Tuesday, August 08, 2006
In the recent film, Little Miss Sunshine, 7-year-old, pint-sized, beauty-pageant contestant Olive Hoover is faced with a harrowing dilemma: with her family at a roadside diner, Olive orders waffles a la mode, only to draw criticism from her motivational-speaker father, to the tune of, “eating fat makes you fat.” Olive ponders the diminutive dish of chocolate ice cream before her, as her father persuades her to abstain (citing qualitative statistics—pageant contestants don’t eat ice cream!), and she dejectedly, but resolutely, resists.
Once at the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, Olive prepares for her swimsuit and talent competitions, decidedly unlike the other pre-pubescent participants. Her hair isn’t hot-iron curled, her body isn’t blasted with fake tanner, her make-up is subtle, and her mother is comparatively unobtrusive. But, prior to taking the stage, Olive, in one of the saddest scenes of the film, pauses in front of the mirror, and seems to catch her reflection for the first time. She self-consciously evaluates her childlike frame, and you can almost read her mind. It’s a moment that signifies hope shattered, innocence lost, all in pregnant gaze. She’s a bit pudgier than the other girls, and she’s probably grateful she didn’t indulge. Olive looks at her reflection with a disappointment that can only reflect the internalization of adult-like messages, and in a flash, she seamlessly morphs into a pageant contestant.