Essay on the Film Crash and Theories of Max Weber and W.E.B. Du Bois

Paper Type: 
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1500 Words
Date:  2021-05-24

Crash (2004) is a drama film that was authored, developed and directed by Paul Haggis. The film depicts social and racial tensions of persons from different racial backgrounds living in Los Angeles, California, United States. The fundamental theme of racism, among other themes presented in the film, can be analyzed using arguments presented by various theorists who made a great contribution to the development of classical sociological theories. This essay is an analysis of the film Crash (2004) that portrays how the classical sociological theories of Max Weber and W.E.B. Du Bois relate to the characters lives in the film.

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Max Webers Social Action Theory

The theory of social action was developed in an effort to explain how human behaviors are closely linked to causes and effects within their social realm. According to Weber, the field of sociology is focused on the study of both humans and their behaviors. As such, in order to understand human behaviors, a sociologist must first observe and analyze their human interactions. According to Weber, an action should only be considered to be social if the person undertaking it takes into account the behavior of other persons in his/her immediate environment. Consequently, his/her observation of others must orient him/her into performing his/her immediate action.

The relevance and validity of meaning of the social action theory can be supported through the actions of various characters in the film Crash (2004). Among them is Cameron (acted by Terrence Howard) an African-American middle-aged man who is a successful TV director. His actions in the face of racial prejudice by Officer Ryan clearly validates the logical arguments of Webers social action theory. When he and his wife are apprehended by the police, Cameron almost loses his self-integrity because of the racially-biased treatment offered to him by the police. Just because of being an African-American, he is treated like a criminal by Officer Ryan despite the fact that he had not broken any law.

Christine's behavior, after her encounter with the police, can also support Weber's social action theory. Christine (acted by Thandie Newton) was Camerons wife. In the film, Christine rudely scolds Cameron for failing to protect her as Officer Ryan was harassing her. Despite being an African-American herself, she ridicules Cameron that he was incapable of protecting her because of his racial background. She claimed that Cameron had failed to protect her because he would have preferred people not thinking he was black. This form of racial prejudice, subjected towards Cameron because of his racial background supports the social action theory. This is by portraying that the actions and reactions of persons are highly dependent on their interaction with others in their immediate society.

Fred (acted by Tony Danza) also supported Webers social action theory through his actions. He is a Caucasian film director who works in the same studio as Cameron. At one point during a shoot, Fred orders a scene to be reshoot because a character did not sound black enough. This statement portrays Freds attributes of racism towards the African-American persons in his society. Arguably, Freds interactions with other racist persons like himself in the society made him a symbol of the biased racial prejudice subjected towards others in the American society. His utterance can support the social action theory that a persons reaction towards others can be influenced by his/her interaction with others in his/her immediate social context.

The depiction of the African-American persons in the movie as being persons of inferior importance and brutes in the society have made some of them adopt the negative roles in the society. Due to the biased treatment subjected to them by the larger native populations in the United States, the African-American communities have been made to adopt some shunned traits in the society, such as crime. This phenomenon can be described through the actions of Detective Lewis, a middle-aged African American man. In the film, Detective Lewis gets shot in a vehicle that belonged to someone else.

After the incident, a sum of three hundred thousand dollars is found hidden in the spare tires compartment of the car. From his job description, it is evident that Detective Lewis could only have obtained the amount through illegal means. This occurrence supports webers social action theory in that a prolonged long-term interaction between the African-Americans and the rest of the population in the society can coerce some persons from the socially oppressed population to adopt communally unacceptable behaviors. Also, the racist actions of the majority in the American society can force a reaction from the oppressed minority populations in the form of socially unacceptable behaviors.

W.E.B. Du Bois Double Consciouness

Du Bois made a great contribution to the development of the social action theories in the nineteeth century. Among his social action theories is the concept of double consciousness, which he developed in 1903. The concepts describe an instance or a personal sensation where an individual feels as if his/her counciousness has been divided into several units. As such, it is impossible for such a person to identify himself/herself with a single unified identity. Du Bois developed the double consciousness classical sociological theory in the context of the biased race relations in the United States.

He believed that since the African-Americans in the U.S. lived in a society that has historically intimidated and devalued them, it was remarkably difficult for them to coalesce their black distinctiveness with their American distinctiveness. The aspects of the double consciousness concept can easily be evidenced in the film Crash (2004), through various characters in the plot of the film. Cameron, one of the primary characters in the film, illustrates Du Bois classical sociological theory of double consciousness. This is because, despite being an educated American and a professional in the TV directing industry, he takes no initiative to seek remedy for the harassment subjected to him and his wife by Officer Ryan.

It is justifiable to state that as an elite African-American professional in the American society, Cameron was aware that the sexual assault perpetrated by Officer Ryan towards his wife was wrong. To remedy the situation, he should have reported this form of racial prejudice to a higher authority in the local administrations office. As a symbol of equal treatment for all, including the rest of his African-American community, Cameron should have fought for justice as a way of condemning the racial-based harassment subjected to him by the police. Instead, it is evident from the film that Cameron took no initiative to have the crime reported.

Through Camerons encounter with the police, it is arguable that at the time, the African-American communities living in the U.S. suffered a damaged self-image. This is from the perceptions as well as biased treatment subjected to them by the Native Americans. It is evident that at the time represented by the film, the life of African Americans was easily shaped by the stereotypes that were propagated by the mainstream culture. Consequently, this might have made the African-American persons in the society to accept the ill treatment and biased perceptions subjected towards them by the rest of society members. To a large extent, they can also be said to have accepted such treatment to be a norm.

In the film, the concept of double consciousness can also be supported by the actions of Fred (acted by Tony Danza) in the film. His direction for a scene to be reshoot again because an actor failed to portray his blackness portrays the concept of double consciousness in his thinking process. It is apparent that the societys perception and outlook towards the African-American community have influenced Fred to conform to a harsh reality that the black community is inferior to the Native Americans. As such, he illustrates his double consciousness by identifying that he has a right as an American but also portrays that he has an acceptance for the biased perception that the natives have towards the African-American community.


In summary, there are two fundamental concepts of the classical sociological theory that can be evidenced in the movie Crash (2004). The concepts include the social action theory by Max Weber and the double consciousness theory by W.E.B. Du Bois. In order to identify the concepts of the classical sociological theory present in the film, I watched the film several times to identify the theories of the classical sociological theory that best fit the theme of racism as depicted in the film. The double consciousness and social action theory proved to be the best fit during the selection. This is because they were largely supported by several actors in the plot of the film. In addition, the concepts were hard to find because, in order to choose them as the best fit, it was imperative to read and understand all the classical sociological concepts by different philosophers. This paper helped me outside the class in being sensitive and fair to all persons in the society, irrespective of their racial origin.

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Essay on the Film Crash and Theories of Max Weber and W.E.B. Du Bois. (2021, May 24). Retrieved from

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