The American Dream is the ideal for many immigrants and citizens that they desire to achieve in America. All types of people from different backgrounds pursue the American Dream for themselves or to leave behind an opportunity for future generations to come. In critical observation, the American Dream look at the achievements, one could see that it is not defined in hard set labels. Some means of obtaining the American Dream may not have been by the best moral decisions or ethical guidelines. Once it’s achieved, it may be hard to define simply because what one may define as success and prosperity may be measured differently than someone in a different position or mindset. The American Dream is subjective and relative because ideals like equal opportunity are broad and vague because from one perspective, we are not all born in the same social status and in another perspective, we are all born on the same planet, or playing field and we all have one life or one shot. This is why The American Dream is subjective and relative.
The American Dream is depicted in several different ways in the 2004 film, Crash. The film is like a roller coaster ride through a spiders labyrinth of webs, illustrating the opportunities, obstacles, and choices various characters face while surviving as a citizen in America. The film tackles the American Dream by capturing the sacrifices families choose to earn money, the racial inequalities people face when trying to achieve the American Dream, and the desperation people go through to obtain those dreams. However, all of the characters are already acting out the American Dream since all of them are using their opportunities to achieve, maintain or surpass their level of success.
First, Crash captures the sacrifices people choose to earn money. In an article Justin Aptamer wrote, Crash is explained from a sociological perspective. He said that race is often times seen as a physical attribute. Although this may be true, certain genetic factors can be used in a beneficial way, like hight to a basketball player. Since we all have different advantages whether that be physical or through social connections, it can even out the playing field. The film goes into some depth showing an Iranian family that traveled to America in hopes of living a better life in their family unit. They end up opening a convenience store. Subsequently, to find out their family store was broken into, with the whole store trashed, and vandalized with spray-painted racial slurs on their walls. The vandals implied that all Middle Eastern people were bad, generalized merely them as Arab, writing “Arab scum” on their walls. It would seem that the store was all the family had and that scene only showed a harsh reality that no matter how hard you work, it’s still not enough. However, if we were to look at the bigger picture, we would see that the immigrants too were already living the American dream. They owned their own business in America without being born in America. Farhad and his family also had a strong bond in this time of adversity with each other, and when one failed at persuading the racist ammunition dealer to purchase a weapon for protection, the other sacrificed her own moral compass to support her father and was successful in bartering with the racist store clerk. This is an accomplishment that many natives of America in poverty dream to achieve and have. The act of vandalism was a testing of their endurance to maintain their accomplishments. From a cynical view, one could say all dreams come to an end, but it only reiterates that they were living the Dream as it was.
Second, the film portrays the racial inequalities people face when trying to achieve the American Dream. It is true that race inequalities in America can be barriers people have to overcome in order to reach their goals. In Crash, the character who played Daniel, a Hispanic earning a living for his family is a locksmith. He was a victim of racial profiling while fixing the locks of a couple who had previously been carjacked. The wife assumed Daniel was trouble because of his tattoos, shaved head and overall appearance. Although Daniel was an honest working man, with a wife, child and he was not involved in gangs, despite his appearance and stereotypes. Even though he was faced with judgement. Daniel was also living the American dream as a minority in America, providing for his family. We may not be able to control what labels people give us, but the fact Daniel had what appeared to be a steady job, and a family to come home to, could be looked at as being a successful Hispanic who managed to avoid gang life. He even had the choice to choose what clients he served, shown in the scene where he places the keys on the counter. This shows him choosing not to support the tarnished mindset of the recently victimized caucasian family, expressed with the wife’s racially charged comments. Clearly, he did not have to sacrifice his morals, to keep his business going, in support of the American Dream
Third, Crash pictures the desperation people go through to obtain the American Dream. In order to achieve the American dream people may also do things that are not morally right. Peter and Anthony were two friends who robbed and carjacked people to make money. To keep their moral compass centered and their conscience somewhat clear, they tried to refrain from robbing black people. Anthony was a little more radical in his thoughts about their struggle as black men in the world compared to Peter. Anthony felt as though everyone was out to get him and that it was hard for him to get ahead. They felt as though the system was created to make black people and black men in specific fail. The system may still have some flaws that need to be addressed, but if we look at black people in America, it is clear to see that the African American race has come a long way. The fact that Anthony and Peter were able to sit in a cafe ordering food was a testament to the American Dream in action, no matter how jaded of bitter their perspective is. In an article written by Carol Graham, she questions if the American dream is dead because of the inequalities Americans are faced with. Like Anthony, Carol felt that America was blind to who and how people were affected by inequalities. According to her studies, she discovered that the awareness and attitudes of America’s inequalities were crossed, with rich people reporting seeing more signs of inequalities and minorities seeing inequalities as an opportunity for advancement. This perfectly illustrates how we are all in this world together, and that depending on what lens we see the world through, the filter of our lens may be our only barrier to living or achieving the American Dream. The film director, Paul Haggis himself told that his journey to produce this as a film was not easy. Initially Haggis wanted his output produced as a TV show, but although he was turned down various times, he was able to produce it as a triumphant award winning film. This shows the American dream similar to the saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way!” During the year this was produced, America was facing many culture based political issues that may have been too sensitive to address in some producers view. Haggis referred to the film as a social experiment that allowed himself and others him to see the world through the eyes of people that are different them themselves.
Although some may see the American dream as being dead, unmerciful, a support of capitalist leaving casualties, disappointments, and failures one after another. I see it as a refining process like the famous “diamond out of the rough” saying. We may have to endure pain and be broken down at times, but like muscle, it builds strength. The truth is, where one door is closed, another may be open, and it is our responsibility, if chosen, to navigate our way to the doors that are opened, to guide us to the sense of prosperity and success. Haggis himself was turned down numerous times but still managed to produce a film that lead him to awards, and spread awareness to to people who could afford to see this movie.The film illustrated how we are all together. Even if one cant afford the a ticket to this film or even a place to watch it, that same person may be affected by someone who has. Dreams may be a construct of the mind but can also be the brainstorm to the revolutionary set of actions. How we look at these characters and define their level of success is subjective and relative to our own understandings of what the American dream is. And even though words can be used to label people or their life situations in a negative sense, they can also be used as a springboard to launch them into what some may say is a successful direction, in which this film perfectly illustrates, if one has the eyes to see.
Aptaker, Justin. “A Sociological Analysis of the Movie “Crash”.” Reel Rundown, ReelRundown, 19 Apr. 2016, https://reelrundown.com/movies/Crash-A-Sociological-Analysis
Graham, Carol. “Is the American dream really dead?” Brookings, Brookings, 29 June 2017, www.brookings.edu/articles/is-the-american-dream-really-dead/.
Haggis, Paul, director. Crash. RBA, 2007.
Jacobs, Matthew. “A Decade After ‘Crash,’ Paul Haggis Reflects on The Polarizing Racial ‘Fable’ That Stormed the Oscars.” The Huffington Post, The Huffington Post, 6 May 2015, www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/06/paul-haggis-crash_n_7216026.html.