Racism in Film and Media – An Analytical Review of La Haine and Crash

La Haine and Crash
An Analytical Comparison of Film Depiction

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In retrospect, countries around the world have had their issues involving and revolving around race and social norms as societal classes clash in various forms over the evolution of equality or lack thereof. In modern media and past media, audiences can see parallels between certain films, television shows and music artists, as the scenes for racial and socioeconomic clash are plastered throughout the sights we see on the screen or hear through headphones. Two films stand out as ones in which relate to the same social relevance and are comparable on main points such as plot, action and scene sequence. These films are La Haine and Crash. La Haine and Crash fall into the film category with other titles such as Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and, more loosely attached titles like Glory and 12 Years a Slave, however these latter titles focus on pre-civil rights era whereas Crash and La Haine reveal norms evolving out of post- civil rights adoption in Europe and the United States respectively.
Now a little history on the films and the real life scenarios adapting them to media. Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, La Haine centers around three young male friends who are from immigrant backgrounds, living in the lower quarters of France in the 1990s. During this time, the cities of France had much turmoil in relation to the rights and equality of the poor and foreign peoples who resided there. In July of 1995, many instances of shootings and bombings at Saint Michel metro station and the Arc de Triomphe, as well as bustling devolution of acceptance for any non- French resident of the areas. It was a perfect period of time to release a film like La Haine, which reveals the ‘realities’ of civil injustice being heaved on the foreigners around France. Translated to mean “Hate”, La Haine was instantly a film mastery and a worldwide feature. Taking place in one of the worst housing projects in France, the film does an excellent job of showing the differences in social acceptance in the country at the time. The three main characters are a Northern African, a black man and an eastern European Jew. Similar to Crash, this film moves from one group of characters to another, giving insight to each ones mental state and processes of thinking. Vinz, the eastern European Jew, is a focal point, much as Sandra Bullock’s character in Crash along with Ludacris. Vinz is disgruntled and angry about the beating his friend has undergone by the French police and is threatening to take lethal action against authority if his friend (Abdel) dies from his injuries while in custody. Abdel eventually dies from the damage to his body, sending Vinz into a rage where he vows to get vengeance. The film ends in a horrifically awesome scene where Vinz is shot dead by a police officer and the film closes out with Hubert and Said standing off with an officer at gunpoint, concluding the film on a blatant representation of how France’s social system was like at the time. The film was received critically with mixed emotion as many could not bare to accept that at the time, France and its authorities were notably against the massive influx of imiigrants they saw throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. Conversely, those who were in government used the monicker of the film to represent change in social norms and practices to have an accepting notion to foreigners entering France and mimic other nations who seem to have less controversy involving a “metling pot” effect within their borders. It differs from the film Crash in the sense that European norms do vary from the United States, however, the relevance of prejudice and racism translate into any language and any country, making the films very similar in there plot lines and lessons.
Similarly, Crash (2004) produces a thought provoking film full of interwoven instances of race, gender, socioeconomic class and prejudice as the lives of seemingly different individuals are “crashed” together in the Los Angeles. It depicts a wonderful usage of imagery and dialogue between the rich and poor, powerful and powerless, all wrapped into racial connotation. Through the director, Haggis, the film follows various people to reveal the understanding of social circumstances post 9/11 in the United States. Critically acclaimed as an excellent movie, Crash does a phenomenal job of objectively revealing racism and class discrimination by both the private sector and those with authority, such as government officials and police officers. The movie concludes similarly to La Haine in the facet that the characters reap the outcome of the scenarios they created for themselves.
When looking comparatively at the two films I find it amazing how similar the circumstances are that revolve around the main characters in these films. In both Crash and La Haine, the audience is drawn into this horrible depiction of how reality is around the world. Although the films released roughly 10 years apart and in completely different countries, United States and France respectively, the plot and subsequent “lesson” of each film is inherently the same, “hatred breeds hatred”. As the character of Vinz in La Haine indicates, the negative connotations discrimination and prejudiced evokes on the world around us only increasing the hatred and negativity there will be in general. Vinz’s hatred for the French police increased the ability for a hostile situation to arise and furthermore, the depictions of misappropriation of power by police and the attempts at resurrecting power by the less fortunate in Crash reveal a side of the United States that many may not want to admit exists. The notion of “loving thy neighbor” may fall on deaf ears in relation to some with power or certain race, however the self evident realization of positive ideals breeding positive ideals, furthers the ideal that societies can become more productive and efficient with the absence of hatred or prejudice. Although both films take place in different countries, the cultural standings of helping others and judging others off content of character and not external appearance are things within both the European countries and the United States. Comparatively, La Haine and crash center around the same point, “good breeds good” and “bad breeds bad”. If individuals can look objectively at a situation without biased toward a race or socioeconomic class, the ability for positive circumstance to arise from these encounters increases exponentially.
In summation, both Crash and La Haine offer an unfortunately timeless insight into not only the life circumstances of race, gender and economic class in 1990s Europe, but also post 9/11 United States and modern day societal norms that the depictions in these films parallel. We are currently involved in similar prejudice and racial disintegration within the United States. These films adequately represent the ‘norms’ that are present in society and should be used as a reference to the ideals we seek to abolish in order to create an ever evolving and efficient society consisting of many different races, backgrounds and economic classes.

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