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Peter Sun ELAC Peggy Davis December 16, 2011 Crash: An Analysis of Officer John Ryan If there is a bad guy

in the film Crash, it would be Officer John Ryan. When we are first introduced to Ryan, we get the impression that he is racism incarnate. He is rude, vulgar, and, worst of all, blatantly racist towards black people. Indeed, it seems highly unlikely that we could ever see Ryan in a positive light, especially after he sexually molests an innocent black woman. But when Ryan ends up saving the same woman he molested later on in the film, we as an audience are forced to change our perception of Ryan. And with our shifting perspective, we are able to see who Ryan really is: a character of hope. It is a curious statement. How could the most villainous character in the entire movie possibly end up becoming a beacon of hope for the audience? To truly understand the progression of John Ryan, we must take a closer look at his character. At first glance, Ryan seems like a typical racist, power-abusing cop of the LAPD who is determined to make life hard for black people. One could make an inference as to what Ryan’s character says about the stereotype of white cops who abuse minorities. Perhaps he is a reminder to the corruption rampant within police organizations, especially one such as the LAPD which is actually notorious for being racist and bigoted. And in the beginning of the film, Ryan supports this stereotype: he has power, and he isn’t afraid to use it. He is a testament to the systemic racism present in institutions such as the LAPD. Ryan demonstrates this when he arbitrarily pulls over an innocent black couple and proceeds to harass them in a disgusting show of police power. Of

but one hears it in the angry and defensive reaction of white America when non-white people dare to point out that whites have unearned privilege. Watch the resistance from white America when any serious attempt is made to modify school or college curricula to reflect knowledge from other areas and peoples. and African American.course. for example. But scratch below that surface politeness and the multicultural rhetoric of most white people. such as Asian.” Of course whites themselves do not usually make claims to superiority. and philosophy rooted in white Europe are still very much alive. the black couple is powerless against such a man and can do nothing. This inference is based purely on the fact that Ryan is white. Hispanic. but the idea is still ever present in today’s society. music. and one finds that the assumptions about the superiority of the art. you rarely hear the words “Asian supremacy” or “black supremacy” tossed around. (Jensen. No poll can document these kinds of covert opinions. Indeed. It is most often “white supremacy. culture. As critics Robert Jensen and Robert Wosnitzer (who denounce the movie for its white supremacism) put it: Today. Wosnitzer) And of course one could see Ryan’s character in this light. even as their civil rights are being violated. politics. that white people are often perceived to be superior or “supreme” to other races. one could not say that he is an example of “Hispanic supremacy. The ideology of white supremacy is all around. Another serious inference that is often made by critics of the film is that Officer John Ryan is an example of white supremacy in the movie. polite white folks renounce such claims of superiority.” This goes to show that people and society in general have a stereotype about white people. if Ryan were instead Hispanic. as he is a white character who .

He has understood the . he is sorry for being bigoted and racist. the argument that Ryan is a white supremacist character would be valid. And the look he gives is one of regretful reflection. one could logically conclude that Ryan is no longer a bigot. he goes through a major character reversal after he saves the black woman’s life and nearly getting killed in the process. but telling. claiming Ryan supports the white supremacy in the film is to be blind to the dynamics of the character himself and be only open to the color of his skin and to the color of his victims.goes around bullying black people. Ryan recognizes the area and looks around until the car behind him honks at him to move on. then sure. the scene is slightly different. We as an audience wish we could tell what Ryan is thinking. Ryan instead cruises up to a stop sign with a lighted Christmas tree in the background. Ryan is sorry for having molested the black woman. But people should be wary if they do indeed judge the character and the movie in this way. In fact. Thus. This is what we as an audience can logically conclude from this scene. But he isn’t a racist bigot for the entire movie. lost in his thoughts. but Ryan doesn’t notice. This is how it plays out according to the original screenplay: “Back in his civilian clothes. John Ryan has changed into a better man.” In the movie. The traffic light turns green. His character has been fundamentally changed by what he had experienced. he is remembering what he has done and he is sorry for it. If Ryan remained his initial bigoted self throughout the entire movie. Ryan cruises up to a stop light in a dark part of town. Instead up cruising up to a stoplight. The scene that reflects this change in him is brief. After the event. This scene is incredibly significant because Ryan is confronted with his past actions by being reminded of what he has done when he looks at the familiar area. The car behind him lays on the horn and he takes notice and pulls out Haggis 96). however. This is the same spot where earlier he had pulled over the black couple. but actually it is quite clear.

he kisses and comforts his father. Whether or not the film succeeds in this depends on one’s personal opinion. He understands that black people are not to blame for his helplessness. Rather. By making Ryan such a complex and sometimes even contradictory character. It is only when Ryan is dealt a card by fate that he himself realizes that his anger at . just weeps.error of his ways. it is himself. he is therefore more “real” and believable to the audience. We can understand how Ryan’s helplessness translates to his rage and anger. by showing that even someone as bigoted as Ryan could change his ways through a life-altering experience. helping his frail and aging father into the bathroom. Understanding this. at black people. No apparent reason. that there is always redemption to be found. hands bandaged. he has become a more compassionate individual. evident by how he cared for his ailing father. And so. he had a soft side to him. although not justified. Ryan wasn’t solely a bad guy. one that highlights his compassionate side. he is redeemed. And Ryan kisses his forehead and holds him (Haggis 111). The irony is that although he was powerful as a police officer. After some difficulty he eases him down onto the toilet. The last scene we get to see of John Ryan is a final one of him and his father. Why do I say that Ryan is a character of hope? Ryan illustrates that hope is not lost in the racism issue.” The director has purposely left us with a positive scene with Ryan. He understands that his feelings of helplessness come from himself. From the screenplay: “Looking in from outside we see Ryan. and the only thing he can do is to keep caring for his father and trying to help him. and only himself. he was helpless in helping his father’s situation. This is the interpretation I drew from this crucial scene. Where his father weeps. the film attempts to give us a sense of hope. but for me I found Ryan to be a very moving character because of how dynamic he was. It seems that as Ryan changed.

As the film went on. I believe that the main message of Crash is that everybody has a unique story to them. it is himself he is truly angry at. In fact.blacks was unwarranted. Only when Ryan’s story was complete could we accurately judge his character. based on what he looked like. we should truly understand people before we pass judgment. We as an audience had formed our own opinions of Ryan at the very beginning of the film. John Ryan himself is an example of this. and his actions. and not as just as a “black person. we are all human. And the only way to know a person’s story is not through racist thinking or prejudice. more and more of Ryan’s story was revealed to us. but through truly understanding him or her. Ryan changed his racist thinking when he truly understood the black woman as a fellow human being when she was in danger. But we didn’t know the whole story. his skin color. he understands that he has been taking out his anger on the wrong people and has been worsening his situation rather than helping it. Because when it boils down to it. because he can do nothing for his father.” And likewise. his profession. . It was the realization that other people are not to blame that changed him and consequently changed his racist and prejudice attitude. By saving the life of the woman he molested.

Robert. and Robert Wosnitzer. 2011. 2004. Web. "Crash Screenplay. 16 Dec. . ""Crash" Is a White Supremacist Movie!" 18 Mar. Paul.Works Cited: Haggis. Jensen. 16 Dec." 18 Mar. 2011. Web. 2004.

Weaknesses: I had some parts where I struggled with analysis. . Peer review: My experience with peer review was great. I wasn’t sure how to incorporate my analysis with evidence from the movie or with evidence from other sources.Writer’s Memo Strengths: I feel like my strengths included a good thesis. but I found it difficult to analyze his character. and so I switched to Officer Ryan because he had the greatest impact on the film I feel. They gave me lots of helpful suggestions. I tried to create a good thesis to write about and include a lot of analysis. I had written about the character of Graham Waters. And so I did. I found it easy to write about the character of Officer Ryan and how he sends the audience a message about race. Revision Plans: Initially. I tried looking for sources that would be most relevant to my thesis. I also struggled with too much description of the character himself instead of my overall thesis. such as suggesting that I include more sources.