Our discussions about the portrayal of race in films—especially "Killer of Sheep”— lead me to want to look into films that explore race in the LA setting. There are many, many films that take place in LA. However, the first one that came to mind for me was “Crash” by Paul Haggis. I would like to focus on this film because it explicitly makes a point to discuss race. I first saw this film in High School as part of US History. At the time, I thought it was amazing. I felt as though it asked the right questions and presented issues in an accurate and compelling way. However, in returning to “Crash” after our discussions, I am not sure that it does as good of a job as I had previously thought.
In trying to create a story that emphasizes how so many different races interact, it ends up creating caricatures of races instead of fully developing what it is like to identify with a certain race while living in LA. For example, Daniel (Michael Pena) is a Hispanic locksmith. He is presented as arguably the most sympathetic character in the film. In contrast to the Padua Hills Theater, as the sole representation of a Mexican male in the film, he does not display the “fantasy heritage” described by Garcia. However, the depth of the character would have benefited greatly if Haggis would have explored what it is like to be a Mexican male living on the border. Even though border culture is an important to many people living in LA, it is not discussed at all in Daniel’s story line.
It is interesting to look at the representation of African Americans in “Crash” in contrast to “The Killing of Sheep.” In “Crash,” African Americans are portrayed in many different ways. In fact, African Americans may be the most well represented race in the film when considering the many different types of characters and many different levels of socio-economic power they posses. However, when African Americans are presented in this film, they are still presented as archetypes. The two men who steal cars for money are greatly demonized. The movie producer is criticized for being too white. And, officer is bigoted towards his Hispanic co-worker. Nowhere, is the middle-class father, making a living for his family present in the film. I think it is important to acknowledge that a large audience did not embrace “Killer of Sheep” in the same way that "Crash" was so widely viewed. This could in part be because the characters in "The Killing of Sheep" were seemingly average and therefore less interesting to the modern viewer. Finally, I would like to acknowledge that Native Americans are never acknowledged in this film. For a film that promotes itself as a story about race, it actively ignores one of the longest racial struggles in American history. This leads me to a complex question that I do not—and probably never will—have the answer to: Is being represented in the media inaccurately better than not being represented at all?