The 1985 film The Trip to Bountiful (Masterson, 1985) offers insight into aging, changing perspectives on time during the aging process, many of the problems faced by older people, and issues of modernization, activism, and disengagement. The film thus illuminates much of what is written in the literature on these subjects.
Cox (1998) notes research showing an inverse relationship "between the degree of modernization and the status accorded old persons" (Cox, 1998, 1) which means that in the more industrialized nations, the older person has a lower status than is the case in less industrialized nations. This is something we can see all around us as our own culture celebrates youth to the exclusion of the old and has been charged with throwing away older people.
This trend is apparent in The Trip to Bountiful, a story in which a contrast is set up between the industrialized urban world and the more agricultural and rural world of the youth of Mother Watts, a youth she remembers and would like to recapture. She tries to do so by traveling to Bountiful, as if she could go back in time as easily as she can cross the country. The intergenerational tension is primarily between Mother Watts and Jessie Mae, her daughter-in-law. Her son, Ludie, has a more old-fashioned view of a son's responsibilities to his aging mother, while Jessie Mae is the product of a modernist perspective, associated here with the city that Mother Watts hates. Her flight is as much away from the modern world as it is away from Jessie Mae herself, and it is clear that Mother Watts might behave differently if she felt appreciated, wanted, and respected by both her son and her daughter-in-law.
The young woman she meets on the bus is the sort of young woman she wishes her daughter-in-law were, someone with more respect for the aged and more of a sense of social responsibility toward those who have gone before. Yet, she is an anomaly in the modern age ...