Group Three: In many ways "Little Miss Sunshine" is a commentary on the all-American white middle class family. Select one character in the Hoover family and discuss how this character's experience on the road trip adds to the mosaic critique of the American family in this film. Do not repeat what students have written in prior log entries.
The Hoover family functions as a commentary on the all-American white middle class family by embodying the modern "counter-culture" representation of that archetype: the tidy veneer has been scrubbed clean to expose the dysfunction brewing underneath. What began as a decidedly alternative depiction of "the middle class family" has since come to represent a new mainstream, a popularized image in media that many Americans find more relatable and honest than most non-alternative interpretations. Of all the characters in "Little Miss Sunshine," Frank stood out to me as playing an important role in that he sets off the development within the nuclear Hoover family. Although Olive launches the major narrative action (i.e. the road trip) at the beginning of the film, Frank's arrival at the house is what seems to bring us along into the story, giving us a glimpse into the interior life of a family we otherwise would remain strangers to. His role in the family, in addition to being the most distant member, is anomalous in that he represents the ambitious figure who sacrifices time with family over the years to focus on work, and whose successes only further isolate him within a sense of self-importance. We do not typically experience this character's story within the context of how they relate to their family; instead, we see them focusing on ambition, on chasing their goals, on the romantic relationships that explode out of their overall passion. When we do see this character relating to family, it is usually in the manner we see in this film: strained and awkward at first, clinging on to a sense of superiority, and eventually submitting to the cadence that emerges between family members. In contrast to the rest of the Hoover family, Frank is well educated and is regarded by a wider community as "successful"; these are traits most commonly disassociated with the image of the "all-American white middle class family," and by juxtaposing Frank with the rest of the Hoover clan, the family's painful failings and mediocrity are emphasized. Frank also stands out as disrupting the normative family paradigm in that he is gay; otherwise, the Hoover family seems to represent a standard heteronormative American family. Finally, Frank's recent suicide attempt adds to the otherness of his presence and forces the Hoovers' interactions with him to be that much more contrived, as they must readjust all of their plans and routine to accommodate his presence. I also found it interesting that Frank's last name is Ginsberg, as it could be a reference to Allen Ginsberg, the famous queer beat poet whose work seems to have informed the spirit of this film. In the end, "Little Miss Sunshine" seemed to acknowledge family as a unit of people forced together out of circumstance, who without their lineage might share very little in common, but who will always try their best to be there for one another even as they screw up their own lives. Many of us, like Frank, go through life so focused on trying to distinguish ourselves somehow from those around us-- especially our family-- that we lose focus on what is really important. Like all of the Hoovers, Frank's experience on the road trip leads him to come to terms with his life, to realize that some things in life are outside of our control and the parts that aren't-- the people we choose to spend time with, how much we choose to enjoy life-- are what really matter.