LEARNING GUIDE TO:
SUBJECTS —U.S. - 1991 to Current; Diversity; California; Literary Devices:Age: 15+; MPAA Rating -- R for language, sexual content and some violence; Drama; 2004; 112 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.
Description: Fast paced and well-presented, this film interweaves incidents of prejudice based on race and ethnicity during 36 hours in modern-day Los Angeles. Multi-linear in format, the actions of the characters careen between the base and degraded to the admirable and heroic, painting a picture of the complexity of race and ethnic relations in America. A fine sense of irony pervades many of the stories.
Rationale for Using the Movie: Crash illuminates the concept that prejudice is not limited to the ignorant and the cruel and that racists are often the victims of racism. It shows the multi-level nature of prejudice. It shows that those who see themselves as free of prejudice can be cruel or violent in a given moment based on racial or ethnic bias. The film is an excellent platform for discussions of prejudice based on race or ethnicity.
Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Through discussion, reflection, and writing assignments, students will explore their own attitudes as well as those of society as a whole. They will analyze irony as a tool to communicate theme.
Possible Problems: This film is R rated, and some parents as well as students may have difficulty with the degradation that is suffered by the victims of prejudice. Teachers must be sure to have signed parental approval forms prior to showing the film.
WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film.
Film Study Worksheet for a Work of Historical Fiction; and
Worksheet for Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects.
USING CRASH IN THE CLASSROOM
Introducing the Film
Divide the class into groups of four students and give them the following list of prompts. Instruct students to share answers in open dialogue with one another. After the allotted group time ends, have students in each group select an answer for each prompt that is most illustrative and share it with the class as a whole. In classes in which group work is problematic, the prompts may be addressed in writing.
After the group work and report is completed, read, project onto the white board or distribute the following poem to the class. Tell the students to pay attention to incidents or episodes in the film that may be as impactful to the individuals experiencing them as this one in Cullen's poem is to the eight year old child.
IncidentOnce riding in old Baltimore,
Remind students of the old saying, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Engage in student discussion of the old saying in terms of what the eight year old boy in Baltimore experienced. Ask for sharing of similar experiences from students.
Finally, introduce the students to the concept of Double Consciousness which occurs when there is a marked difference between the way a person views himself and the way he is viewed by the larger society. As formulated by W.E.B. DuBois in his 1908 book, The Souls of Black Folk. DuBois writes:
It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.Students will better understand the concept of Double Consciousness through examples that apply to them directly. Teenage girls may see themselves as good students who are shopping for mascara, whereas clerks at the high-end make up counter see the girls as probable shoplifters. Black students at elite colleges may see themselves as scholars, while some on the campus will see them as having been enrolled because of Affirmative Action and therefore less qualified than others. An unwed mother abandoned by the father of her child may see herself as a parent striving to provide a good home for her child, while another person may see her as an irresponsible and loose woman who is mooching off the welfare system. An immigrant working off the books may be striving to be an honorable father helping his family survive, while citizens may see him as an alien unwanted presence and a potential drain on the welfare system. It doesn't matter whether any set of perceptions are true or whether there is truth in both. Once an individual understands that other people perceive him in a way that is different from his self-perception, double consciousness can ensue.
Teachers may evoke examples from individual students to further illustrate the concept of Double Consciousness. In each example, it is important to note that the way others see an individual is brought into his or her own way of seeing the self.
Then show the movie.
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.
Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more . . . Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.
Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.
Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.
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his Learning Guide contains ideas for using the movie in class. Many of these ideas relate to the book as well as the film. For suggestions about using filmed adaptations of literary works in the ELA classroom, see Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories and Plays.
Watch the movie with your child. Discuss how racism played a role in any of the incidents, such as the off-duty police officer who shot the young black man in his car.
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