Analysis of the theme of transcendental love theme in the film, Little Miss Sunshine..

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Dr. King's message of loving something that is the opposite of an individual is present in Little Miss Sunshine. From the basic start of the film, the characters in the film represent diametric opposites of one another. The opposing forces in the film demonstrate a healthy dislike for "the other."  In this setting, Dr. King's basic idea of how there is a fundamental combustible nature in the configuration of society at the time of writing, "Loving Your Enemies."  There is opposition in the way the family interacts with one another.  Cheryl is haggard and seeking to keep things together, although recognizing both her own and her family's limitations within her own heart.  Frank and Richard possess fundamentally different and incompatible views of the world.  Dwayne disengages, refusing to be a part of the familial unit.  Edwin has nothing but scorn for his living condition and the phoniness in the world. Olive, though, represents a sense of that transcendental quality of love, as she is able to interact with everyone in an authentic and meaningful manner.

Over the course of the film, the love of which King speaks begins to take over the individuals in the film on a personal and collective level.  It progresses in the manner that King, himself, outlines.  King says that in order to "love thy enemy," one has to love thyself, finding a sense of resolve and commitment in the internal that will allow the individual to have the moral fortitude and capacity to love another in the form of their opposite.  Richard and his faith in the "Nine Steps" are tested, realizing part of his own journey towards self- help is to remain true to oneself and endure the consequences of not betraying one's own sense of identity. Dwayne's rejection of the family is offset with Olive's hug, a moment of transcendent love in which he learns to love himself.  Sheryl recognizes that her own form of self love comes in "letting Olive be Olive" and in doing so upholding the values of her family.   Frank comes to confront his experience with betrayal and deception in order to believe what Marcel Proust, himself, argued as a form of self love:

Yeah. French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he's also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh... he gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, Those were the best years of his life, 'cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn't learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you're 18... Ah, think of the suffering you're gonna miss. I mean high school? High school-those are your prime suffering years. You don't get better suffering than that.

It is here where each of the characters represents a form of the self- love that King spoke.  This is tested in the pageant itself, in which the characters recognize that the real adversary is not themselves, but the phoniness in society that Edwin railed against.   In a display of solidarity to both he and Olive, the family represents "loving thy enemy" when they take to the stage and dance with Olive to Rick James, in what comes to be a moment of the universal love of which King spoke.  The family does not reject one another nor the beauty pageant.  Rather, they dance with one another, reflecting King's true sense of love of self and the other.

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