Analysis of Little Miss Sunshine Essay
Olive Hoover is a seven year old that is afforded an opportunity to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant by chance. Little Miss Sunshine is the story of a family who, in the face of many physical, emotional, and social obstacles, band together to support the dreams of Olive. The following discussion is a theoretical analysis of Olive Hoover applying concepts from four theories, and a critical analysis of each theory. Case Description Background The Hoover family is a blended lower-middle class family who resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico in a single family home.
The matriarch of the family is Sheryl, whose occupation is the main source of income for the family. Richard is the patriarch of the family. He is a motivational speaker who attempts and fails at developing a nine step motivational success program to bring in more income for the family. Edwin Hoover is Richard’s foul-mouthed father, who was forced to leave his retirement home after being caught using heroine. Dwayne Hoover is Sheryl’s son from her first marriage, who takes a nine month vow of silence until his admission into the Air Force Academy.
Lastly, Olive Hoover is the innocent seven year old, unaffected by critical events that have occurred in her household, including learning about suicide, death, and rejection. The Hoover household is not filled with a lot of material possessions. There is a small tube TV in the living room, the home is outdated, there is minimal decor, and they drive an outdated vehicle. Olive listens to a disc man, an electronic that is obsolete nowadays. The clothes that the family wears are also outdated, and Olive wears hand me downs.
The personalities of all of Olive’s family members’ do not deter Olive from accepting her extended family. Her grandfather talks about sex and uses excessive profanity in front of Olive, yet she shows her love and dedication to him. Olive’s brother is from a different father, and there is a significant age difference. Even though Dwayne chose to remain silent, she is loyal and accepting of her teenage brother, whom they do not share a father. Olive’s family, with all of their shortcomings, shapes Olive into a playful, curious yet intelligent, playful, energetic seven year old girl.
Strengths and weaknesses Olive has an enormous amount of self-efficacy for a seven year old girl. Individuals with a high self-efficacy believe that their failure is due in part to a lack of effort, not their ability (Smith, 2002). Olive’s physical dress pales in comparison to other pageant contestants, wearing a tuxedo and spandex suit. She is overweight, wears no makeup, and has oversized glasses. Her self-efficacy is high; she remains positive throughout her performance, not noticing the audience’s clear disdain for her appearance and burlesque performance. Olive is very well supported by her family.
There are five functions of a supportive family that assist Olive in her growth and development; help a child meet their physical needs, learn and find friendship, protect self-esteem and provide a safe and harmonious home (Berger, 2008). Every member of Olive’s extended family assists all of these functions, from Olive’s father’s motivational speeches to her grandfather’s moral support. Olive has much strength, but her participation in beauty pageants can lead to an unhealthy child development, including difficulty with body shame, perfectionism, and depression (Leiberman, 2011. The physical exhaustion of competing in a pageant such as long hours of practicing combined with the emotional endurance and feelings of failure, can severely impact child development (Leiberman, 2011). Olive’s father deters her from eating ice cream because it will cause her to gain weight. Lastly, Olive is exposed to trauma such as depression, drug use, suicide, and homosexuality. Children in Olive’s age group are likely to experience internal symptoms such as sleep problems and withdrawal, in addition to external symptoms such as irritability and anger outburst (Hodas, 2006).
Furthermore, repeated exposure to trauma can lead to a temporary symptom becoming more permanent (Hodas, 2006). Biological, psychological, and social development Olive has exemplary biological development. She is physically independent, and can run, jump, and balance well, shown through dance (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2010). Olive actively engages in play but also refines her motor skills by pushing a tire around. Olive has a plethora of dolls and toys in her room, and also has a variety of dress-up items, showcasing her strength in play.
She is very independent emotionally, not reacting negatively to the criticisms of the audience during her routine (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2010). Olive is also self-sufficient. Olive’s social skills are becoming more profound as she orders her own meals at restaurants. Psychologically, Olive has a strong sense of attachment to her family. Olive has formed a strong emotional bond with all members of her extended family, even her stepbrother. When Olive’s brother realizes he is color blind, she provides powerful consolation to him.
There are four qualities of attachment that the Hoover family exhibits; they spend a significant amount of time together, they are aware of Olive’s needs, they are committed and responsive to Olive, and they are available to her (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2010, p. 129). Olive’s parents encourage autonomous decisions, such as allowing her to decide at the final moment whether she wants to participate in the pageant, thereby increasing self-esteem (Mansbacher, 2010). Finally, we examine Olive’s social development. Olive’s family uses positive reinforcement as a function of their support system.
The use of positive reinforcement teaches behavior control, but also fosters self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-esteem. Social reinforcement is utilized by her family as they praise her for a job well done. Physical praise is also an effective communication tool. Olive is embraced by all members of her family prior to and after her performance in the pageant. Additionally, when she consoles her brother, she is hugged by her mother as reinforcement for good behavior. Lastly, Olive’s family provides a good source of behavior modeling for Olive that promotes resilience. Application of Family Resilience
Resilience is the ability of an individual to recover from adversity and resume function using strengths as coping mechanisms, despite various traumatic events or difficulties (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2010). In today’s society, where adversity is common, having resilience is useful to gain hope and confidence, on an individual and family level. Two dimensions of resiliency include risk and protection. Risk increases vulnerability through traumatic or stressful situations, while protection involves various factors that act as barriers to the vulnerable individual or family.
Olive’s journey to California is filled with traumatic events; her uncle’s suicide attempt, the breakdown of the vehicle, economic stress, her father’s lack of success for his motivational program, her grandfather’s drug use and death, and her physical disadvantages against other beauty pageant contestants. A family resilience approach is based on the fact that Olive’s family has the desire to be healthy, and have potential for gain and growth as a family (Froma, 2006). One concept of family resilience is increasing family stability and cohesion, thereby increasing reliability of contact and commitment (Froma, 2006).
The Hoover family actively addresses this evidenced by family dinners and the collective family journey to California. Their goal is to remain committed as a means for Olive to be able to achieve personal goals. Communication, open emotional expression, and problem solving are key concepts in strengthening family resilience. Olive’s mother is the bridge of communication between the family. At the family dinner table, at the hospital, and at the pageant before Olive competes, Olive’s mother becomes a voice of hope yet remains calm in her delivery. She is always involving the family in decision making.
Also, Olive’s mother believes in open expression, attempting to keep negative feeling from being suppressed. By doing this, she decreases potential for further family conflict. Problem solving is the Hoover family’s biggest resilient effort. The family is continuously solving problems to get to their end destination as a collective unit. Action-oriented, concrete solution problem solving skills work best (Froma, 2006). Examples of their cohesive problem solving skills include their attempt to counsel Dwayne after realizing he is color blind, their albeit illegal transfer of Edwin out of the hospital, and the pushing of the van as a family.
Four protective mechanisms associated with resilience include reducing the impact of risk by helping individual cope better, reducing negative chain reactions associated with risk, establishing and maintaining self-efficacy and self-esteem, and creating opportunity for individuals for maximizing potential (Ungar, 2010, p. 423). Olive’s family aims at reducing her risk by helping her cope with stressors and pressures brought forth by the beauty pageant. Her family’s cohesive efforts on the stage at the end of the movie demonstrate their competence to reduce her feelings of helplessness.
Olive’s mother aims at reducing the negative chain reaction associated with traumatic life events by fostering support and positive reinforcements amongst all family members. Olive is given the opportunity to achieve maximum potential through goal setting. She sets a goal, and is guided towards achieving the goal through resilient efforts despite stressful events that could hinder the goal’s achievement. A multistressed family such at The Hoovers would benefit from therapeutic interventions. All family members should participate so that risks and vulnerability can be lowered by strengthening each familial relationship (Froma, 2006).
Olive’s mother would likely be the most willing participant, while her brother would be the least willing. The ultimate therapeutic goal is to enable family members to regain control of their lives and believe in their self-confidence and worth (Froma, 2006, p. 276). Olive is a leader in her family, having already developed a strong sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem. Her individual resilience will guide her family towards strengthening their own resilience and eventually their familial relationship. Critical analysis of Family Resilience
Olive Hoover is an extremely resilient young girl, overcoming obstacles such as death, emotional distress, and societal challenges to participate in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Cohesion, communication, and resource availability are some of the protective factors that foster resilience. While these are currently evident for Olive as she achieves her goals, this theory is short-lived. Olive will return back home after the pageant having lost her grandfather, with Dwayne’s realization that he cannot attend the Air Force Academy, and with her father’s knowledge that his nine steps program failed to commence.
The family resilience will diminish, and without therapeutic intervention, perhaps Olive’s own resilience will diminish. Olive’s family will be facing new emotions and weaknesses upon their return home, and may not have the strong cohesion it had during the adventure. There is a major criticism of resilient families who don’t achieve adversity. There are emotional and economical costs and disadvantages to achieving adversity, such as economical and emotional (Lemay, 2004). Olive will experience these stressors. Olive faces rejection at the pageant after being asked to leave and never return.
She achieves short term adversity by reaching her goals, but this theory fails to explain the long-term effects to Olive emotionally and psychosocially. Application of Ego Psychology The ego develops as part of our conscious mind and preconscious mind, using experiences from the preconscious mind to distinguish reality (Robbins, Chatterjee, and Canda, 2012). Contrary to the id, the ego aims at rationalizing, problem solving, and delaying pleasure, comparable to what one may call “common sense. ” Ego psychologists focused on the ego as the main psychic agent and how the mind accomplishes tasks (Berzoff, 2010, p. 0). Ego psychology also focuses on how the mind develops it processes versus how it interacts with the social world. The main goal of the ego is to maintain homeostasis. The ego achieves this goal by performing various ego functions that allow people to function in the world in an organized manner. One example of an ego function is reality testing, which is the individual’s capacity to understand and accept both physical and social reality within their culture (Berzoff, 2010). Olive is able to manage this function effectively, although given her age it is not her biggest strength.
Olive’s mother forces her to learn of her uncle’s suicide attempt. Olive distinguishes her own fears of suicide versus the actual event itself. Olive also distinguishes her own belief of a relationship versus a reality of homosexuality. She has difficulty with this evidenced by calling Frank’s homosexuality “silly. ” Another ego function is judgment, reaching an appropriate conclusion on what is or isn’t acceptable behavior (Berzoff, 2010). Olive possesses good judgment skills, evidenced by her ability to not repeat unacceptable social behaviors exhibited by her family.
Olive’s strongest ego function is self-esteem regulation, in which she can maintain a strong positive self-regard despite facing stressful external frustrating event (Berzoff, 2010). In our society, where beauty and weight are highly publicized and often criticized in children, Olive faces a challenge. Not only does she remain resilient, she is oblivious to the audience’s reaction to her performance, merely just wanting her turn in the spotlight. When the ego feels threatened, it forms defense mechanisms so that the feelings are repressed into the unconscious mind.
Olive often uses denial as a defense mechanism as a refusal of accepting reality. Prior to Olive performing on stage, her family has one last ditch effort at trying to dissuade her from performing in the pageant. They are seen discussing her lack of physical talent and physical beauty as compared to the other girls. Olive hears this evidenced by her facial expression, and ultimately denies the existence of the truth. Olive is also in denial societal norms, evidenced by her false sense of security when questioned if she thought she could win the pageant.
Olive exhibits regression as a response to stress. Olive’s grandfather passes away while they are travelling. While at the hospital, Olive is seen reading pamphlets and attempting to engage in play and conversation with various family members. She does not react when her mother begins to explain death. Once Olive grasps her grandfather’s passing, she becomes tearful and immediately hugs her mother, a behavior she had to be prompted to do moments before. Lastly, Olive exhibits reaction formation. Olive’s relationship strengthened with her grandfather throughout her journey.
Olive’s dedication to her grandfather at her performance combined with the aforementioned behavior at the hospital indicates her reaction formation to underlying feelings of depression. Erik Erikson viewed ego development as a mastery of developments within various tasks and crises (Goldstein, 1995). In order to maintain a positive image of one self, Erickson argued that one must master each stage of development. Each stage is considered an adaptation to the challenges, emotions, opportunities, and resources of the social and cultural environment (Goldstein, 1995).
Stage one is basic trust versus mistrust, and occurs from infancy through eighteen months of age (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2010). Trust is developed through the nurturing and accepting environment that Olive belongs to. Olive has indeed mastered this stage as she is very trusting of each member of her extended family, whom she is able to depend on for her basic needs. Stage two is autonomy versus shame and doubt, which occurs from eighteen months through three years of age (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2010). Olive is extremely independent and has a strong sense of self-worth, showcasing her mastery of this stage.
Olive is seen in every scene wearing the color red, a symbol of power. Olive describes to her family and even Miss America her perceived notion that she can win the competition, despite her physical and social disadvantage. Stage three is initiative versus guilt, occurring from age three to age six (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2010). Children at this age are physically active, have active imaginations, and enjoy exploration (Zastrow and Kirst Ashman, 2010). Olive’s bedroom is filled with toys that foster exploration, including an easel, a vanity case, and stuffed animals.
Olive’s family encourages use of her imagination through dance, play, and music. Lastly, Olive remains continues to develop through stage four, industry versus inferiority. A major even in this stage is school, and while we don’t see her academic achievements, Olive has already shown positive signs of development through productivity and success (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2010). Critical Analysis of Ego Psychology Anna Freud believed that defense mechanisms emerged at different developmental stages (Tallandini and Caudek, 2010). Olive is only seven years old, so her ego has not fully developed its defense mechanisms.
The primitive defenses include denial, regression, acting out, and sublimation. This theory fails to explain how other defense mechanisms could describe Olive, simply because her underdeveloped ego is not capable of performing this function. Additionally, Olive’s age relates to her level of moral and cognitive functioning. At age seven, Olive does the “right” thing to receive a reward, and alternatively does what she is told to avoid consequences. Olive is told by her mother to come upstairs for dinner, and she does so without question to avoid consequences.
Olive’s morals are not completely developed. Therefore, Olive’s ego functions such as judgment and reality testing are underdeveloped and are functioning at an elementary level. Lastly, cultural factors are ignored when discussing ego psychology. Olive’s overexposure to mature conversations is her mother’s sociocultural belief. She believes Olive should be exposed to these as a learning and developmental tool. While a therapist may not agree that Olive cannot handle this based on her level of maturity, her sociocultural influences from her family will continue to shape her development.
Application of Social Cognitive Theory Social cognitive theory emphasizes that” learning is not a model of behavior or conditioning, but knowledge through cognitive process of information” (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2010, p. 356). Simply, people learn from one another through modeling but also through observation and cultural assimilation. There are four elements associated with social learning: attention, retention, production, and motivation. Children have to gain the ability to pay attention to what’s important, be able to screen out what is not, and be able to retain the information learned.
Biological development plays a role in retention; how a child’s motor skills and language skills are developed determines their ability to retain information. Olive shows her ability to succeed in these two elements through her dance routine. She practices her routine and performs flawlessly. Her body language and facial expressions indicate her level of comfort and knowledge while performing. Production involves the act of completing the learned behavior, and motivation is needed to maintain efforts of learned processes (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2010).
The reward of finishing the routine and hopefully winning is not what produces motivation; rather, it’s the cognitive understanding of feelings of rejection that predict Olive’s behavior. Albert Bandura and Richard Walters found that children are most likely to imitate models whom they regard as “prestigious, receive social recognition, monetary awards, and are the same gender” (Zastrow and Kirst Ashman, 2010, p. 356). Olive’s role model is Miss California, whom she imitates by learning her reactions to winning the crowd.
Miss California becomes Olive’s motivation for winning the pageant, which is reinforced when Olive meets her in person. Self-efficacy has a strong role in behavior regulation. Children who are self-efficacious are more likely to persevere in the face of controversy and hardship, given their high levels of self-esteem. Olive is a prime example of a self-efficacious child, facing economic and social hardship, yet continuing to achieve her goal of competing in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Children like Olive set goals and standards, and positively reward themselves when these are achieved.
Culture, which can include ones values and beliefs but also their family and social environment, shapes human behavior (Chavis, 2012). Olive’s family dynamic is exhibited by their dinner table discussion. They promote Dwayne’s identity confusion and silence, they raise their voices and argue frequently, and have little boundaries near impressionable Olive. Her grandfather is the biggest culprit Olive is observing these behaviors directly, however her ability to filter out what is and isn’t important is evident as we never see Olive act out.
Random events can affect a person’s course and development. Bandura stressed that even though Olive may be self-efficacious, detrimental life events can alter a person’s frame of thinking and determine their life path (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2010). Olive’s journey to the competition has various detrimental events, such as the van’s breakdown, her grandfather’s death, and Dwayne’s emotional breakdown. Olive, with the help of her father, is able to remain motivated and dedicated to achieving her goals. This will assist her as she develops further in life while facing adverse events.
Criticism of Social Cognitive Theory Social Cognitive theory focuses on how behaviors are observed and learned within a social environment. It fails to identify gender-role socialization. Boys and girls are treated differently by their parents. Boys are discouraged from emotional expression and are encouraged to engage in active behavior (Zastrow and Zirst-Ashman, 2010). Dwayne exhibits lack of emotion at the encouragement of his parents. Environmental processes can shape the way an individual acts, regardless of learned behaviors.
Children model behavior from what is perceived in their culture. This includes a child’s school. We do not observe Olive in her learning environment. We are not aware of The Hoover’s religious beliefs and cultural values related to ethnicity. This theory fails to fully capture how Olive’s entire sociocultural environment shapes her behaviors, and remains one-dimensional, only focusing on her family. Lastly, social cognitive theory does not take into account Olive’s individual characteristics for behaviors. This theory fails to capitalize on Olive’s personality traits.
Olive is affectionate, fun-loving, and energetic, traits that are associated with her psychological development. This theory assumes behaviors are learned, when in fact Olive is already an optimistic child. Application of Strengths Perspective The strengths perspective focuses on the knowledge, abilities, motivation, and resources of an individual that can help to empower them towards positive change (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2010). Stressed individuals such as Olive Hoover find it easy to describe the problems and challenges they face.
However, it’s capitalizing on Olive’s strengths that will provide guidance on how to address her challenges. There are four principles involved with strengths perspective that Olive can utilize to maximize her potential. First, Olive must recognize that she has strengths, in addition to comprehending the strengths of her family and community. Olive’s individual strengths include her self-esteem, sense of worth, independence, determination, and motivation. Olive’s family strengths include their strong bond with one another, their respect for each other, and their pride as a family.
The pushing of the van is a metaphor for their strong cohesiveness as one unit despite adversities and differences. Olive’s group strengths include her school. Although we don’t see her performance, her strength in childhood development exhibits the positive influence that group strengths have for her. Olive encounters much strength throughout her journey through various communities. She receives helping support from the auto repair man, from the bereavement counselor at the hospital, and through the gentleman who offers to assist her after they arrived untimely at the Little Miss Sunshine pageant.
Additionally, traumatic events and personal struggle can be self-defecating, but can be a source of challenge, motivation, and opportunity (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman, 2010). The Hoover’s economic hardship provides a source of struggle for Olive as they cannot afford to take her to the pageant. However, Olive’s individual strength of motivation influenced her father to devise an alternative plan. Olive’s grandfather’s death provided her with motivation to continue achieving her goal of competing in the talent show. Another principle is appreciating the strengths we have, and take aspirations seriously.
Olive’s enthusiasm to compete was assimilated by her family, who took her aspirations seriously. Olive is the driving force of the cohesive bond held together by her family. Lastly, resources are sources of strength. Olive’s resources include her extended family, her peers, and Miss America, who is a role model for Olive. We are not aware of Olive’s relationship with community resources or organizational resources. Olive maximizes her growth and potential utilizing the strengths perspective. She has the motivation towards achieving a goal that she set herself, instead of family member or therapist (MacFarlane, 2006).
She has the self-determination to challenge societal norms regarding who should compete in a beauty pageant. Olive receives positive affirmations and support from her social systems, a key to strengths perspective. Olive’s perseverance to perform in the pageant, combined with the determination of her family to guide her towards success, proves fundamental to effectively strengthening her resilience, self-esteem, and sense of worth and belonging (MacFarlane, 2006). Critical analysis of Strengths Perspective Olive Hoover is resilient, enthusiastic, and has strong motivation.
However, Olive lacks community resources to continue fostering her strengths. They are not members of a church, and we do not see Olive interact with her peers, play groups, or community organizations. In conclusion, Olive lacks group and community strength, in addition to resources. Olive also lacks membership within her community, remaining isolative in her home. While her bond with her family is strengthened, she would benefit from therapy to strengthen her community bond. This places Olive at a disadvantage at fully thriving, despite her exuberant strength in other areas of strength perspective.
The focus on notions of self-efficiency and self-responsibility fails to recognize the structural inequalities in society that can have impact on personal and social development (Scerra, 2006). Olive’s family faces economic hardship; her mother is often working and her father is now unemployed. This can have an impact on Olive’s development, as they may not have the funds to place Olive in community programs where she could interact with her peers. Also, this would impact Olive’s ability to receive therapeutic services that would guide her in prospering from a strengths perspective.
Lastly, part of maximizing strengths is focusing on family support. While we see family support in Olive’s journey, this theory describes environmental modification as an effective road to resilience and strength. Family members need to be willing to adapt to change. Family members must also be willing to adapt their own negative personalities to that of strength and resilience as to provide a positive environment for Olive to grow. Given her father’s recent loss of employment and his own father, her mother’s overstressed nature, and her brother and uncle’s depressive symptoms, it is unlikely they will be able or willing to adapt to change.
Olive will need to focus on other aspects of the strengths perspective. Conclusion Olive Hoover exhibits continual strength, resilience, power, independence, and perseverance. She is able to overcome adversity to achieve her goals. Her dysfunctional family provides a support system for her. Olive continues to develop in a positive direction, and would benefit from therapeutic services to maximize her strengths and foster community involvement.