Good Sociological Concepts In The Film Crash Movie Review Example

Type of paper: Movie Review

Topic: Cinema, Film, Sociology, Theory, Power, People, Racism, America

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2020/12/05


The year 2004 saw the release of the movie “Crash” directed by Paul Haggis. This film analyzed the aspect of race relations in America in a way that previous films had not done before. The film explored the American social fabric and showed the impact and the effects of race on this society. The movie received humongous critical acclaim and also did considerably well at the box office. In fact, it was so good that at the 2005 Academy Awards, it won the prestigious Best Film Award beating out other serious contenders like Brokeback Back Mountain. The Academy without a doubt identified the strong message in the film, and it was only fair that the film won the prestigious accolade. Crash asks hard questions about racism in America and challenges the perception of this aspect in the nation. The film is filled with social perspectives and concepts. This paper analyzes some of these social perspectives and concepts that are identifiable in the film. The paper looks at different scenarios on the film and deciphers how they exhibit some of the essential characteristics of the society and the particular social concept or model that they perpetuate.
The film crash essential he film showed that racism in America is not as it is often depicted to be. The film seems to suggest that racism can be attributed to misconception and ignorance and not on spiteful personalities as it is often thought. From a social perspective, the film brings into the limelight various sociological perspective includes social conflict, social control, power and symbolic interactionism (Thomas theorem and ethnocentrism). These concepts to show the ignorance and misconception that lead or cause people to commit or engage in racist acts.
One of the sociological theories that is prevalent in the film Crash is the social conflict theory. Social conflict theory assumes that the social behavior of humans can be best understood by looking at the tension between different groups over things gas such as power as well as resource allocation that include money, housing, political representation and access to services (Driver-Linn, 2004). In the film, this concept is clearly brought out where tensions between various individuals belonging to different social groups forces them into conflict and occasionally dependence positions (Villalba & Redmond, 2008).
This theory is particularly perpetuated by the Anthony and Pete. The social conflict perspective can be seen as creating a situation where the less endowed in the society in terms of material resources are forced to engage in acts such as crime. At the beginning of the film, Anthony and Peter rob a car from a white couple. The social interaction of these two characters reveals that there are some resources that they are lacking in their lives, and this inadvertently forces them to engage in this deviant behavior. The two believe that the only way they can compensate for this lack of resources is by stealing from the white people.
Anthony particularly appears to have a very negative attitude about white people and it is fairly safe to assume that he was raised in neighborhood where the black race came second to the white race (Dei, 2008). He consequently harbors a deep hatred for members of the white race seeing all of them as racists who deserve to be shown no mercy.
When he sees the white woman, he automatically assumes that she is racist and tries to enforce this view on his friend. In addition, he attributes the fact that the waiter at a coffee shop did not offer him coffee as a racist act in spite of the fact that he does not take coffee.
Anthony’s behavior could also be an exhibition of Thomas theorem at work. In fact, this is another sociological aspect that is prevalent throughout the entire film. The Thomas theorem is part of the symbolic interaction theory that suggests that people make decisions in certain situations depending on how they analyze and interpret these situations (Charon & Hall, 2009).
This Theorem further suggests that situations that people believe to be real often end up being real in terms of their impact. For example, if an individual believes that the other individual will act in certain way, that individual often ends up acting in that perceived way (Charon & Hall, 2009).
This theory is also perpetuated through Jean Cabot, a pampered, and arrogant wife of a powerful politician. She generally believes that all black people are a threat and, therefore, when she passes Peter and Anthony in the street, she holds on to her purse more tightly. This only helps to anger Anthony whose belief that all white people are racists and assume all blacks to be thieves becomes reality.
Cabot’s subjective assumption and belief turn to be true because, in the next minute, Anthony and Peter hijack her and her husband and take their car. Therefore, the belief that all black people that is held by Cabot turn out to be reality in accordance with the Thomas Theorem.
Another exemplary depiction of this sociological theory is the part involving Farhad. There is great belief that all Arabs or Muslims are terrorists. Farhad is confused for one when he is, in fact, a Persian. However, the subjective predisposition about him becomes a reality when he almost shoots an innocent Hispanic girl while attempting to shoot his father who he believed had looted his shop.
The Hispanic father is also used to perpetuate the Thomas Theorem. From the onset, the father who is a locksmith is treated suspiciously by those he works for, including Cabot because there is a belief that Latinos are robbers and conmen (Dei, 2008).
For example, Farhad accuses him of trying to con and rip him of after replacing his shop door. His subjective perception about the Hispanic man becomes a reality when his shop is looted although it was not the Hispanic man who did it. Basically, in all these situations some characters have beliefs about others, and these beliefs become real as postulated by Thomas theorem.
The theory of symbolic interaction is also exhibited in the film, specifically the concept of ethnocentrism. This concept postulates that people judge the cultures of other people by the standards of their own cultures (LeVine & Campbell, 1972).
Simply put, people believe that their culture is superior to others and, therefore, they have no qualms about poking fun at the culture of others and generally treating it as inferior (LeVine & Campbell, 1972).
This concept is perpetuated by Graham, the African American cop who is dating his colleague who is Latina. Grahams constantly offends her by poking fun at her “Mexican culture” even when she insists that she is not a Mexican.
Another culture that is predominantly made fun off is the Asian American culture. Through the films, Asian Americans are ridiculed for their speech patterns. The culture is also disrespected by Anthony and Peter who, in fact, do not show any concern when they run over a “China man”.
In addition, the racist officer Ryan is seen as making fun of a common African American name; Shaniqua. Simply put, ethnocentrism makes the characters in the film to be extremely non-tolerant of other cultures and consequently, the individuals are very fast to ridicule other cultures. This is an aspect that is very visible in today’s society where people are extremely judgmental and disrespectful of other’s cultures.
Issues of power are also prevalent in the film. Some individuals are observed to have more power when compared to others, and this often makes them abuse this power. This aspect is for example brought out where the black couple is pulled over by the racist Sergeant Ryan. The cop is immediately attracted to the woman, Christine Thayer and uses the excuse of a pat down search to sexually harass her.
There are several clear social exchanges in this scenario where the concept of power is brought out. First of all, the husband Cameron Thayer does not act or respond to the officer as he starts to violate his wife by feeling her body. This is attributable to his perception that the officer has legitimate power to do whatever he wishes (Villalba & Redmond, 2008).
However, there is also another aspect accompanying this perceived legitimate power. The husband has to weigh the costs of the situation. For example, by challenging him, the officer could easily arrest Thayer and take him to jail. His reputation would essentially be ruined (Dei, 2008). He, therefore, has to stand there as the officer feels up his wife.
Sergeant Ryan, however, gets a taste of his own medicine when he visits a social welfare office on behalf of his father where he encounters a lady known as Shaniqua (Villalba & Redmond, 2008). Unlike the previous situation where he was completely in power, he now finds himself at the mercy of Shaniqua.
Clearly, the Ryan is used to always having the power and the balance always tipping to his side. Therefore, when things don’t go his way, and Shaniqua fails to provide him with what he wants, he starts to become offensive. He starts being aggressive towards Shaniqua even going as far as claiming that she is simply a beneficiary of affirmative action. He extremely abuses her, but Shaniqua stands her ground and does not give in when she is abused.
Once again, this is an exhibition of power, particularly positional power whereby it shown that there are some individuals in the society hold various kinds of power and will use it as they please for their own benefit (Villalba & Redmond, 2008).
Aspects of social control are also quite visible in the film and are perpetuated by various characters. The perfect example is Officer Graham, who is placed in a relatively tricky situation.
His authoritarian superiors offer him a deal that comes with a specific catch. His criminal brother (who is a car thief) is facing life imprisonment for grand larceny. Graham is required by his superiors to convict a white man for killing a black man although it is clear that the white man did it in self-defense. It is revealed that the sole purpose behind this action is so that a politician can appeal to the black community who will elect him in an oncoming election, and he will thus remain in power. This an exhibition of social control in action whereby those endowed with power and resources use them to manipulate others in order to stay in power.


In conclusion, it is clear that Crash is truly a phenomenal film. Unlike other Hollywood films, Crash approaches the issue of race in America from a fresh perspective and through this, it is able to reveal the amount of ignorance and arrogance in this society. As explained, the film asks hard questions about racism in America and challenges the perception of racism by showing that racism is, in fact, attributable to misconception and ignorance and not on spiteful personalities as it is often thought. As shown, the film employs various sociological theories and concepts. These do not just relate to race but also relate to other aspects such as gender, social class, ethnicity, age among many others. By doing this, the film essentially delves into the core of the American social fabric and exposes its dominant features and characteristics.


Charon, J. M., & Hall, P. (2009). Symbolic interactionism: An introduction, an interpretation, an integration.
Dei, G. J. S. (2008). Chapter One:" Crash" and the Relevance of an Anti-racism Analytical Lens. Counterpoints, 13-23.
Driver-Linn, E. (2004). The social psychology of group identity and social conflict: Theory, application, and practice. American psychological association.
Haggis, P. (Director). (2004). Crash [Motion picture]. Lionsgate.
LeVine, R. A., & Campbell, D. T. (1972). Ethnocentrism: Theories of conflict, ethnic attitudes, and group behavior.
Villalba, J. A., & Redmond, R. E. (2008). Crash: Using a popular film as an experiential learning activity in a multicultural counseling course. Counselor Education and Supervision, 47(4), 264-276.

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Good Sociological Concepts In The Film Crash Movie Review Example. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 05, 2020. Accessed June 27, 2022.

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