Worst Movie of the Decade: ‘Crash’
I haven’t created any best-of or worst-of lists yet, but I think that the 2000s featured one cultural phenomenon that deserves its own special shoutout for true heinousness: the 2004 best picture winner “Crash.”
It’s been called a “feel-good” racism movie – one that leads people to believe they’re on the right side of racism, when in fact they’re just having their buttons pushed and their preconceived notions re-affirmed.
In the film, the characters exist in what former L.A. Times critic Carina Chocano called a “daisy chain of bigotry.” Every interaction that takes place becomes racially tinged, whether it’s a simple business transaction, an auto mishap or even just a conversation with your own mom. I make my living in Los Angeles, writing about race, and even I don’t find race coming in to play when I order a cup of coffee, get money from the ATM, get my mail and go running. But in the world of “Crash,” all of those simple tasks would somehow become over-the-top racial incidents, complete with shouting and wild cultural misunderstandings. (It also needs to be said that when you’re living in a city with a 4 million-plus population, you do not keep running into the same six people over and over and over again.)
The movie is manipulative and unrealistic – the characters tend to reveal their true feelings in the most over-the-top and obvious ways imaginable. If racism is indeed so pervasive that it seeps into every interaction, why does the movie need such a complicated, twisting plot?
The fact that racism exists should go without saying, and yet “Crash” wastes an entire film trying to prove what we already know is true. The movie beat out “Brokeback Mountain” for a surprise best picture win at the Oscars. It’s no surprise, really, given all the clamor about our “post-racial” society, while the gay rights movement is still suffering setback after setback.
Bad movies get made all the time. But what infuriated me about “Crash” was that so many people mistook it for something profound when it was truly the opposite. It shouts at the top of its lungs: “I’M SUBTLE! I’M NUANCED!” and so many people somehow agreed.