Crash Film Essay Questions



Discussion Questions:



1. Which racial incident in the film do you feel may be as impactful as the one told in the poem? Suggested Response: All responses, well supported, are acceptable.

2. Which character in the film best illustrates through action or dialogue the problem of Double Consciousness? Suggested Response: Anthony indicated Double Consciousness as he noted how the District Attorney's wife pulls her purse and herself closer to her husband when she sees two black men approaching. He says that he and his friend Peter may be U.C.L.A. students but the woman thinks they are carrying guns and are dangerous. He resents this viewpoint and the racism it holds, yet he car jacks the automobile of the white woman and her husband.

3. What does the story line of Officer Hansen tell the audience about racism? Where is the irony in this incident? Suggested Response: It tells us that racism is many-layered and pervasive. Despite his efforts to fight racism, Officer Hansen still harbored racist attitudes. Hansen didn't believe a black man would like ice hockey or be a Country and Western music fan. He became distrustful of Peter when Peter didn't match his stereotypes of black people. Hansen "profiled" Peter and expected him to have a gun when Peter reached for his Saint Christopher medal. The irony is that Hansen had shown courage in fighting racism in the past, as when he had thwarted what appeared to be "death by cop" behavior on the part of Cameron Thayer. Yet Hansen kills a black man because of his preconceived notions about whether blacks can like certain types of music or certain sports and whether they are likely to have guns in their pockets. The irony here is that of all the incidents in the film caused by racism, the most devastating result occurs due to the racism of a man who has in other situations tried not to be racist and has shown courage in his actions.

4. Which attempts at redemption in the film are most ironic and what do they show about racism? Suggested Response: Officer Ryan, who had molested Christine Thayer in front of her husband, is on the scene when Christine rolls her car and is trapped inside. As flames approach the vehicle, he risks his life to save her despite her initial protestations and his prior racist-sexual assault. It is ironic that the man who risks his life to save Mrs. Thayer is the same man who sexually assaulted her in another situation. This incident, like the incident with Officer Hansen, shows that racism, like other attitudes in life, is multi-layered in that a person who acts in a racist manner in one situation will not apply his racism in another.

For five additional Discussion Questions, see the Supplemental Materials for this Guide.


Assignments and Assessments:

Most of the discussion questions in this Guide and in the Supplemental Materials can serve as writing prompts. Additional assignments include:

1. Write a summary of one of the story lines woven through Crash. For the character that you choose, describe whether they have learned anything through the experiences shown in the film. Have they learned not to be prejudiced?

2. DuBois wrote of the black individual in America saying, "He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face." Write an analysis of how the character of Cameron Thayer shows the conflict between how a man sees himself and how others see him.

3. Using Countee Cullen's poem "Incident" as a hook, write an essay about the concept of "hate speech" and prepare an oral presentation that details the history of the concept as well as the conflicts that have arisen with the First Amendment. Research will be necessary for you to find examples of specific cases that have become known to the public and any policies that have been developed to deal with the problem. Conclude your presentation with the admonition against hate speech that is in place at your school.

4. Crash contains several examples of "profiling." Research information about how profiling comes into play in social interactions. Write an essay in which you show how profiling is a central problem in Crash. Give examples from the film and be sure to include groups other than African Americans in your choices. Conclude your essay with suggestions about how to mitigate the problems associated with profiling.

5. Write a personal narrative about an experience that centered on prejudice either in your town or your school that was especially ironic in outcome. Look carefully to what may have been intended by the participants in the event and what resulted. For example, on the first day in a new class, you may have sought to find a seat far away from a fellow student who appeared Middle Eastern or Goth or Gay and then later became good friends with the individual. You may have avoided a particular restaurant in your community because of the clientele and then later discovered its charms. Show in your narrative what you learned as you indicate the irony of expectation and outcome.

In your narrative describe action (including dialogue), reveal thoughts (including internal monologues), describe observations by the characters, use descriptive language (including images of people, places and things), and compare one thing to another.
To prepare for this assignment, have students complete TWM's Exercise in "Showing Rather than Telling" When Writing a Narrative. Also check out the Narrative Writing Lesson Plan.

See also Additional Assignments for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

  • 1

    What inspired Paul Haggis to write this film?

    Haggis is cited as saying that he wrote the film based off of a real life incident that happened to him in 1991 when his Porsche was hijacked off Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.

  • 2

    What does Peter carry around with him for good luck?

    Peter carries a statue of Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. St. Christopher is said to protect travelers on their journey. Peter reaches for the statue at the end of the film and Officer Hanson shoots and kills him. Thus, St. Christopher becomes a symbol of irony for Peter who is just trying to get home.

  • 3

    How does Daniel's daughter survive being shot by Farhad?

    Farhad has come to Daniel's home to make him pay for his store being broken into. He pulls a gun on him and Daniel's daughter jumps between the men as Farhad pulls the trigger. But she, nor is anyone harmed. The reason for this fortunate turn of events is that Farhad's daughter when purchasing the gun bought blanks and not live rounds, thus saving the little girl's life.

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