October 24, 2011
Professor Renee Peckham
For any relationship to succeed both parties need patience, tolerance, and understanding. This becomes especially important when individuals come from dissimilar cultural backgrounds. If the individuals take the time to learn about the other’s culture many stereotypes and misconceptions will be eliminated. If they slow down and listen to one another they will likely find that despite their differences they share many basic needs; this can serve as the common ground or a starting point needed for understanding one another. However, if both parties remain staunchly entrenched in their own culturally-based viewpoints confusion and turmoil will dominate their relationship. Overcoming cultural differences and cultural biases can be difficult, but can be rewarding to the extreme. Overcoming cultural differences and learning to appreciate diversity can open people up to satisfying relationships that transcend culture and stretch over time. This piece analyzes one such relationship that comes to life in the film Driving Miss Daisy. Miss Daisy Werthan and Mr. Hoke Colburn form a friendship despite their numerous differences and radically contrasting backgrounds. This piece examines the film through the eyes of Hall and Hofstede and scrutinizing the cultural identities, biases, and patterns demonstrated by the characters through their verbal and nonverbal interactions. Culture is learned through our interactions with other humans. Interacting with family, friends, and strangers all contribute to a human’s cultural identity (Lustig & Koester, 2010). Anthropologist Edward Hall likened culture to a screen through which the world is viewed (Lustig & Koester, 2010). Put simply, this analogy means shared experiences with others shape the meaning of words and symbols, and in turn shape how we perceive the world (Lustig & Koester, 2010). As a result, the unconscious patterns through which we view the world can cause individuals to fear what is strange or different from what they learned to be proper and true. All too often, beliefs and perceptions can be so radically dissimilar they act as a divider causing individuals with dissimilar beliefs to view one another with suspicion or malice. The film Driving Miss Daisy illustrates an intercultural relationship between an African American man and a Jewish European American woman prior to and during the civil rights movement in the Southern United States. The film centers around two characters from disparate cultural backgrounds that are initially forced to interact, but over time form a life-long friendship. The film begins in Georgia in 1948 and follows the two main characters for more than two decades as their relationship unfolds. Despite exceptionally dissimilar backgrounds the two develop a strong bond over the years. In the film, Miss Daisy and Hoke come from different cultures, and each are deeply entrenched in their own cultural patterns. Edward Hall’s theories specify cultures vary on a scale ranging from high to low context (Changing Minds, 2011). Miss Daisy is of the European American culture which is identified as a low-context culture, and Hoke is African American which is identified by Hall as high-context culture (Lustig & Koester, 2010). Some of the fundamental differences between the high and low context cultures are evident in this film. As with low-context cultures Miss Daisy communicates to transmit meaning leaving nothing to the imagination. An example of this occurs early in the film when she clearly expresses her displeasure and aversion to her son’s desire to hire a driver after Miss Daisy wrecked her car. She also demonstrates another trait of the low-context culture by blaming the car. She also blamed her son for the wreck as he did not let her keep her old car. Blaming others for failure is associated with the low-context culture (Changing Minds, 2011)....
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