Adversity is one of the many factors in life that everybody faces at one point or another. The mere idea of misfortune to most is unpleasant however, adversity plays a significant role in shaping one’s identity, personal morals and influences our decision making. In the film “Little Miss Sunshine” Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Farris convey how hardships mold an individual’s identity through the character Richard; like every individual he faces challenges that pave the way to who he later becomes and how well he deals with struggles in the future. Initially Richard, an aspiring motivational speaker is portrayed as a stubborn, arrogant, and narrow-minded person who is obsessed with the concept of “winners and losers”, living solely on said philosophy. He believes his “Nine-Step Program” is the way to lead on every single decision to guarantee “success”. This shows Richards ignorance to the concept of adversity, since he believes one should not fail. Ironically, Richard fails to acknowledge or understand how an individual can show traits of both a winner and a loser, and not just either one of the “two kinds of people in this world”.
In the beginning Richard displays issues of selfishness which causes conflict to arise within his family; it is apparent to see his selfishness when he rapidly listens to the family voicemail machine recordings and ignores anything that is not relevant to him. It is also depicted through his argument with his wife Sheryl, about refusing the idea of letting Frank, stay with them suggesting if he can stay someplace else as she unbelievably says to Richard “he has no where else to go”. Even when Sheryl tells Richard that Frank has arrived his initial response is “Oh god” then, moves on to talking about himself. These scenes further demonstrate how Richard only shows concern for himself and, isn’t willing to prioritize his family over his own personal interests. The dinner scene is a key scene in the beginning part of the film that showcases his persona; the scene captures Richard’s true beliefs and, displays his narrow-mindedness on controversial issues. Such as, Frank’s suicide attempt where he describes Frank as “sick in the head” to his naïve daughter Olive explaining how Frank “gave up on himself” claiming that something that winners “never” do. The scene also further emphasizes Richard’s family ideals when he is sarcastic and cold to his family members such as Dwayne showing, how they do not get along when he states “it may not be my dream, may not be yours” regarding Dwayne’s passion for flight school in which he reacts in a pissed off look showing the tension between the two. Once again Richard’s fixation on winners and losers is brought up when he tells Frank that “Luck is the name losers give to their own failings” after Frank wished Olive good luck in her competition.
Therefore, when Olive gets into the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, Richard’s selfish nature shines through when he complains to Sheryl “Why can’t Jeff and Cindy take her?” then after bickering he turns to Olive and says “Look, there’s no sense in entering a contest if you don’t think you’re gonna win.” This shows how Richard is unwilling to take his daughter to California since he must be certain that Olive can win for them to go. Once on the road conflict first arrives when the family is at a diner. Firstly, Richards strong beliefs reinforced when he communicates to Olive that apologizing is a “sign of weakness”. Secondly, Frank simply, translates the term “alamodey” to Olive from its Latin origin, this makes Richard feel inferior to Frank after witnessing the family’s amusement to his statement where he barks at Frank to just “shut up”. Lastly, when the slightly chubby Olive orders waffles and ice-cream for breakfast, Richard’s fixation with winning pushes onto the others is seen again when he attempts to manipulate innocent Olive into not eating her ice-cream.
Richard questions Olive if the women in Miss America are “fat or skinny?” after telling her how the ice-cream turns into fat implying that Olive herself will too become fat and will no longer be able to compete. He scares Olive with something she is passionate about, to get his way which in result angers the rest of the family who immediately comfort her by eating the ice-cream with her; this scene enforces Richard’s isolation from the group. It is later seen that the family has begun to get fed up with Richard, when him and Sheryl argue, and she says, “I never want to hear about the nine steps again”. His actions take a toll on the family, especially Olive when she cries to grandpa that she doesn’t want to be a loser since Richard “hates losers”.