Systemic Approach in the Film Little Miss Sunshine

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Using systems theory as an approach to analyze people and their problems means putting more value on understanding the interactions between themthan each individual as a separate entity. Hansen (1995) explains this as non-summative and the idea that the whole is greater than its parts. Your perspective becomes relational instead of intrapsychic, allowing you to understand that problems are found in the interactions and are maintained by unhealthy patterns.

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In the film Little Miss Sunshine, a dysfunctional family tries to desperately keep it together while having their own personal agendas towards their world view of happiness. Olive, a seven-year-old aspiring beauty pageant winner, influences her family to take part in a road trip to California for the possibility of winning the crown in a children’s beauty pageant, Little Miss Sunshine. Throughout the road trip, the family suffers many setbacks and realizes their need to support each other. Using a systemic approach, it is clear throughout the film that each individual highly affects the behavior of one or more members in the system and that their personal diagnosis only makes sense when put into the context of their family makeup.These relationships creates a chaotic and unhealthy environment, which allows the viewer to live thoughthe pain and dark humor the characters experience.

A Brief Synopsis

In the first few minutes of Little Miss Sunshine, you are introduced to six characters that make up the Hoover family and who will be the central focus of the movie. You have Sheryl, aoverworkedmother who does everything she can to keep her family together, including her brother Frank. Frank, who is gay and highly intellectual, has moved in with Hoovers after a failed attempted suicide. Sheryl’s husband, Richard, is struggling to make it as a motivational speaker. Dwayne, Sherryl’s son, who we quickly learn has taken a vow of silence until he achieves his goal of becoming a pilot. Richard’s father, Edwin, who was evicted from his retirement home for being found using heroin. And finally, Olive, Richard and Sheryl’s daughter, who is hoping to one day win Little Miss Sunshine, a children’s beauty pageant contest.

In the beginning of the film, during a tense and awkward family dinner, Frankis asked by Olive why he had been hospitalized. Sheryl insists thatfrank is honest so he discloses his suicide attempt. Richard becomes upset and disagrees about talking in front of Olive about her uncle’s suicide or in his words, “””” and this leads the family through an uncomfortable and tense conversation. It is quickly shown how each family member personality creates a discord in their communication and the end result is one of many conflictive moments.

Soon after, the telephone rings and it is Sheryl’s sister calling tosay that Olive had qualified for the Little Miss Sunshine contest.

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