Little Miss Sunshine

Besides reality tv, you don’t really hear about beauty pageants that often; it seems to be a quiet scandal that spreads more from word to mouth and not because of the media. But in “Little Miss Sunshine” we get to see a movie that revolves around child beauty pageants.

A 2006 comedy directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris follows a very dysfunctional family drive to California where Olive, a seven-year-old beauty pageant contestant, will compete in the little miss sunshine competition.  Along with her overachiever father, her suicidal uncle, her vulgar grandfather, her overworked mother, and her Nietzsche-loving brother, Olive desperately wants to compete against pampered beauty queens while still being herself. This dry comedy grossed $498,796 in the first week of release.

I really liked to movie because the script was so well written and because the characters were extremely interesting and well-developed. I also liked the dry humor (kind of like “Juno”) that added a touch of humanity and quirkiness.

I really liked the pageant scene and find that it’s very relevant to my research. Throughout the film, Olive’s dream is to someday become Miss America. Even though beauty pageants imply that you have to showcase yourself to an audience and a panel of judges from a young age, Olive seems to not notice this. She still remains true to herself and doesn’t change her appearance with make-up or enormous amounts of make-up. She tries to compete because she wants to do her very best and wants to be popular like a beauty pageant queen, like anyone who is young. It’s funny (in both ways of the term) to see the difference between Olive and the other pageant contestants. Funnily enough, these other contestants are real pageant contestants that the director collected by visiting many pageants in South California. Although many of the mothers complained that some of the practices were exaggerated in the film (shaving their daughter’s legs, spray tans and putting on so much make-up is apparently not so accurate), all of the acts and costumes were authentic.

Michael Arndt, the scriptwriter, was first inspired to write “Little Miss Sunshine” after hearing Arnold Schwarznegger speaking to a group of high-school students and saying “If there’s one thing in this world I hate, it’s losers. I despise them.” He therefore wrote out the thought process of that statement in a script. Arndt said: “And I thought there’s something so wrong with that attitude … I wanted to … attack that idea that in life you’re going up or you’re going down … So to a degree a child beauty pageant is the epitome of the ultimate stupid meaningless competition people put themselves through.” However, co-director Dayton points out that the main focus of the film is about Olive’s family and not knowing where you’re going to end up, not beauty pageants.

Here’s the film’s official trailer.


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