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Don’t we get irritated with people who tell us to always think positive? How can we be cheerful all the time? But at the same time, don’t we avoid people who are always toxic and negative? ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ is a story of a family where the dad is a motivational speaker and a wannabe self-help author, mom is a practical woman trying to keep the family together, a teenage boy who wants to sleep till he is 18 and who has taken a vow of silence (inspired by Nietzsche), a little girl who wants to win a beauty pageant, grandfather who uses foul language, smokes heroin and loves porn and mom’s brother who is a suicide survivor and an expert on a philosopher who embraces suffering. This family goes on a road trip so that the little girl can participate in the beauty pageant.
This film studies the two extreme view points, beautifully. People who are into self-help don’t like to accept the fact that we cannot always win in life. The dad in the film states clearly that there are two types of people in life: winners and losers. Winners are those who never give up. He is so obsessed with winning that he discourages his daughter from eating ice-cream because pageant winners are always skinny. As the film progresses, he has to face his own failures. Life is not always fair. The teenage boy wants to join a flight school but he discovers that he is color blind. Mom’s brother is gay and he discovers that the man he loves is in love with someone else. The little girl is excited about the beauty contest but there are girls who are clearly more beautiful than her. No amount of positive thinking can change these facts. However, do these facts take away our power to be happy? Should we just accept these facts and stay depressed forever? The family discovers that answer is somewhere in the middle: you don’t have to fight these facts by violently forcing yourself to think positive or indulge in wishful thinking, but at the same time, you can rise above these facts.’Facts’ only matter when people are fighting for something objective (which is anyway subjective), when you are dependent on others for your self-respect. You don’t need to win a beauty pageant or be conventionally successful to be happy.You can have your own subjective standards and you don’t need the whole world to validate you.
Even though all family members are fed up with dad’s positive thinking lectures, they realize that sometimes, thinking positive is the only way out. The grandfather praises the courage shown by the dad and the family decides to follow the dad’s advice during critical times. In the same way, even the dad realizes that sometimes thinking positive doesn’t help and we just have to feel the pain. It’s all about learning from each other and sticking together… despite all the craziness.