Study Guide

Driving Miss Daisy Race

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You won't find Miss Daisy doing donuts in a parking lot waiting for someone to challenge her in a winner-takes-all need-for-speed street race.

Oh, wait—you mean race as in "black and white." Okay, we've can talk about that, too.

Driving Miss Daisy is definitely not a hard-hitting condemnation of the treatment of blacks in the American south. Race takes a back seat for most of the film. This led to a lot of criticism that the film was whitewashing racial tensions, soft-pedaling conflict, and even displaying some nostalgia for the pre-civil rights era, when people "knew their place" and didn't complain about it.

But to be fair, the film isn't primarily about racial injustice. It's about the development, over 25 years, of an unlikely friendship between a wealthy white woman and her African American driver in the context of the segregationist and racist attitudes of her culture. The lack of racial justice in the decades covered by the film comprises the important social and cultural backdrop of that relationship.

The film subtly criticizes the racist attitudes of the south, even among whites who, like Miss Daisy, think of themselves as liberal. As Hoke gently pushes back against Daisy's racist assumptions, she's able to see that she's not as liberal as she thought.

Questions About Race

  1. Is Driving Miss Daisy an accurate depiction of race relations of the time? Does it minimize the injustice and hatred?
  2. When does race become an issue in the movie, and how do the characters handle it?
  3. Is the relationship between Daisy and Hoke realistic?

Chew on This

The film avoids dealing with racism head-on and supports stereotypes of the white employer and the docile black servant.

The play the film's based on made a choice to portray racial issues in a more intimate way, through the relationship of Daisy and Hoke. That doesn't make it any less powerful as a statement about racial injustice.

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