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Term Paper, 2018
8 Pages, Grade: 1,0
“Let Olive be Olive”! demands her mother Sheryl right before her performance from the rest of her family. And indeed, at first sight, Olive’s stage act seems to be an act of positive rebellion and empowerment for herself. Deliberately set as a stark and shocking contrast to the conforming performances of the other girl-contestants, the viewer is given the impression of Olive as being a self-governing and independent girl, acting out her own authentic self, out of her very own decision. But is this really the case?
Further investigation shows that Olive’s identity is predominantly shaped by the two most important men in her life: her grandfather and her father. Both males seem to play an instrumental role in Olive’s identity formation process. She strives to please them both and “is left to negotiate between their desires for how her body should look” (Happel 4). Happel and Esposito argue that in Little Miss Sunshine both, the father and the grandfather act as literal versions of the so called panoptical male connoisseur (cf. 4). Feminist researcher Sandra Lee Bartky contends that “[i]n contemporary patriarchal culture, a panoptical male connoisseur resides within the consciousness of most women: they stand perpetually before his gaze and under his judgment.” (72) Dolezal agrees that “Women in the patriarchal order, identify with men and learn to see themselves through their eyes.” (113) Furthermore, “[h]aving internalized the gaze of the (male) Other […] women begin to regulate themselves according to his standards” (Dolezal 113).
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