In today’s society it is believed that being of a certain color, a certain weight, and having specific characteristics is what makes someone beautiful. The movie “Little Miss Sunshine” directed by: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, is about a young girl named Olive who dreams of being in beauty pageants. In the first scenes of the movie it shows Olive mimicking the winner of the Miss America pageant in ah and amazement. Olive is invited to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California by default, which leads her and her dysfunctional family on a great journey to California.
Although the journey is filled with turmoil and loss, their main priority is to get Olive to the pageant. At first glance, Olive is not what one would think of when beauty comes to mind. She is pudgy, very tall for her age, with black rimmed coke bottle glasses, and a style only she can appreciate. By setting a specific model and certain standards The Little Miss Sunshine pageant is a symbol of commercialized American beauty. The pageant is a shallow representation of beauty in America. Children’s beauty pageants are filled with prosthetic teeth, fake and teased hair, makeup, and very risque outfits.
This is what America is portraying to society and even more to its young contestants as being beautiful. Anna L. Wonderlich of the University of Minnesota did a study on twenty two women, eleven had participated in childhood beauty pageants and eleven had not. “This study evaluated the association between childhood beauty pageants and adult disordered eating, body dissatisfaction, depression, and self-esteem. Childhood pageant participants scored higher on body dissatisfaction, interpersonal distrust, and impulse deregulation than non-participants, and showed a trend toward greater ineffectiveness. (Wonderlich)
Many of the young contestants are led to believe that if they fit into a specific mold rather than being themselves they will be beautiful. By being judged on their outer appearance, it begins to take an effect on their psyche, self-esteem levels, and the way they see themselves. When only being judged and criticized on what is wrong with them, they take that same mind set in their older and later years. By allowing the young girls to prance and parade on stage in their flashy costumes they are seen and represented as a young sex symbol. The young girls receive indecent and unnecessary attention from older men.
The former America Little Royal Miss, JonBenet Ramsey was killed at the age of six the same age Olive is portraying in the movie. Not only was her murder gruesome it is a mystery; she was found gagged and sexually molested in her parents basement. After her death the children’s beauty pageant world was put under great scrutiny for the “novelty of putting mascara on the lashes of a 6-year-old. ”(Alder) Many wondered and still do why this little girl was targeted, was it because of her participation in the beauty pageants that make her look a younger version of Marilyn Monroe?
The world will never know, the reasons behind this grisly murder, but the thought of JonBenet and beauty pageants will always stick out in the public’s mind. Olive represents an unconventional ideal of beauty. When Olive registers for the beauty pageant all the attention of the other contestants parents, and the girls is placed on her. They stare and make rude comments and gestures, because Olive does not look like the other beauty contestants that all remind one of a miniature Barbie, while in this scene Olive is still in her jeans and converses she most definitely stands out.
Olive is soon approached by a set of twin girls. “Are you on a diet?… What?….. Are you on a diet?… No!… I didn’t think so! ” It is believed that one must be skinny to be perceived as beautiful or even attractive to many. Although Olive is faced with criticism she remains confident, optimistic and strong. This is shown in one of the end scenes when she is getting ready for the pageant.
Olive’s dad- “I don’t want Olive to go on. ” Sheryl- “Are you kidding? ” Dad- “We’re not in Maryland anymore, all right! She’s out of her league here. ” Sheryl- “So? ” Dad- “Sheryl! She’s not gonna win. There’s no fucking way….. Dwayne, the brother- “Where’s Olive? I don’t want Olive doing this…. Mom, look around! This place is fucked! I don’t want these people judging Olive! Fuck them!….. She’s not a beauty queen mom. ” Sheryl- “Olive is who she is. This is what she’s chosen to do. ” Olive is off stage and is able to hear everything that is being said. The assistant comes on stage and notes it is time for Olive to go on but she does not move. Sheryl to Olive- “You don’t have to do this if you don’t want. If you want to sit this one out, that’s fine, we’re proud of you anyway, okay. ” Olive says to the assistant- “Okay let’s go. ”
Her brother and her father rush backstage to stop her from humiliating herself because she does not look like the other blonde beauties that are competing. They are afraid that she will be embarrassed and are trying to protect her, but sometimes trying to protect one only hurts them even more. Olive knows she does not look like the rest of the girls, but having her family support is what’s important to her and that they see her as beautiful for who she is. Although she does not have the expensive outfits, big hair, and the tiny physique she is who she is and that she doesn’t have to conform to those standards to be beautiful.
Beauty is not a specific characteristic; it is a combination of attributes, personality, and self-esteem. One does not have to have a specific look to beautiful, being beautiful starts in the soul if one has an ugly soul then what is on the inside portrays the outside. Although Olive may not look like the average beauty contestant, everything about her screams beauty; she is sweet, kind, caring, and has a beautiful soul; she knows who she is, and believes in herself even when others do not. By not conforming to the commercialized standards of American beauty, Olive is the definition of what beauty should be.