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Identity Crisis in Little Miss Sunshine

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In the film Little Miss Sunshine many characters have difficulty finding their true identity. Olive, a 7 year old girl wants to win the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant and is unsure of her true identity because of this. Richard, her father, is an unsuccessful motivational speaker and businessman and this effects his perception of himself. Another character, Dwayne, loses his sense of identity when he realises he is colour blind. The uncle in the film, Frank has been suicidal due to losing his love and is not happy anymore.

Olive is the youngest of the Hoover family, her aspiration to become Little Miss Sunshine’s beauty pageant winner takes her family on the journey. Olives faces many challenges on her way to compete in the pageant contest. Some of these challenges include the hassle her father gives her, and example of this is when the family stop at a diner to eat some food, and her father questions her choice on whether she should order the ice cream or not, as he explains to her that beauty queens won’t subjectify their bodies to the calories that ice cream contains. This makes Olive doubt her appearance and causes her insecurities. Olive also opens her eyes to the other girls that are entering the same pageant as her and she notices that these girls are what society calls ‘beautiful’, with their perfect hair and trim bodies. This again causes Olive insecurities and challenges her identity crisis in finding her true identity and where she feels she belongs in the world.

Richard, the father in this film is almost obsessed with the idea of winning and being successful. He too takes his family on a journey as he tries to reach his goal of becoming a successful motivational speaker. He treats people poorly due to his competitive nature and desire to be number one. He gives Frank, his brother-in-law, a hard time due to the fact he himself is quite unmotivated in his own life at the current time. “There are two kinds of people in this world, there’s winners and there’s losers. Okay, you know what the difference is? Winners don’t give up.” Richard is often heard discussing this topic throughout the film, in attempts to keep the family from giving up on getting Olive to the contest or just making a point of how success is best. But during this film Richard finds seeking his true identity difficult as he tries to publish his own motivational book which he is unsuccessful in doing, this causes Richard to doubt if he is in fact fit to be a motivational speaker on becoming successful if he himself is unable to do so.

Dwayne, the brother to Olive, is seeking a career in the Air force; he wishes to become a pilot when he is 18. With this goal in mind he takes inspiration from Friedrich Nietzsche who once said “One no longer loves one’s insight enough once one communicates it.” Dwayne chooses to silence himself in order to commit and focus towards his goal. He is so determined to achieve his goal, and has been silent for over 9 months that when he discovers he is colour blind, from a free eye test Olive took from the hospital, it takes its toll on his emotions and state of wellbeing. He becomes so frustrated and angry that he screams “FUUUUCK!” at the top of his lungs; it is because of this disability that he is faced with a hurdle he wasn’t expecting to run into. He loses his sense of identity as he knows he can no longer become a pilot if he is colour blind. Despite ‘hating’ his family and realizing he is colour blind he puts it behind him so not only can Olive can still get to the pageant but he also puts life into perspective for himself. “You know what? Fuck beauty contests. Life is one fucking beauty contest after another. School, then college, then work… Fuck that. And fuck the Air Force Academy. If I want to fly, I’ll find a way to fly. You do what you love, and fuck the rest.”

Frank, the uncle of the Hoover family, is introduced into the film in hospital, as he tried to commit suicide. He lost the love of his life to a man who is the second highest regarded Proust scholar in the US, (whereas Frank is the first), this is what causes him to constantly find unhappiness in his life and question his identity and if he even belongs in the world anymore. During the film there is a part where the family stop at a petrol station and while Frank is inside he runs into the love of his life, Frank isn’t in the best way when he sees him though. As he was buying heterosexual pornographic material for Grandpa, this sends the wrong idea to his ex. Frank again sees only the misfortunes in his life and the fact he cannot find happiness. But what Frank soon finds, is that if he looks hard at his family and sees how much they love him he might just get out of the depressed rut he was in during the majority of the film.

The film Little Miss Sunshine explores the Hoover family, and how they find difficulty seeking their true identity. The characters that are portrayed with the biggest identity crisis are; Olive, the youngest of the Hoover family, who wishes to become a beauty pageant winner where the odds are all against her. Richard, the father figure and key motivator of the family, is arrogant but determined in seeking his goal to become successful as a self-help guru. Dwayne, who had taken a vow of silence for 9 months to reach his dream of becoming a pilot, but then breaks that vow once he finds out he is colour blind and can no longer pursue the profession he wants to do. Frank is the loneliest and depressed one of the family, from trying to commit suicide due to losing the love of his life and career, he doesn’t think he can find happiness in his life anymore. All these characters have identity crises and it is clear to see that they find much difficulty seeing just who they really are and how to find their sense of identity.

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