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'Crash' gets race all wrong

From: Mike Heath, Berkeley, CA

If I’d wanted to be subjected to a string of racist punchlines I would've watched German-Honduran comedian Carlos Mencia unload slur after slur, particularly his favorite, "wetback." But if I wanted to actually see a film with character development, I would not watch “Crash.” And the themes? Just for example, "When did Persians become Arab?" Well, maybe that question would have been worth asking five years ago, but if you've been paying attention, you realize that American society turned anyone with brown skin into a terrorist long ago: Sikh, Persian, Muslim, Indian, Coptic, etc. Crash isn't a hammer shaping the world. It's not even a mirror showing us what the world is now.

Persians became Arab the minute we stopped liking Arabs, which was well before 9/11. Most of America couldn't even explain you the difference between a Persian and an Arab, and I doubt that the two seconds of lip-service that “Crash” gives the concept really makes a difference. "Crash" talks down to its audience like we are children, as if we couldn't understand high-minded concepts. As if we couldn't understand subtlety. Maybe the reason why it was so popular with the Academy is that they couldn't understand that “Good Night, and Good Luck.” wasn't actually about the 1950s.

And as far as your race theory: "Until several hundred years ago, most people everywhere on earth never saw anybody who didn't look like them. They were not racist because, as far as they knew, there was only one race." What the hell are you talking about? Until 50 years ago, Jews, Italians, and Irish were kept out of most parts of American society because they were not white, although they "look" just like other Caucasians today. Aren't you familiar with "Gentleman's Agreement"? And it's not unique in America. Look at Europe, they've been massacring other look-alikes for racial or religious differences for millennia (see e.g., Yugoslavia, Thirty Years War).

If we had good recorded history of Africa, we'd likely see the same result. We only know the post-colonial story, but that story is no different: blacks murdering blacks (see e.g., Rwanda, Burundi, D.R. Congo). Asia? Let's see, Japan has the Burakumin problem, where there is still a class of individuals hated for their existence. Some might argue that it's class, but it's more complex than class. It is akin to race, because no change in status can ever change it, even after the class system was abandoned. And even so, Asians killed Asians for millennia...and, well, in America...apparently "Asian" is a race judging by the census.

The Aztecs slaughtered nearby ethnic groups in pre-Columbian America. From my own family's experience, Jews from different parts of Eastern Europe hated each other (see e.g., Litvaks and Galicians).

But if "Crash" does one thing for me it reminds me of George W. Bush, because it taught me that no matter how horrible and unqualified it is, it just might win the highest honor in the land.

And FYI, I'm not in the "Brokeback"-should've-won group. I thought “Brokeback” was great. I thought “Good Night, and Good Luck.” was great. I would have understood either one winning. But Crash? Every other movie I saw this year was better. If “Murderball” wasn't a documentary, it should've won Best Picture over “Crash.” “March of the Penguins” should've won Best Picture over “Crash.” “Hustle & Flow” should have. Anything but this POS, garbage "film."

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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