Peter M Howard ::

wintermute.com.au

Crash, House of Flying Daggers, Little Fish

06March2006 [movies]
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I saw these movies a few weeks ago, when I hired about a dozen in the space of a couple weeks, catching up for the year overseas. I’d only managed to write a sentence on each though, so I’m lumping them all together here.

In the name of Big Drama, it ignores the chilling effect of political correctness, which compels everyone who’s not a fringe-dwelling hatemonger or a person pushed to the edge of his or her rope to express racist thoughts in code.

Ignoring this psychological given, “Crash” is set in Archie Bunker World, a nostalgic land where race is at the forefront of every consciousness during every minute of every day, where elaborately worded slurs are loaded into everyone’s speech centers like bullets in a gun, ready to be fired at the instant that disrespect is given. The characters are anachronistic cartoons posing as symbols of contemporary distress. They seem to have time-warped in from the Nixon era, when the country’s pop culture purveyors decided to roll up their sleeves and get all this race stuff out in the open and show we were all secure enough to call each other bad names and then laugh about it and move on. That was a nervous, belligerent response, an overcompensation that came from sitting on this stuff for hundreds of years and seeing it explode into riots and shootouts. But the contrived frankness served a valuable function at the time; it was a little taste of the poisons lurking beneath the American façade, a rhetorical inoculation designed to toughen up the body politic. And it’s over now. We’re still a racist country, but we’re a hell of a lot more sophisticated about it, and the inability or unwillingess of “Crash” to admit this makes it both stupid and pernicious.

Racism expresses itself more subtly and insidiously now than it did in Archie Bunker’s day. Neither the public nor the private language are the same; political correctness constrains people of Boomer age or older, while the younger generations are likely to view the multicultural future not with dread, or even idealism, but simply as a given.

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