Little Miss Sunshine, a Movie Analysis through Robert’s Ray Thematic Paradigm

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Little Miss Sunshine is about a dysfunctional family trying to overcome their own crisis' and dilemma while going on a road trip to attend a pageant. The story developed in such a way that proves Robert’s Ray Thematic Paradigm. Each character has a very specific and unique trait in the beginning of the movie that evolves into something that is quite the opposite in an effort to make the dichotomies within the character, work for the film. Moreover, these dichotomies could be further highlighted by looking at the type of hero that each character takes and how each character takes on the combination of both an outlaw hero and an official hero.

According to Ray, Americans love the concept of a combination of extreme contrasting characters and abrupt changes within the character’s attitude as they go through labyrinths of scenarios that causes them to act on choices that is out of character. The merging or unification of an extreme character of the complete opposite drive the movie goers to watch movies. This type of formula seemed to work effectively in holding the interest of the viewers (“The Thematic Paradigm”).

Grandpa

The character of Grandpa on the film for example is such a contrast within himself that his character merged from an outlaw hero to partly an official hero till his death. In the beginning of the movie, viewers could have easily guess that grandpa has some secrets of his own when the scene that highlighted him in the opening act was him hitting on cocaine in the bathroom while his granddaughter, Olive was practicing on the other room. The opening was a suspense because it highlighted on the action before revealing who the character was so as to give time for the viewers to postulate how they would interpret grandpa’s character. However during dinner with the family, it was brought out that the family have knowledge of his vices and that intervention was attempted but grandpa felt that it was his right to do vices, his old age demands that he do drugs.

This extreme behavior was coupled by, and this is where the dichotomy comes in, his love and affection for his granddaughter. His understanding and patience was shown on his desire to see Olive compete. He also tries to boosts’ Olive’s morale on the motel scene wherein Olive was scared about the contest. Grandpa was very comforting and patient as he pep talks his granddaughter on how beautiful she is and the concept of what makes a winner and a loser. Moreover his obnoxious character and uncensored topic was coupled with his concern over his son. He was eager and upset when his son, Richard, was calling his handler regarding the concept of his book. He, sitting on the bus was listening and watching Richard's conversation and reaction so he knew then and then that his son did not get the book deal. Despite that, he made sure that Richard did not lose confidence by saying how proud he is of him and that by simply trying; it already made him a winner. He became an official hero right then.

Sheryl

Sheryl is Richard's wife and Frank's sister. She always tries to do the best she could for the family. She was a stereo-typical portrayal of a mother and a wife who tries to make ends meet and at the same time helping her husband fulfill his dream. She was sick and tired of hearing the "9-step refuse-to-lose program" of his husband but she tries to be understanding and put her fate in him. She was not a believer and actually thinks the 9-step was a bogus idea. But when Grandpa died and she saw the conviction and belief of his husband to succeed, though apprehensive at first, she did agree with Richard’s idea of corpse-napping the body of grandpa so as to make sure that Olive gets to participate in the pageant which everyone knew, what grandpa wanted. Sheryl then transitioned from an official hero to an outlaw hero on that scene.

Richard

Richard was the believer (or dreamer). He was a very focus man who believes in himself, who tries to be confident and who believes on his 9-step: winners have no room for excuses, hesitation, and compromise. He was an idealistic man (or a dreamer) who, with utmost certainty, believes that the publication of his book will solve his family’s financial problem. His idea of success is something that he so anxiously tries to sell and influence on his family. The problem is, his family is already sick and tired of him yakking about the 9-step probably because they do not see him as a success anyway. Moreover, Richard was a one-sided man who thinks that all he says are correct and that he knows things better than anyone else as portrayed on the bus scene wherein he and Frank started an argument based on Frank’s sarcasm about the 9-step and Richard’s outline of his career that has yet to begin.

The death of Grandpa became Richard’s turning point. He started to consider what his father wants and not just what he wants. After all, he did not want to go to the trip because he thinks it’s stupid. His realization of his love for his father was a light bulb for him to start listening to what everyone has to say. Moreover, the talent portion of his daughter, Olive, during the pageant becomes a turning point wherein he became a combination of an outlaw and an official hero. Official hero because he begs and tries to do everything he could to make sure his daughter could compete. While outlaw hero because to be able to make sure that Olive does not embarrassed herself, he made a fool of himself and got into trouble with security to ensure that she gets to finish her performance.

Uncle Frank and Dwaine

Uncle Frank is a passive character who was taken in to the dysfunctional family of his sister. In the end however, more than being a passive onlooker who takes in the experience, he became an active actor that affects the family. His character shaped the point of view of Dwaine in particular, who started talking again after being frustrated. He was someone who at first portrayed as someone who hates his family but at the end started to care for his sister. He was so emotional that he did not want his sister to compete, afraid that Olive will just humiliate herself. The turning point for both this men was the scene outside the hotel by the beachfront wherein Frank imparted wisdom to Dwaine through his life experiences. Frank said that it was through hardship and difficult times that people get to have the opportunity to learn. Successful and happy times, does not give you any lesson because then you would be too busy being happy.

By overcoming themselves, each character becomes an outlaw hero to an official hero in the end. It was a fairy tale ending. The turning point for each character provides the chance and the opportunity to change their belief system and attitude towards the way they perceive their lives and their relationship with each other. Through Olive and the Little Miss Sunshine talent portion, every member of the family (except grandpa cause he died) shed of their former belief and the unifying factor of the dichotomy fall into place. The outlaw heroes became official heroes in the end.

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Arbsy 4 years ago from Canada

Interesting read, I was not familiar with this concept. Thanks for sharing.

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