Crash, a 2005 film by director Paul Haggis, begins by saying, “It’s the sense of touch we miss, so much that we crash into each other just so we can feel something”. The use of the word “touch” suggests human connection. “Feel” conjures a sense of emotion. We want to be moved by one another; to feel our common human existence. Our search for this sort of human connection persists despite many peripheral issues which divide us, but it is the search itself, not the issues, which provides the movie’s main theme. I will explore this theme from the perspective of sociology, by examining how the movie deals with gender issues.
Crash shows that we should reanalyze the distinctions between “male” traits, such as decisiveness and aggression, and “female” traits, like submissiveness, non-aggression, and intuition. The movie portrays a Persian American shop owner who buys a handgun to protect his wife and his daughter, Dorri. Dori’s intuition gives her a bad feeling about this. Since her father has a limited grasp of English, she purchases a box of ammunition labeled “Blanks” for the new gun. After the family’s shop is vandalized and destroyed, threatening his means of providing for his family, he pursues a locksmith whom he mistakenly holds responsible for the situation. He holds the locksmith at gunpoint, demanding money for compensation. The locksmith’s little girl, who is wearing an imaginary “impenetrable cloak” her father had given her, throws herself in front of the gun. The gun goes off, pointed at the girl, but she is unharmed. Tragedy has been averted because Dorri circumvented her father’s wishes by getting blanks for ammunition. Her behavior represents traits of action and decisiveness, rather than passivity or submission. However, her behavior also shows traits of intuition and non-aggression. This illustrates that people must utilize traits for their situational appropriateness, negating the very idea of gender appropriateness. This negation of gender is shown by the symbolic qualities which, in this scene, prevent the tragedy: non-penetration and impenetrability. Penetrating and being penetrated form the most basic symbolism of male and female roles. Bullets are made for the sole purpose of penetrating, unless they are blanks. That impenetrability is represented by an impenetrable cloak needs no further explanation.
Crash illustrates how rigid gender roles can hinder connection between people. The traditionally male roles of “provider” and “protector” are especially examined. In one scene, a black film director named Cameron is pulled over by a racist police officer named John Ryan. Cameron’s wife is with him, and soon begins antagonizing the officer and refusing to comply, even at Cameron’s repeated request. So they are checked for weapons. When Cameron responds without aggression as John frisks his wife in a sexually suggestive way, she perceives him as failing to protect her. She later accuses him of allowing her humiliation so the people he works with wouldn’t “read about him in the paper and realize that he’s actually black”. In a scene at the film studio where Cameron directs, this does seem to be a fear of his, as he quietly agrees to make a scene more racially stereotypical. So perhaps fear of job loss did factor into his failure in his protector role. However, if Cameron had become unemployed due to losing his public reputation, he’d eventually fail in his provider role. So he is torn between two equally demanding roles, and this role strain is precipitated by the racial discrimination he encounters. A rift results between him and his wife. She is hurt that he didn’t protect her somehow. He is angry about her initial hostility towards the police officer, which he perceived as reckless. Then after her recklessness caused them trouble, she wounds his pride by making him feel inadequate. Their marriage seems in danger of falling apart.