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Movie analysis of "Crash"

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Jackie Tubb

on 21 February 2011

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Transcript of Movie analysis of "Crash"

Major Delimma:
Does a person have a duty to stand up for their race (Kantian Ethics) or should they follow the cultural norms of the world around them (Cultural Relativism)? There are many different scenarios and relationships in this movie that are all going on at the same time. In most of the scenarios at least one of the characters is forced to choose between Cultural Relativism or Kantian Ethics. They must choose between allowing the ways of the world and the decisions of others around them to mold their own decisions, or to decide that each person is equal (no matter their race) and that it is their duty to stand up for that right. I am going to be analyzing the ethical delimma within three characters/couples from "Crash":
The young cop (Ryan Phillipe)
The black couple (Thandie Newton and Terrence Howard)
The two black friends (Chris Bridges and Larenz Tate) Cultural Relativism vs. Kantian Ethics Cultural relativists see their approach as achieving a more practical and reasonable world. In other words, the cultural relativist does not want anyone to "stir the pot." If everyone adheres to the norms already set, then supposedly no problems will arise. Unfortunately no problems will get fixed either... Wilkens writes in his book that duty is the centerpiece of Kantian Ethics. Reason is the source of right and wrong. Culture and others' decisions around you are of no matter in this ethical system. But doing your duty isn't aways the easist decision... Wealthy Black Couple


In this relationship the black lady is mad at her career-driven husband for not standing up for her when a white cop pulled them over and sexually harassed her.


The husband is very concerned about his reputation. He didn’t want his co-workers to see his name in the paper, so he didnt do anything about what the cop did. He didn’t want to risk the acceptance he has with his co-workers. His wife is very head strong. She doesn’t care about being accepted into the white community. She is concerned with right and wrong on a more universal level as opposed to what is right for whites and what is right for blacks. I feel as though the husband is adopting cutural relativism. He defends himself by saying that he didn’t have a choice on the decision he made. The conditions of society has shaped his decision. Although his wife is hurt so badly, it doesnt change his decision. His percepton of the world is so tainted by his cultural circumstance that he cant see past it enough to even console his wife. The wife on the other hand, sees it as her duty to defend her right to be treated like any other member of society. Her mind is using reason, which is exctly the basis of Kantian Ethics. The Young White Cop


This man was caught between his personal morals and his reputation on the police force. His senior partner who happened to be white pulled a black wealthy couple over and sexually harrased the woman. The young white cop witnessed this, didnt do anything about it, but then went to his chief and got a new partner. The young cop happened to pull the same black man over again, and let him go with only a warning because he felt like he needed to make up for what his ex-partner had done to his wife. Later in the movie the young cop picks up a black hitch hiker after hours. The black man laughs at the same time a country song is playing in the car and the white cop takes it offensively. The black man didn’t mean it offensiely at all. The black man sees that the young white cop is getting offended so he reaches to pull a figurine out of his pocket to explain why he was laughing. The cop shoots him thinking the black man is pulling a gun on him.

This shows no trust. Earlier in the movie, the young white cop tried to prove that he isn’t adhering to the cultural norm to treat blacks differenlty. But deep down I feel like he is a cultural relativist. He wouldn’t have become hostile if a white person had began to laugh seemingly without reason. He probably picked up the black guy to show that he isn’t like the rest of the police force. He lives by cultural relativism even when he doesn’t want to. His ultimate authority which is culture (police department) tells him that black guys are trouble and less than whites. He tries to overcome that by committing a few righteuos actions benefitting blacks, but when it comes down to life or death he chooses cultural relativism without even thinking twice. Two Black Fiends



At the beginning of the movie, two young black boys walk out of a restaurant complaining about the service. They say that the server was racist and that she treated all of the white people in the restaurant better than she treated them. Right after that they car-jacked a wealthy white couple. Throughout the movie they tried to steal at least three different cars. One time that they tried this is didn’t work out how they had planned. They spotted an expensive black SUV stopped in the road. One of the young black guys approached the driver’s side window with a gun. He was surprised to see that the driver was a black man. The black man fought back. This is the same wealthy black man I was referring to earlier in my presentation. After a series of events the wealthy black man had a chance to report the man who car-jacked him. He didn’t take advantage of that situation. He instead told the hijacker that he embarrassed him and to get out of his car.

The black hijacker was caught off guard when he saw that the owner of the car was black. Although he complained about whites acting superior, I don’t think he even believed deep down in himself that blacks could ever be as prominent as whites. Two ends of the black population met here in this scene. The black man who is breaking the norm by being wealthy and educated meets the black man who is hijacking cars and feeling sorry for himself. Although the black hijacker complains about the way that whites act around him, he falls into this stereotype exactly. He doesn’t do anything to try to change his image; he just continues to follow the norm of the culture. Although being a cultural relativist doesn’t benefit him, this is still the ethical system he subscribes to. He has identified that he is being treated unfairly. Instead of taking initiative and standing up for what is right (Kantian Ethics), he just reinforces the stereo-type that the society has about black people.

Characters Scenario Ethical
Analysis Ethical
Analysis Scenario Characters Characters Scenario Ethical
Analysis Cultural
Relativism Kantian
Ethics At the end of this film, the viewer becomes aware that these three scenarios and more were very much connected. Because of the ethical systems that these and other characters chose to live by, all of their lives crashed together whether they realized it or not. The word "crash" doesn't exactly insinuate an innocent meeting over a cup of coffee or a sweet hello hug. This movie tells the story of how people from different backgrounds, cultures, and ethical beliefs crash into each other on a daily basis, leaving an imprint that will last forever. The writer of this film is trying to make the point that our ethical decisions effect others in a very real way. Not only those around us, but sometimes someone we have never even met.
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