For your first formal essay you will be required to write 5-6 pages
discussing the film Crash. This will be a ?thesis-driven? essay, meaning
you will have to make an argument and prove your argument through
evidence. Your evidence will consist of references to the primary text
as well as from at least THREE secondary sources. At least two of these
secondary sources must be academic essays, and the other(s) can consist
of reviews, interviews, articles, or any other source that supports an
Specifically, your essay will address the following topic: In his essay
Racial Privacy, The L.A. Ensemble Film, and Paul Haggis?s Crash, Hsuan
L. Hsu calls the film?s treatment of racial relations in Los Angeles
?problematic.? Hsu argues that like many of the LA ensemble films that
came before it, Crash?s focus on ?Individual and interpersonal
relationships…occludes crucial and profoundly damaging institutional,
legal, and historical aspects of racism? (13). Further, Hsu takes
umbrage with the film?s central philosophy, which he calls ?abstract
universalism,? a notion that holds all the film?s characters?regardless
of race?equally accountable for, and capable of, racist behavior. This
?color-blind? or ?anti-racist? message, according to Hsu, perpetuates a
legacy of ?white male privilege? that allows current forms of systematic
racism, like income inequality and access to public health, to ?run on
autopilot.? In other words, Hsu argues, ?racism paradoxically assumes
the form of ?racial-blindness.?? Hsu uses the example of Ward Connerly
and Prop 209 to make his point.
For your essay, you will respond to Hsu?s ideas. Take a position of
agreement or disagreement with his thesis that Crash?s treatment of
racial relations in LA is ?problematic.? If you agree with Hsu elaborate
on his criticism of ?abstract universalism.? Aside from the examples he
gives, how does Crash ?occlude crucial and profoundly damaging
institutional, legal, and historical aspects of racism?? Also, you might
like at Hsu?s other criticisms of the film, for example that its
portrayal of non black and white characters is marginalizing.
If you disagree with Hsu, you may write a rebuttal in support of
?abstract universalism,? and how it?s illustrated in the film (see Paul
Gilroy). You may also show how Crash does in fact take into account
?crucial and profoundly damaging institutional, legal, and historical
aspects of racism.? Where and how does the film do this (the assistant
DA?s speech, for instance)? You may also argue that the film?s reliance
on melodrama is not na?ve, but an effective rhetorical choice.
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