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Little Miss Sunshine

In: Film and Music

Submitted By morcro9604
Words 1388
Pages 6
Morgan Cross
Final Project
April 28, 2014
Little Miss Sunshine Movies are very beneficial in understanding sociology. Films are a mirror image of society and they perceive the social and family movements during a lifetime. Little Miss Sunshine, released in 2006 and written by Mark Arndt, is a startling and revealing comedy about a bizarre family in New Mexico. This movie shows signs of deviance in assorted ways from drug abuse, suicide, and sexuality with signs of social interaction. Social interaction is how we act toward and react to other people around us. Deviance is traits or behaviors that violate society’s expected rules or norms. Olive, the little girl in the Hoover family, has been nominated to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant in California. If she wants to participate in the pageant, the whole family must travel together to California. The experiences and life lessons that they have are out of the ordinary and shocking.
The viewer sees the grandfather locking himself in the bathroom doing drugs. Drugs are deviant because they are illegal. The viewer might look at the grandfather badly because in real life people doing drugs are shunned. This is a way of social construction. On the way to California, they stop at a hotel for the night where the grandfather dies in his sleep after taking the drugs. The family retrieved his dead body from the hospital morgue to take with them to get to the pageant in time. Common sense says this is a criminal act because it’s illegal to steal a body. The family thought it was right at the time because they knew he would have wanted to see his granddaughter compete in the pageant. Even though they had an optimistic idea at the time, but the act was still illegal and incomprehensible.
Suicide is widespread in society and the media. Suicide is associated with social integration. Ẻmile Durkheim’s concept on social integration came to that men feeling alone or a sense of hopelessness committed suicide. At the beginning of the movie, the viewer sees the mom pick up Olive’s uncle Frank from the hospital, and later on they find out that he attempted to commit suicide. At dinner, Uncle Frank tells Olive that he tried to commit suicide because of a bad homosexual relationship that ended, which led to depression. Suicide can be seen a deviant act. A majority of people in society look down upon homosexuals because they believe it is supposed to be between men and women. Another deviant issue that is very common is sexuality. Being gay goes against cultural norms, and many people don’t treat those who are gay fairly. A lot of people consider being gay as something negative to a person’s life and those close to that person. As the time goes on and with the time spent with family, uncle changes from a depressed, suicidal man to a more focused, responsible man.
The very first scene of the movie, the viewer sees Olive watching a beauty pageant and imitating the girls on the television. This scene is well aware to the viewer that Olive wants to be in a beauty pageant. Olive is very close to her grandpa and learns from his viewpoints on life. Olive looks like your normal little girl whose dream is to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant. Little Miss Sunshine uncovers the fakeness of pageants when Olive steps on the stage. When the viewer notice her, she has a normal appearance of long brown hair, big glasses, crooked teeth and isn’t really skinny. She is so wrapped up in competing in the pageant that she doesn’t care about her looks or what other people think of her. The other girls on stage were drowned in makeup and participating in erotic dancing. As soon as “normal” Olive does her routine, she is looked down upon and makes the audience uncomfortable. Her grandfather taught her the routine and she dedicated it to him. Her routine consisted of her stripping and she didn’t think anything of it. Even though some of the girls’ performances were similar to hers, people still responded discouragingly to her performance. Deviance varies across situations. This situation is deviant because the girls in the pageant have performances similar to Olive’s but Olive is the one who gets frowned upon. In her routine, she dances very provocatively and deviant but her family accepts her for who she is and dances on the stage with her. Olive shows that ladylike beauty is not reliant on loads of makeup, glittery gowns, and perfect smiles, but reliant on true personality and character.
Society often lends to the expected identities and personality traits of a husband and wife. In this society, men and women have different outlooks as to what they are going to act like, dress like, and speak. Women are imagined to be nice, not too aggressive, attractive, smart, emotional, mature and caring. Men are imagined to be more aggressive, appealing, intelligent, athletic, powerful, immature and lazy. The father, Richard is a motivational speaker who is trying to build his career and fails at it. He feels like he has flunked himself and his family. As the trip ends, he develops a new attitude of the importance of family. The mother, Sheryl is much like a caretaker, making sure everyone in the family is well and fed. She goes through role strain from being a mother to this dysfunctional family. The viewer can see that she gets stressed from all the work by smoking on the side with no one looking. It is clear the Sheryl is the bread winner of the family while Richard is trying to get his family out of a financial crisis when his job fails. It is well-defined in the movie that marriages do not have to be picture-perfect. Sheryl does dismay Richard from his ambition to be a motivational speaker; she supports him just like a wife should.
The brother, Dwayne, handles his identity within this family by social interaction by how he handles communicating with the family. Social interaction can include verbal and nonverbal communication. Dwayne has taken an oath of silence and is reserved from his family. He writes down what he wants to say in a notebook. He shows lack of feeling by not communicating verbally to anyone in the family because he feels they are crazy and dysfunctional. This changes whenever he finds out that he is color blind and can’t fulfill his dream of becoming a pilot for the Navy. He gets out of the van screaming and cursing to his family running down a hill. He screams out, “You’re not my family!” Olive goes down to comfort him. Towards the end of the movie, Dwayne has a sense of confidence. Dwayne just wants to do what he loves. Even though he is color bind, he is still going to figure out how to fly for the Navy. Society’s expectations can derail a family but if the units of the family are strong enough as the Hoover family it shows that a person can win without failure. It shows that families are not perfect. The Hoover family, of Little Miss Sunshine show social interaction by interacting with each other and working through the challenges they were facing. The family comes across many challenges on the road trip such as dealing with a broken down van. The viewer can relate to this from traveling with their own family. Most families deal with these types of challenges. They have to deal with financial needs and every day pop up drama. The family suspected that Olive would not win the pageant, but they faced the challenges together and were supportive of each other. They do not discourage Olive in competing with the other girls. They boost her confidence by showing that she can win. They show that marriages aren’t perfect. The situations in the movie, the problem of suicide, sexuality, and gender, are considered deviant because we as a society have developed them to be.

Work Cited
Benokraitis, Nijole V. Soc. Third ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2014. Print.
Little Miss Sunshine. Dir. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Perf. Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, and Alan Arkin. Fox Searchlight, 2006. DVD.

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