Driving Miss Daisy
Driving Miss Daisy depicts a strong friendship that progressively builds between an elderly Jewish widow named Daisy Werthan and an African American chauffeur named Hoke Coleburn. After crashing her car into a neighbor’s property from pressing the reverse peddle too hard, Miss Daisy Werthan lost her privilege to drive on the road. Since she cannot drive, her son hired Hoke to be her personal chauffeur. At first, Miss Daisy refuses to let Hoke drive her anywhere out of fear of losing her independence but out of necessity; she began to accept his offers.
From driving to a local Piggly Wiggly to Miss Daisy’s brother’s 90th birthday party in Alabama, the two characters begin to appreciate and respect one another that gradually forms a loving friendship. This film is an example of age related transformations throughout Miss Daisy’s life. The audience sees Miss Daisy from her 70’s when she is living in her own house through her 90’s when she is living in a nursing home. This paper analyzes Miss Daisy through the application of ageism, stereotypes, successful aging process, the life span perspective theory, as well as the place centric values.
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Most media portray great amount of stereotypes of all different ages, I personally expected this film to show great amount of ageism. There were times when Miss Daisy’s son interfered her life (when she crashed her car by pressing on the reverse pedal too much) but those were for her safety only and he let her be independent most of the time. Other than that, Driving Miss Daisy went against the typical stereotypes that are given to older adults.
One aging stereotype would be that elders are physically impaired; yet, the film showed Miss Daisy continuing to carry out her normal daily activities such as gardening, cooking, grocery shopping, and even doing her own bills. Also, there were scenes where Miss Daisy was reading, sewing, and even playing multiple games of Mahjong with her friends. These activities ensure to the audience that Miss Daisy had a satisfying/ healthy physical, cognitive, social and emotional quality of life, which confirms that she had a successful aging process.
Vaillant proposed 3 criteria related to health and 3 criteria related to social and productive activity to have a successful aging process. For Miss Daisy, she managed to complete all those criteria. For 3 criteria related to health, Miss Daisy was not physically disable at age 75, had a good subjective health, and the length of undisabled life was long. For the 3 criteria related to social and productive activity, she had a good mental health, social support, and a high satisfaction in the eight domains of Vaillant’s theory.
These eight domains include marriage (she successfully married and had a child), income producing work (she proudly explains how she was a school teacher), children (she had a close relationship with her son), friends (would play Mahjong and called Hoke her best friend), hobbies (reading, gardening, sewing, etc. ), community service activities, religion (she was Jewish and went to the service every week), and recreation (her daily activities).
Paul Baltes identified four key features in “The Life Span Prospective Theory” and the film depicts two of them. The first one is multidirectionality, which means that development involves both growth and decline. Miss Daisy’s social skills increases but her memory will decline with age. For example, when Hoke was driving Miss Daisy to a market called Piggly Wiggly, Miss Daisy franticly said that Hoke missed the turn when the truth is the market was right in front of them.
Another feature that is shown is plasticity where one’s capacity is not predetermined and so many skills can be learned or improved with practice. Hoke never had a chance to learn how to read but when Miss Daisy offered her help as a school teacher and friend to teach him, he began to read. This shows that no matter what age, as long as one learns and practices, one can acquire many skills. The setting for this film was at a rural area in Georgia and Miss Daisy seemed to report a high level of community satisfaction that aided her in having a successful aging process.
It is known that unlike the urban areas, residents of rural areas report a higher satisfaction. This is because of the place centric values that Miss Daisy was able to obtain. The close geographic proximity of family and friends made Miss Daisy’s life much easier. For example, her son lived really close from her home and would visit often to check up on her. Another example is that Hoke was able to drive through a storm to bring Miss Daisy some coffee and some company.
Miss Daisy had a high involvement in local activities such as going to the Jewish service, playing Mahjong with friends or even going to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give a speech. These availabilities gave her a community satisfaction as well as personal life satisfaction. This film is an excellent film to describe the processes and changes that older adults go through. The way Miss Daisy was portrayed gave me the sense that not all films are directed for stereotypes.
For me, the amount of independence and the high quality of life that the characters had were the key points that made this movie remarkable to watch. It shows that this is the way elder’s should live and be treated instead of showing elder’s independence being taken away. Seeing many elder’s get mistreated due to their age is morally wrong especially taking their independence away. In the film, Miss Daisy said, “ I still have rights! ” and that’s what all the elder’s should have; rights and independence.