Posted: February 26th, 2023


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Unit 2 – Research Essay 1

Length: 4 double-spaced pages with 2 outside sources

Writing Prompt from ‘The Treadmill of Consumption’:

James Roberts assumes that the treadmill of consumption is irreversible and that we will inevitably “continue to embrace the shiny-objects ethos” (para 8). Write a 4 page research paper in which you
agree or disagree with his claim. If you agree, what evidence can you locate to support his claim? If you disagree, what economic or social evidence can you locate to refute his claim?


To help develop your argument, you may use the Laurence Shame’s essay, “The More Factor”.


Research Requirements: You must include
(2) researched library sources: books, articles (newspaper and scholarly), online databases within the library system, research data within the library system ONLY.  They cannot be unsubstantiated internet websites, encyclopedias, classroom textbooks, pamphlets, bibles, or dictionaries. You may use the reading selections as support, but these
WILL NOT be counted as research sources

MLA Documentation: You must use MLA documentation which consists of
in-text citations and a works cited page. Incorrect usage or failure to use may result in a deduction of up to 5 points. Go to ‘Writing Tips’. Refer to Purdue OWL or the Richland College Library Web Site for the following:

· See
In-Text Citations

· See Works Cited Pages

· See Research and Documenting Sources

Format Requirements:


3rd person only

Structural Correctness – Intro-Thesis-Well Developed Body-Conclusion

1 inch margins – top and bottom-right-left

12 point font size

New Times Roman typeface

John Smith

English 1302

Research Essay

Universal Humanism: The New Class and Virtue

Film and television has traditionally been fraught with racial, class and gender

stereotypes. One such stereotype seen throughout history in media is that the white

majority is “good” while certain minorities are associated with “bad.” In 1992 Michael

Parenti wrote an article titled Class and Virtue, which claims upfront that Hollywood

films always attach virtue to the well off middle and upper classes. Parenti begins his

article by stating, “the entertainment media present working people not only as unlettered

and uncouth but also as less desirable and less moral than other people” (Maasik 362).

He continues by saying that “virtue is more likely to be ascribed to those characters who

speech and appearance are soundly middle- or upper-middle class” (362). Parenti makes

a bold statement, but is this association between class and virtue always seen in the

media? By examining the film Crash, it is evident that Parenti’s claim is not true for all

films and television programing.

The film Crash has been lauded as a groundbreaking film on race relations in the

United States. It is an “ensemble film set in Los Angeles” which most often “focus more

exclusively on interpersonal, sexual, and psychological issues” than on straight racial

issues (Hsu 134-5). Writer and director Paul Haggis is quoted as saying that “the film is

really about individuals” and “it wasn’t about race or particular groups” (Hsu 144).

However, even though Haggis claims that he did not write it as a statement on race, it is

impossible to view Crash without then considering race as a theme. Haggis presents an

image of “universal humanism” where “the recurrence of pain, disease, humiliation and

loss of dignity, grief and care” lead to a powerful notion of “human similarity” (Hsu

145). Basically, Haggis’ aim was to show that despite race, class, and gender all people

share a common humanity, resulting in the knowledge that no one race or class is better

or worse than another.

Within the film there are many examples of class and virtue not being related in

the way that Parenti claims. While most characters in the film are complex, being both

good and bad at the same time, there is one character who is depicted as virtuous though

out: Daniel. Daniel is a Latino locksmith who works hard, does not cheat his customers,

and who does all he can to love and protect his little girl. Because of his virtue, Daniel

becomes a favorite of the viewer. Daniel seems to only get into trouble based on the fact

that he is the recipient of negative stereotyping and by no fault of his own. When he is

assumed by a Persian shop owner to have “homies” who are trying to cheat him he is

attacked by this shop owner who believes he is a villain based solely on a stereotype

(Villalba 269). The Persian shop owner aims a gun at Daniel and pulls the trigger just as

Daniel’s daughter jumps in the way. The viewer assumes the little girl has been shot and

mourns with Daniel until it is seen that there is no bullet wound and there is cause for

relief. Although Daniel does not speak or dress as though he is middle- or upper-class, he

is still one of the most virtuous people in the film, which disproves Parenti’s claim.

While Daniel is an example of a working class man being virtuous, Crash does

not present all working class characters as being the same. The most memorable and

shocking character is that of police officer John Ryan played by Matt Dillon. In an early

scene Ryan is depicted as a “racist” and despicable person (Taulbee 248). Ryan is so

horrible that his partner asks to be transferred off of his service, at which time it is also

seen that Ryan’s supervisor knows that he is a racist, but will not do anything about it.

Ryan is not only given this “bad” label by those around him in the film, but through his

actions. He is shown doing one of the most shocking scenes in movies: molesting a black

woman as he pats her down in front of her husband (Taulbee 248). There is no doubt

from this scene that this is not a virtuous man. At this point in the movie the viewer

thinks that they can safely label Ryan as bad and wish for his demise.

Haggis makes his point boldly that people cannot be labeled in such simplistic

terms as good or bad when the plot turns to put Ryan squarely in line of being a hero.

Ryan comes upon an accident where a car has flipped over and is leaking gasoline. He

runs up to the car and the viewer starts to see that he does have a remnant of good in him

because he is going to try to save the victim. At this point the viewer is starting to root

for Ryan because he is acting like a hero, yet this label is taken away when it is seen that

the victim he is trying to save is actually the woman he had molested the night before.

The woman starts to fight him off, not wanting him to be the one to save her, yet

eventually acquiesces when she realizes he is her only hope for survival. The viewer can

understand why she would not want this man who violated her the night before to be

touching her then, even if it is for her safety. This scene renders confusion on the

question of if Ryan is good or bad. Yet, this lingering, unanswered question fits exactly

with Haggis’ point that stereotypes and labels are not real, but rather people are complex

“individuals” (Hsu 144).

Crash not only deals with the individuality of working class people, but also

shows upper- and middle- class people as being complex individuals as well. There is

not one well-to-do character that is shown as being solely good and virtuous or

completely bad. One character that we see struggling with life throughout the film is

Jean Cabot played by Sandra Bullock. Cabot is the wife of the district attorney whose

main focus is his reputation within the community, rather than his family or character.

This is seen when instead of comforting his wife after a traumatic event, he starts to make

a plan on how to make the story not hurt his reputation. The first time we see the couple

they get carjacked by two young black men, which spins Cabot into a paranoid, ranting

frenzy. She proceeds to yell at her husband loudly and stereotype the locksmith who is

changing their locks, Daniel, who later on we discover is a good man. While Cabot’s

“fury and paranoia is later made sensible by how lonely and isolated her life has

become,” and is thus partially justified, the viewer can still see that she has her faults

(Witt 587).

Haggis continually makes the point throughout his film that people are individuals

with many intersecting parts. Through Cabot’s character Haggis explores “the hidden

injuries of class” and makes “vivid how class and race intersect” (Witt 587). Cabot is

most often seen stereotyping minorities that are beneath her in social status, living in

paranoia that they will harm her. This paranoia results in a consistent anger, an anger that

increases as she feels as though her husband does not listen to her concerns. While

stereotyping is harmful to those being stereotyped, it is seen here that the one doing the

stereotyping may be harmed even more. In a poignant scene near the end of the movie

Cabot is heard speaking on the phone. She is desperate, saying that she is “angry all the

time” and it is apparent that she does not like this anger that she sees in herself. It has

created a prison that she cannot get out of. Just as it seems like there might be hope for

Cabot as she realizes this about herself, she takes what appears to be a fatal fall down the

stairs. One cannot help but relate the sad reality of Cabot’s emotional state to her demise.

This begs the question, did giving in to her hatred of other races and classes lead to her

death, both emotional and physical?

The conclusion that can be drawn from examining Haggis’ film is that class,

virtue and race relations are not so easily classified as black and white. Through seeing

that not all working class characters are either good or bad, and neither are upper-class

characters, it can be known that films such as Crash are not giving into the old

convention that Parenti asserts. This genre of film called “ensemble films” follows a new

outline, where all individuals are shown to have a common bond of “human similarity”

(Hsu 145). Here “racial differences” lead to stereotyping and conflict and a lack of

ability to create a “sense of community” (Hsu 139). Yet, it is the tendency to stereotype,

to give into assumptions out of self-preservation, and to treat people as though they are

not humans at all because of their differences, that actually makes everyone so similar.

Through showing that stereotypes cannot be trusted and that all people have a common

humanity, Crash exemplifies that films no longer always give in to the common depiction

of upper class being virtuous and working class lacking in that same virtue.

Works Cited

Crash. Dir. Paul Haggis. Lions Gate Films, 2005. Amazon.

Hsu, Hsuan L. “Racial Privacy, The L.A. Ensemble Film, And Paul Haggis’s “Crash”.”

Film Criticism 31.1/2 (2006): 132. Biography Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson).

Web. 24 Feb. 2016.

Maasik, Sonia, and Jack Solomon. Signs of Life in the U.S.A.: Readings on Popular

Culture for Writers. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015. Print.

Taulbee, Sandra. “Film Review Of The Movie Crash.” Pastoral Psychology 55.2 (2006):

247-251. Academic Search Complete. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.

Villalba, Jose A., and Rachelle E. Redmond. “Crash”: Using A Popular Film As An

Experiential Learning Activity In A Multicultural Counseling Course.” Counselor

Education And Supervision 47.4 (2008): 264-276. ERIC. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.

Witt, Matthew. “Tragedy Or Travesty?.” Administrative Theory & Praxis (M.E. Sharpe)

33.4 (2011): 586-591. Business Source Complete. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.

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