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by mayme
Rated: E · Essay · Other · #1124604
Essay using feminist criticism for the film "Crash"
The much praised and critically acclaimed film, “Crash” deals with serious issues of race, stereotyping, profiling, fear, violence, and how people are all connected. It is a film which seems to want the audience to perceive themselves and their world differently. Yet, as much attention as the movie gives to minorities, neglected, and persecuted groups, it ignores one major group—women. As a women, it is hard not to notice that most of the female characters are stereotypically female, and the males, stereotypically male. To a feminist point of view, “Crash” not only does not deal with feminist issues, but actually reinforces patriarchal ideology and traditional gender roles.

In one of the first scenes of the movie, we see a man and woman walking down the street. When they are approached by a threatening or suspicious looking pair, the woman turns to her husband who pulls her close. This image reinforces the traditional gender role of man as protector. Although he (the husband) is not armed or better equipped to deal with a threat (particularly with weapons) than the female, society’s traditional view of gender makes him the protector and her in need of protection.

Another example of traditional gender roles with the same couple is their respective careers. Rick, the husband, is a high-powered D.A., while Jean, the wife, remains at home in charge of housekeeping, staff, and maintenance. He deals with the corporate and business world, while she deals with the maid, the locksmith, and chores. Their roles reinforce the male as the “breadwinner” and the female as the domestic.

Another scene where patriarchal ideology is reinforced is when Cameron and Christine, the African American couple, are pulled over. In the most obvious example of a male versus female power struggle, the female is sexually assaulted by Officer Ryan while her husband looks on. Although presented in a racial context, the assault is of course, based on gender struggle. The man, in a position of power, is able to victimize a woman.

This scene also serves to reinforce the idea of man as protector. By not allowing Cameron to be able to help or “protect” his wife, he is emasculated to the viewer. A man who cannot protect his wife, in any circumstance, is less than a man to a society which is inherently trained to see the traditional gender role of man as protector. Even Christine, is more upset at her husband for doing nothing, than the actual assault.

The most obvious scene in which we see man as protector is the climatic rescue from the fiery car crash. Although there are many other issues (fear, irony, racism, etc.) at play in this scene, the fact remains that as far as gender, it is a typical damsel in distress situation. Again, it is the man who is protector or rescuer. The woman is presented as the damsel, unable to rescue herself. To a society trained to see gender in tradition roles, this scene could not have worked in reverse. It is unthinkable for a female to pull a male from danger.

One character who seems to defy traditional gender roles is the Persian woman, Dorri, who is a doctor. By working in a profession typically considered masculine, she has overcome the idea of gender roles. But, while professionally overcoming gender roles, she is still susceptible to the patriarchal ideology in other areas of her life. While in the gun shop, she is forced to deal with and submit to the gun shop owner and his implied threats. She also submits to her father even though it is clear that she is better educated and has a better understanding of the world.

The female detective Ria, is another example of a woman being portrayed as less than a man. Like Dorri, she is a strong, professional woman. However, she allows Graham to use her and degrade her during sex. Graham tells his mother that he is sleeping with a white woman in hopes of upsetting her. Although Ria does get up and leave, the fact that she is in this unhealthy relationship is degrading to her feminine power.

Many of the female characters portray stereotypical and subservient roles: Farhad’s wife—the typical servile, silent wife, Maria—the Hispanic domestic, and Graham’s mother—the strung-out, helpless, victim. In many of these, there are other issues that, besides sex, that create these roles such as a middle eastern culture, a racial stereotype, and social class. Although there are other factors to consider such as race, social class, and culture, it is the sex of these characters that decide their roles. It is because these characters are women that they are allowed to be subservient, and helpless.

The one characters that defies the ideological patriarchy and tradition gender roles is Shaniqua, the HMO supervisor. When confronted on the phone by Officer Ryan, she hangs up on him rather than be forced to deal with his derogatory comments. When confronted by him in person she does not back down or give into is threats, goading, or pleading. In this case, she is in the position of power and his sex (and his badge) gives him no authority or power. However, I believe she is meant to specifically portray a strong black woman with the emphasis being on her race, not her gender.

The tagline for the movie “Crash” is, “You think you know who you are. You have no idea.” This film deals with the way people see each other and the judgments we make based on those appearances. The tattooed gang banger, the black hoodlums, the upper-class snobs, and the power-hungry cops. This movie does a good job of showing us these stereotypes and the damage that comes from them. However, the women of this movie are just as they are seen. The film does not criticize our stereotypes of the female. I don’t believe the makers of this film were trying to ignore feminist issues. Instead, I think they choose to focus on race issues.
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