Little Miss Sunshine

It is less accurate to say that this laugh-out-loud indie hit advanced a recognizable philosophical thesis of its own than to say that it delivered a big, fat, much-needed slap in the face to the myth of the Nietzschean superman.

A central theme of the movie is the way in which the father, his two children and his wife’s brother are all fruitlessly pursuing personal visions of perfection. The father fancies himself a hotshot businessman and motivational speaker, the little girl wants to be a beauty queen, the uncle is the self-named foremost Proust scholar in the world, and the son is explicitly a disciple of the doctrine of the Übermensch –the superior human being who dominates those around him by sheer force of will.

The pursuit of superiority is also embodied in the form of the beauty-pageant contestants –a pack of living, pint-sized Barbie Dolls –and their zealous stage-mothers.

The film’s counterpoint is the lecherous, creepy, drug-taking, porn-reading grandfather, who represents a joyful celebration of all the flaws and fallibility inherent in being human. His posthumous subversion of the beauty contest reads, in context, as a liberation from the tyranny of soulless perfectionism.

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