A 'Crash' Course in American Racial Ethics: Paul Haggis' Didactic Film in a Humanities Context

Dr Page Laws
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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
Stream: Media, Film Studies, Theatre, Communication, Philosophy, Ethics, Consciousness, Immigration, Refugees, Race, Nation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr Page Laws

Professor of English and Director of the Honors Program, Department of English and Foreign Languages; The Honors Program, Norfolk State University

Page Laws teaches literary theory in the Department of English and Foreign Languages at Norfolk State University where she also directs and teaches in the NSU Honors Program. A two-time Fulbright scholar and two-time participant in NEH Faculty Seminars and Institutes abroad (in South Africa and France), Laws is currently a participant in the NEH project "Bridging the Gap Between the Humanities and Science" being administered by the Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC).

Ref: H05P0838