had a GPS to tell them where to go. No wonder everyone is so confused: they don't have a moral compass telling them where to go. With smartphones, we all have a moral compass. It tells us that two wrongs don't make a right, but three rights do make a left. It lets us know when we've gone too far and need to make a U-turn to correct our path. And it speaks in a charming British accident.

    Oh, wait. The compass on our GPS isn't the same as a moral compass? Hmm. Well, we imagine that Apple will have an app for universal morality sooner or later, but until then, we'll have to make do with our instincts and remember that morality is pretty relative. It differs from person to person.

    Questions About Principles

    1. Why doesn't Officer Hanson want to be Officer Ryan's partner? How do their morals differ? Do the other cops share Hanson's principles, or Ryan's?
    2. What are Anthony's principles? Would you call his ideas principles? How do his ideas differ from Peter's? Why do they hang out together if they have different moral values and ideas?
    3. Is Rick Cabot a principled DA? Would you vote for him?
    4. What do you make of the decision Waters makes at the end to turn in the corrupt cop? Does he compromise his principles? How does he feel about doing this?

    Chew on This

    Morals and principles aren't universal. Rick Cabot and Peter Waters, for example, have different principles, and neither is more right than the other.

    Jean Cabot changes her principles during the movie. She becomes less isolated and decides to reach out to people she sees as true friends, regardless of race.