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072319-bara-opn-stellpflug-column

When the movie “Crash” came out in 2004, I thought it was appalling. I could hardly watch it.

I turned my head away and thought it was awful. To tell you what kind of judge I am of movies, it won an Oscar that year for Best Picture. In all fairness to me and my reaction, it has been called the worst movie of the decade and worst Best Picture winner ever.

One of my friendship groups decided they wanted to discuss it like a book discussion about 10 years after it came out. Watching it a second time was just as disturbing, equally unsettling, and as painful as it was the first time through. However, the discussion was worth the time spent watching it.

At the time it came out, I thought it was a depiction of the disgusting underbelly of society that was a part of the past in cultural inequity and treatment of minorities. I thought they were exaggerating the prejudices, the anger and the hate. Scenes in the movie are cringe-worthy, sad and embarrassing.

By the time we discussed it a decade later, it seemed quite current and in tune with news stories and current events that were being smothered with bigotry and fear-mongering.

Bringing it up now seems appropriate in light of all that has been unraveling around us. As much as I hate to admit it, that movie is even more true to our culture today than I had imagined.

There was a time not too long ago I was naive enough to believe those events depicted in the movie were slices of an ugly history, not ongoing occurrences.

That was the hard part of watching it. Wishing that it wasn’t representative of our population and seeing that it was. That is why we need to revisit it yet again.

The movie interweaves several connected stories about class, gender, family and race in the aftermath of 9/11. The pain and prejudice, the confusion and contradictions make the film as pertinent today as it was more than 14 years ago. Each story, taken at face value, stirs a knee-jerk reaction. Each backstory opens up a realization that there always is more to the story.

There is no excuse for bad behavior, for rampant racism or for inappropriate outbursts. There is no room for violation of women, or total disregard for human rights.

This is not acceptable, cannot be supported, and should not be tolerated.

Misinformation and lack of education that prompt certain behaviors and outcomes often are used as reasons for behavior. Reason implies that fault is recognized and accepted. Reason suggests accountability after facts are known.

An excuse is an attempt to justify behavior. It is a way to pass blame, to defend, to avoid responsibility. “Crash” is a microcosm of race relations, economic inequities and contrived interconnectedness and misunderstandings.

The ubiquity of prejudice, shame, anger and the metaphorical blindness creates a work of art, albeit shrouded in pending darkness.

The themes of parent-child relationships pull on every viewer and the continual quest for justice is the hook that keeps the viewer hoping for a satisfactory ending.

To say I have been haunted by this movie is an understatement.

To be reminded of it on a regular basis with the realities of the day is beyond what I could have imagined was possible in a civil society.

The movie is disgusting. The movie is discussable. The movie is a must-see for all. I wish it weren’t so graphic and offensive, because I would want every high school student to watch and discuss. Now that I think of it, nothing in that film differs from what they hear and see around them.

With mistrust and prejudice being bred and nurtured, it might be time to allow the language and explicit scenes. Watch, learn and change, or we all will crash.

Kay Stellpflug is an educator and trainer in interpersonal and professional communications. She works and lives in Beaver Dam and can be reached at

kaystellpflug@gmail.com.

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