A 'Crash' Course in American Racial Ethics: Paul Haggis' Didactic Film in a Humanities Context
The 2004 Lions Gate release "Crash", an LA police drama written and directed by Paul Haggis, places its creator on moral terrain formerly staked out by Black directors Spike Lee, especially in "Do the Right Thing" (1989) and "Bamboozled" (2000), and John Singleton, especially in "Boyz 'N the Hood" (1991). Besides being thought of as a 'white Spike Lee,' Haggis can also be usefully compared with Paul Thomas Anderson whose 2000 film "Magnolia" helped refine the interwoven-narratives structure Haggis employs in "Crash." (Haggis' miraculous LA snowstorm in "Crash" looks very much like an homage to Anderson's rain of frogs in "Magnolia.") This presentation considers "Crash" as a cinematic foray into Socratic dialectics, with a trace or two of Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics" thrown in. Haggis' sometimes heavy-handed but always interesting manipulation of American racial stereotypes – not just black/white but our whole multi-cultural rainbow array — provides a good way of discussing race in America, circa right here and now.
Keywords: Race in America, Racial Stereotypes, American Film, Ethics, Dialectics
Dr Page Laws
Professor of English and Director of the Honors Program, Department of English and Foreign Languages; The Honors Program, Norfolk State University