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Little Miss Übermensch

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Übermensch is the state of the pure individual, a person unencumbered by the influences and authorities of society and other people. This person wills their own destiny, creates their own values, and dances with the game of life to the tune of their own spirit. An authentic person who creates his or her own values.

A great way to understand Nietzsche's theory is, other than reading his books, watching Little Miss Sunshine.


Dwayne misunderstands Nietzsche
One of the main characters is shown reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche’s most popular book, where he described what would become one of his most memorable theories—that of the Übermensch or Superman. He wears a shirt that reads "Jesus was wrong". He hates everyone.
A common misconception, specially among teenagers, is that Nietzsche was a nihilist that thought that life was meaningless and that he rejected all moral and religious values.


Frank truly understands Nietzsche’s philosophy
Frank is sarcastic (like Nietzsche). He explains Nietzsche’s true philosophy to Dwayne through Proust, saying suffering made him who he was. It is then that Dwayne finally understands Nietzsche, he says “life is a beauty contest after another” and understands we should follow our passions and forget about the rest.


Metamorphoses in the film
In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche writes of three spiritual metamorphoses that must be undergone for the individual to reach the state of Superman.


The regular man, represented by Grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine, distracts itself from life, runs from difficulties. Looks back at his inauthentic life regretting that he didn’t pursue his passions.


Metamorphosis #1: The Camel (Richard)
The camel does not run from life or distract itself from it. It greets life head-on and embraces the difficulties that it presents out of a sense of duty. In doing so, the camel is humbled and strengthened. Only through suffering these challenges does the camel gain the strength and resilience necessary to attain the next spiritual metamorphosis. Richard sees Little Miss Sunshine as a difficulty that must be overcome.


Metamorphosis #2: The Lion (Frank, Dwayne)
Nietzsche goes on to describe how the camel ultimately enters “the loneliest desert” before becoming a lion. The lonely desert metaphor can be interpreted as follows: The camel has sought out and invited the struggles that life has to offer. In doing so, it has become alienated to a certain extent. It has become different from others and from the society that produced it; it finds itself questioning everything, both its worth and the value of its pursuits.


The desert can be seen as a place of existential crisis, where the camel ponders whether or not any universal laws or virtues exist to guide it and give it purpose.


When the camel discovers that universal truth and virtue may be non-existent, it has two choices: it can reject life as meaningless and probably commit suicide (Frank), or it can claim its own freedom and create its own meaning and virtue (Dwayne). To become Superman, the camel must obviously do the latter; it must ascend.


To do this, the camel must destroy the largest barrier to true freedom: the duty and virtue imposed by tradition and society. This is what Nietzsche’s great dragon represents. The camel had been a slave to the dragon, inviting life’s challenges but always living in accordance with the values imposed upon it from without. The dragon of “Thou Shalt” can also be seen as simply representing everyone who would try to tell one how to live one’s life.


The camel must reject this dragon of tradition and commands, but it cannot in its current, duty-loving form. Thus, it must become a lion. Its trials have allowed it to attain enough strength to become a lion. The lion symbolizes courage, tenacity, disillusionment, and even rage. Only in this state is the spirit able to deliver the sacred no. The sacred no represents the utter rejection of external control and all traditional values. Everything imposed by other individuals, society, churches, governments, families, and all forms of propaganda must be denied in an empowered roar.


That is not to say that the lion believes all virtues and values imposed by such entities to be evil or corrupt. Indeed, they could be useful and good. However, it is the fact that they come from an external authority that requires their rejection. An Superman is an absolute individual, and thus must create his own values on his own terms.


Dwayne and Frank see Little Miss Sunshine (and life itself) as meaningless. The only thing left of value for Dwayne in his life is his goal to become a pilot and when this last goal is crushed he enters into an existential crisis: the desert.


Metamorphosis #3: The Child (Olive)
After the lion has delivered the sacred no, the spirit still must make one more transformation to become Superman. The spirit must become a child.


The child elects to roll with life, dance and play with it.  For Nietzsche, pure creation arises from this state of play. When one can achieve a child-mind — a mind immersed in the moment and filled with wonder and playfulness — then one can will his own will, create his own virtue, and thus create his own reality. In undergoing this final metamorphosis, the spirit overcomes itself, conquers its world, and reaches the state of Superman. The spirit achieves liberation. Olive sees Little Miss Sunshine as play.


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