Systemic Approach in the Film Little Miss Sunshine

Check out more papers on Drama Movie Review Movies

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. 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. Olive's heartfelt excitement leads the family into thinking of a way to make it possible to get to California without much money or Franks and Dwaine's desire to go. Frank is not allowed to be left alone and Dwayne has no interest in spending time with his family, which he made clear to Frank at the beginning of the film.

Throughout the road trip the family goes through many setbacks. Their van experiences mechanical problems,Richard finds out his motivational business is not going to go through, soon followed by the death of Edwin after a heroin overdose and ending with Dwain finding out he is color blind and will never be able to achieve his goal of being a test pilot. All of these events are witnessed in a short amount of time and the characters go through their own climax every time.

In the climax of the film, the Hoovers are desperately trying to make it on time to the Little Miss Sunshine contest. They arrive four minutes late and are told by the pageant's director that it will not be possible for Olive to sign up. Richard gets on his knees and begs the director to make an exception which she refuses but a sympathetic staff member offers to register Olive. Olive prepares for the pageant, quickly noticing that she does not look like her well dressed and made up competitors.

As Olive is ready to hit the stage, Dwayne cannot stay put and let her sister be humiliated by her well prepared competitors so he runs backstage and begs his mom not to let her perform. Sheryl insists that Olive would be devastated if she does not go through with her performance and does not insist that she gives up saying, ""Let Olive be Olive"". Olive goes on stage and dedicates her dance routine to her Grandpa Edwin, adding that he had helped her choreograph the routine. The song ""Super Freak"" starts playing and Olive'sunappropriated routine upsets the audience and most of all the programs director, leading her to try to get Olive off stage. The Hoover family steps in joining her onstage and even dance along and showing support.

The Film ends with the Hoovers outside the hotels security office being told that they are never to come back or enter another beauty pageant in the state of California. The family is seen getting in their van once again with a new dynamic between them. Having bonded through their obstacles and finding support from each other's love.

Systemic Analysis

Circular Causality vs Cause and Effect

To understand Circular Causality it is important to know what exactly a system is. Hansen (1995) explains that a system can be defined as any two or more parts that are related, where if there is change in one part, the rest gets affected. Therefor any verbal or nonverbal communication by one member causes a reaction and vice versa. This leads to the understanding that cause and effect is circular and not linear, many times becoming patterns in a system. Richards view that winning is all that counts has affected many of the other members in the family system, especially the children.

Richards's mantra since the start of the film is being winners and not losers. In the opening scene, you can see Richard giving a motivational speech, where he says, ""Deep inside you are a winner waiting to be released.""() The scene quickly shifts to Olive where she is seen watching a beauty queen winning her crown and waiving at the camera. In the following scene, when Olive is begging her parents to take her to compete in Little Miss Sunshine, Richards asks Olive ""Are you going to win?!"" and Olive answers ""Yes!"" Olive will go on a desperate attempt to win the contest, thinking that if she doesn't she is a ""looser"". Olive's central theme has become being a winner even if she is being set up for failure.

Dwayen reaction to his step-father's perception of winningwas deciding to stop talking until he reaches his goal. Richard sees this aspect of Dwayne as him having ""tremendous discipline"" even if it involves him completely shutting off and making the rest of the family uncomfortable.

Open vs Closed System and Subsystems

The amount of information a system accepts defines its boundaries. It is labeled either closed or open depending on the amount of input it allows in. All systems are open systems, however a closed system is defined as one where there would be less room for change, and less flow of information into the system. A system that becomes too rigid does not allow for flexibility to ""effectively process information from its environment,"" (Becvar & Becvar, 1999, p. 15). At the same time, a family system that is too open will lose its cohesion due to lack of clearly defined rules. The Hoovers might have struggled to keep its system closed due to the arrival of Edwin and soon after Frank. These additions tested the already chaotic systems, causing it to loose cohesion and disturb its homeostasis.

Many subsystems usually exist within a system and their boundaries become defined as well. During the conflicting dinner scene franks asks Dwayne if the family is ""always like this"" and follows on to ask, ""how can you stand this?!"" In this moment it is apparent that Dwayne and Frank have bonded by being the outsiders of the system and throughout the movie create a bond between them.

First Order Change versus Second Order Change, Positive and negative feedback

Becvar and Becvar () explain the difference between first order change and second order change is mainly if the rules of the system remain the same or change. If the rules of the system change it creates a change in the system itself.

Throughput the film you witness the Hoovers relate towards each other in a way that always ends up becoming a screaming match, especially when it comes to Sheryl and Richard. Their efforts to get their perspective across or defend their point of view gets them to become defensive and irate. In a scene where Richard finds out that he has not been successful in closing his Motivational Speaker Deal, Sheryl immediately claims him for not accomplishing his goal and leaving the family in an economic situation. Richard reacts by screaming back and causes anxiety in the entire family. These patterns are often repeated throughout the film and have caused many problems inside the system.

Bowen Eight Main Concepts

There are several key Bowenian concepts that were relevant in this movie. Murray Bowen believed that the more differentiationofself-there is, the more an individual can remain emotionally connected to the system, while remaining autonomous. Bowen argued that ""the lower the level of differentiation or ""basic self"" in the spouses, the more difficult it is to maintain reasonable emotional equilibrium and the more chronic the disability when adaptive mechanisms fail,"" (Bowen, 1978, p.473). Darwin need to stop verbally communicating with his family illustrates his inability to differentiate successfully.

  1. The essential acknowledgement mistake is the feeling to overestimate the outstanding factor of air and think little of the importance of a situational factor. This is acted in Little Miss Sunshine on the Hoovers' approach to California when another auto cut Richard off. He was furious and called the other auto driver names as though the other driver had an inconsiderate and unpleasant identity or nature. Nonetheless, the other driver may have cut him off in light of the fact that he was having a seizure or heart assault, for instance (Hanson, 1995 p.156).
  2. In social brain research, segregation refers to a baseless conduct in contradiction of a person or people. This is appeared in the movie at the time when the Hoovers were relaxing at the cafe. The father was judgmental of Olive taking frozen yoghurt since he said that it will transform her to be fat and that models and show victors and other 'thin' individuals do no dine dessert (Hanson, 1995 p.126). This is segregation on the grounds that numerous 'thin' individuals and event victors do in certainty eat frozen yoghurt, making his conduct unjustified towards the gathering of 'thin' individuals.
  3. As indicated by the Young-Helmholtz shading hypothesis, there are three receptors in the retina which see shading. One is blue, one is green and the other is red. Blends of these three hues can create fundamentally any shading in the range. In Little Miss Sunshine, Dwayne discovers that he is partially blind. This implies at least one of his the three receptors are not working appropriately. This impedes his capacity to see certain hues (Hanson, 1995 p.178).
  4. A superordinate objective requires at least two restricting sides to meet up to progress in the direction of accomplishing a shared objective. All the while, superordinate objectives separate obstructions and help to defeat contrasts. For this situation, there were a few restricting sides in the Hoover household in the beginning of the gesture image. Dwayne loathed his whole household, Sheryl and Richard contended frequently, Richard did not get along with Frank, and now and again he and the granddad did not get along. Getting to California for olive`s exhibition was a common goal for them and the latter expected them to cooperate. For instance, after the apartheid of the auto, the most effective way to make them keep moving once more was to try giving it a push. Richard was expected to be seated in the driver's seat, the granddad would be in the auto, and whatever remains of them avail themselves for a push. Toward the finish of the motion picture, Dwayne began to converse with his family once more, there was a superior relationship between Richard and Sheryl whereas another stronger relationship existed between Richard and Frank (Mills, 2016, p.97).
  5. Depressants are psychoactive medications that lessen the movement of the focal sensory system and initiate unwinding. Courageous woman is sedative. The granddad was a heroine fanatic and really wound up kicking the bucket from an overconsumption (Mills, 2016, p.117).
  6. Norepinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter that is discharged amid push initiated circumstances. It gives the body additional vitality amid these circumstances, known as the flight or battle reaction. It moderates assimilation, produces sweating, expands the heart rate, widens the understudies, causes readiness and invigorates the thoughtful sensory system. In Little Miss Sunshine, the Hoovers' thoughtful sensory systems were animated by norepinephrine when they were endeavoring to make the enrollment on time. Everybody was running and racing to the building. They were all exceptionally ready, sweating, and had an expanded heart rate under the upsetting circumstance of not knowing regardless of whether they would have the capacity to make the enlistment (Mills, 2016, p.132).
  7. Practice is the cognizant reiteration of data to either keep up data in here and now memory or to encode it for capacity into long haul memory. In the film, Olive practices for the event by tuning in to her move music in transit there and by rehearsing the move moves with her granddad (Mills, 2016, p.146).
  8. Interior locus of regulator is the trust that one is accountable for what emerges through their own personal actions. The latter appears in Richard's 9 stages to progress. His means not to incorporate concession, which is a personal application and conduct. Additionally, he trusts that on the off chance that you trust that you can prosper, at that point you will prosper. He advises this to Olive before they leave for California. He believes that she is accountable for what transpires to her, irrespective of whether she triumphs the show or not (Becvar & Becvar, 1999, p.135).
  9. Similarity is the point at which you change a conduct or state of mind to fit into a specific gathering of individuals. In this motion picture, Richard tries to acclimate others into complying with his 9 stages. He's endeavoring to change 'failure' dispositions into 'champ' mentalities. At whatever point he sees something that 'failures' would do, he calls attention to out and clarifies how a 'champ' would do it. For instance, when Frank utilized a mocking tone with him in the auto, Richard said that that was an indication of shortcoming. In this illustration Richard was endeavoring to change Frank's mocking state of mind and conduct to influence it to fit into the specific gathering of champs (Becvar & Becvar, 1999, p.165).
  10. Kohlberg's post-traditional profound quality is when individuals come to comprehend that ethical standards incorporate rule that apply over all circumstances and social orders. This was demonstrated when the Hoovers' legal counselor/lawyer would not give them a chance to keep the body in the doctor's facility. She didn't state no on the grounds that she needed to maintain a strategic distance from a discipline/get a reward, which is Kohlberg's first level of ethical quality. She didn't state no in light of the fact that 'those are the standards', which is Kohlberg's second level of ethical quality (Faris, 2012, p.175). She said no in light of the fact that other individuals had likewise lost a friend or family member and it was out of line and egotistical of them to approach the doctor's facility to suit for them. This is demonstrating the legal counselor's comprehension of all-inclusive standards.
  11. Erik Erikson's psychosocial phases of improvement are an arrangement of stages that clarify critical phases of social advancement that compare to a specific age. For a long time 6-11, the fundamental clash is industry versus mediocrity. Children require to familiarize to new social and intellectual appeals.

Attainment stimulates a sensation of competence, while dissatisfaction brings about feelings of mediocrity. In the motion picture, this can be appeared by Olive. She was looked with the social request of having the capacity to win the magnificence show. When she believed that she must be more slender with a specific end goal to do this, she felt second rate and unsure. Be that as it may, subsequent to shaking the phase with her family, she felt fruitful in light of the fact that she made a decent showing with regards to, despite the fact that she didn't win. It was sufficient for her (Faris, 2012, p.154). For a long time 12-18, the principle strife is character versus part disarray. Teenagers need to develop a sentiment self and individual character. Accomplishment prompts an ability to stay predictable with yourself, while dissatisfaction stimulates portion puzzlement and a fragile sentimentality self. In Little Miss Sunshine, Dwayne is a better than average instance of this. When he understands that he should be an air pilot, he felt in regulate himself. He understood what he should have been and he felt that he was steady with that.

In the wake of discovering that he was partially blind, Dwayne turned out to be exceptionally vexed and upset and appeared to be somewhat lost. He wasn't exceptionally glad at all and appeared to be extremely anxious as on the off chance that he didn't know who he might have been. Be that as it may, in the wake of talking with Frank, he concluded that he would be an air pilot in any case. He appeared to be more grounded and in charge after that discussion since he knew his identity once more. He felt fruitful, as it were. For a long time 19-40, the principle strife is connections. Young grown-ups are required to frame personal, affectionate relations with other people. Success stimulates solid networks, while displeasure brings about forlornness and detachment (Faris, 2012, p.154). Franks is a decent case of this. He neglected to frame a private and adoring association concerning the person he was obsessed of. This disappointment left him lonely and isolated, which is presumably the reason as to why he decided to obligate death. Subsequent to holding with the Hoover household, he shaped solid, private and adoring association with the relatives and thusly did not feel destroy or kept. He felt merry. Effort and parenting is the essential fight for quite a while 40-65. Grown-ups need to make or bolster things that will endure them, consistently by having children or rolling out a helpful improvement that points of interest different people.

Accomplishment prompts notions of comfort and accomplishment, while disillusionment realizes shallow incorporation on the planet. Richard is a nice instance of this. When Richard upheld his 9-step need to his course and they commended him, he left and got back to his home having a feeling of profitability, productivity and wrapped up. He was happy with himself and the work he was doing. Regardless, when his pro uncovered to him that his course of action did not offer, Richard felt like frustration and implied at isolation. He might not want to discuss anything with Sheryl, pounded the portal, and essentially expected to get pull out and about. For quite a while 65 and more settled, the major battle is the likeness on life.

More prepared grown-ups need to recall on lifecycle and sense a sentiment contentment (Hanson, 1995 p.187). Achievement at this stage stimulates moods of keenness, while frustration realizes mourn, seriousness and despondency (Mills, 2016, p.197). The granddad does not seem, by all accounts, tobe happy with his life. He is frantic, constantly breaking at Richard and utilizing the normal comments he was used to. At some point he uncovers to Dwayne that he mourns not setting down with sufficient women. In spite of the fact that that is most likely not by any means the only thing he laments throughout his life, it is a certain something regardless it demonstrates that he isn't fulfilled and content with his life. This lament and depression is likely why he grunted champion, which in the long run executed him. He needed to muffle the negative considerations.


Hanson, B.G. (1995) General Systems Theory: Beginning with wholes. Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis. (Chapter 2: Context).

Becvar, D.S., & Becvar, R.J. (1999). Systems theory and family therapy: A primer (2nd ed.).

Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc.

Mills, Tony. ""Little Miss Sunshine.""? Journal of Religion & Film11.1 (2016): 6.

Faris, Valerie.? Little Miss Sunshine. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment Deutschland, 2012.

Bowen, Rudy, et al. ""Predictors of suicidal thoughts: Mood instability versus neuroticism.""? Personality and Individual Differences? 51.8 (2011): 1034-1038.

Did you like this example?

Cite this page

Systemic Approach in the Film Little Miss Sunshine. (2018, Dec 15). Retrieved June 14, 2024 , from

Save time with Studydriver!

Get in touch with our top writers for a non-plagiarized essays written to satisfy your needs

Get custom essay

Stuck on ideas? Struggling with a concept?

A professional writer will make a clear, mistake-free paper for you!

Get help with your assignment
Leave your email and we will send a sample to you.
Stop wasting your time searching for samples!
You can find a skilled professional who can write any paper for you.
Get unique paper

I'm Amy :)

I can help you save hours on your homework. Let's start by finding a writer.

Find Writer