The Hunchback of Notre-dame.

Spoiler alert. 

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Source: Google Image

The very first time I was introduced to this tale was when I was still a young and naive kid, through the 1996 animated film of the same title by Disney. And like every other Disney films, The Hunchback of Notre-dame was a great ‘musical’, with a happy ending. The good surpassed the evil, always, without fail.

Flash forward years later, reading the novel by Victor Hugo made me realize that the tale is not as ‘happy’ as the film had depicted it to be. In fact, it is actually a tale of tragic romance, way more twisted than a kid could ever fathom.

The original tale from the book got readers latched on the characters and the story revolving around them, each in a different way. Of course, with the nature of books being more detailed even to the most intricate descriptions, reading is definitely more satisfying than watching the film adaptation. And yes, it’s definitely a great decision of mine to pick up the novel and reading it until the very last page, foreword and all.

Basically the whole tale was set in 1482, in medieval Paris under the reign of King Louis XI. The Hunchback of Notre-dame refers to, none other than the wretched and deaf bell-ringer named Quasimodo. The tale revolves around all the unique characters, from Quasimodo, Claude Frollo, Esmeralda, Phoebus, Pierre Gringoire, Jehan de Moulin, Clopin Troulilefou to King Louis XI. The original story line differs with that shown in the animated film, in terms of the character of Claude Frollo, the untold history of both Quasimodo and Esmeralda, the romance between Esmeralda and Phoebus and the most disturbing distinction of it all, the ending.

The 1996 animated film by Disney was considered to be the most ‘matured’ of all Disney films that have ever been made, and in reference to the book, I could not agree more.

Let’s delve deeper to some of the most direct themes of this classic French tale.

  1. Love

Love is most definitely the biggest theme and message behind The Hunchback of Notre-dame. Through the film, we can clearly see a romantic relationship between Esmeralda and Phoebus, not to mention an unrequited love on Quasimodo’s part.

However, the original tale offers a more complicated love story than that. It’s basically a tale of unrequited love between all of the characters. To put it simply, Claude Frollo loved Esmeralda but she despised him for his lecherous deeds. Quasimodo loved Esmeralda but she’s only emphatically nice to him to get to Phoebus. Esmeralda loved Phoebus but Phoebus was this good-looking asshole who just wanted to have what our modern society would call ‘one night stands’ with girls. So basically, everybody in this tragic tale was in love with Esmeralda, but she only had her eyes on the most undeserving and the only man who did not love her, Phoebus.

This actually proves the saying ‘We love the people we cant have’ and ‘Love is blind’ to be somewhat true.

Besides that, the novel exposed if not much, an adequate amount of humane characteristics to that of Claude Frollo, something that we cannot visibly see as it was altered on screen, which is love. Claude Frollo was initially introduced as a passionately loving man, who brought up his little brother, Jehan Frollo de Moulin all by himself, as they were sadly orphaned at a very young age. When Quasimodo was left at the doorsteps of Notre-dame, Claude Frollo was the only person who was emphatic enough to volunteer to ‘adopt’ and look after the poor wretched baby while everybody else shunned him.

“He threw himself, therefore, into the love for his little Jehan with the passion of a character already profound, ardent, concentrated; that poor frail creature, pretty, fair- haired, rosy, and curly,–that orphan with another orphan for his only support, touched him to the bottom of his heart; and grave thinker as he was, he set to meditating upon Jehan with an infinite compassion. He kept watch and ward over him as over something very fragile, and very worthy of care. He was more than a brother to the child; he became a mother to him.”

Unfortunately, as warmth and innocently beautiful love is, it could get menacingly lustful and ugly just as fast and just as much. It burns to the center of your heart and your whole being, and you get to choose to let it be a bright flame of respect, affection and tenderness or let the dark flame of lust, jealousy and desire burn it all to ashes. As for the archdeacon of Notre-dame, the love he had for Esmeralda, a mad and forbidden love he could not contain within his heart was, I believe, the main reason why the whole tale becomes a tragic one. Claude Frollo was the root cause of it all.

Besides the brotherly love between Claude Frollo and Jehan, readers can also spot a motherly love between Paquette la Chantefleurie and Esmeralda. Apparently, Esmeralda was not of Gypsy origin but a French one. She was however, brought up by some unknown Gypsy women, who had ‘kidnapped’ her from her French mother, Paquette, when she was only a baby, leaving Paquette in a devastated and near mad state, which eventually leads her to be a Gudule and lives inside the ‘rat hole’ accompanied by a symbol of both her consolation and despair, the only half of a pair of shoe, while the other half stored in the hands of her lost daughter, Esmeralda.

“But when the child is lost, these thousand images of joy, of charms, of tenderness, which throng around the little shoe, become so many horrible things. The pretty broidered shoe is no longer anything but an instrument of torture which eternally crushes the heart of the mother. It is always the same fibre which vibrates, the tenderest and most sensitive; but instead of an angel caressing it, it is a demon who is wrenching at it.”

2. Architecture

Victor Hugo did a spectacular job in describing the heavily influenced Gothic architecture of medieval Paris. The novel contains a whole chapter with intricate and challenging descriptions of the architecture, from block to block, which we can somewhat view through the animated film.

However, besides the beautiful descriptions of the buildings, chapel, churches and all, readers are also offered a notion through the chapter ‘This Will Kill That’.

Our lady readers will pardon us if we pause for a moment to seek what could have been the thought concealed beneath those enigmatic words of the archdeacon: “This will kill that. The book will kill the edifice.”

In this particular chapter, Claude Frollo notioned the words ‘this will kill that’ by referring to a book and a church. Through this chapter, readers are exposed to two school of thoughts. The first one being pondered upon in a religious way while the second being much more artistic.

When pondered in a priestly thought, it can be easily put that while the archdeacon was motioning from the book towards the church, he was highlighting that the press will somehow kill the church. The printing press may bring upon the power of revolution and of science and alchemy, which during the middle ages, was considered a taboo towards the miracle work of God.

“The invention of printing is the greatest event in history. It is the mother of revolution. It is the mode of expression of humanity which is totally renewed; it is human thought stripping off one form and donning another; it is the complete and definitive change of skin of that symbolical serpent which since the days of Adam has represented intelligence.”

The second school of thought is very much artistic. In the Christian era, the architecture was a book itself, a book of stone. Before the press existed, buildings was considered to be the  work of art, a defining symbol of things, of religion and of history. Hence, the words ‘this will kill that’ can also be defined as ‘the printing press will kill architecture.’

In its printed form, thought is more imperishable than ever; it is volatile, irresistible, indestructible. It is mingled with the air. In the days of architecture it made a mountain of itself, and took powerful possession of a century and a place. Now it converts itself into a flock of birds, scatters itself to the four winds, and occupies all points of air and space at once.

This chapter somehow proves the power of the printing press towards the late Middle Ages and is still applicable in the modern times as we watch written words reign supreme over everything else.

The book is seen as scattering birds while architecture, like a mountain. When the flood came, the mountain will be drowned as the birds will soar high and easily occupy the skies.

That is how powerful a book is.

3. Power.

Besides the power of love and books, the power of authority can be seen from the film as well as from the novel. Through the film, Claude Frollo was made to be the Minister of Justice in Paris, as opposed to being the archdeacon of Notre-dame in the novel. Despite being the Minister of Justice who should be withstanding justice, Claude Frollo was seen to be betraying his power to bring Esmeralda to the pillory to hang, while obliterating everyone in his way, including the innocents.

Another misuse of power of authority can be seen in the novel, through the character of King Louis XI. King Louis XI was portrayed to be an old and bitter monarch who desires gold and riches and spent them extravagantly for himself while ignoring the needs of others. He was also surrounded by ministers who are cunningly exploit his greediness for power and wealth.

“In truth! ‘Tis a paltry king in his ways with men of letters, and one who commits very barbarous cruelties. He is a sponge, to soak money raised from the people. His saving is like the spleen which swelleth with the leanness of all the other members. Hence complaints against the hardness of the times become murmurs against the prince. Under this gentle and pious sire, the gallows crack with the hung, the blocks rot with blood, the prisons burst like over full bellies. This king hath one hand which grasps, and one which hangs.”

From both the novel and the film, we are shown the power of sanctuaries. Basically, every city in France during the middle ages, up to the reign of Louis XII, had its place of asylum. These places can be in the form of palaces of kings, hotels of princes and churches. The criminals who seek refuge in these places are safe from punishments. However, once they step out of these sanctuaries, they will be immediately caught as the authority kept guard at the doors and watch intently for their preys to step out. Hence, as much as it is an asylum, sanctuaries were also considered a cage, a prison with no way out.

“His foot once within the asylum, the criminal was sacred; but he must beware of leaving it; one step outside the sanctuary, and he fell back into the flood. The wheel, the gibbet, the strappado, kept good guard around the place of refuge, and lay in watch incessantly for their prey, like sharks around a vessel. Hence, condemned men were to be seen whose hair had grown white in a cloister, on the steps of a palace, in the enclosure of an abbey, beneath the porch of a church; in this manner the asylum was a prison as much as any other.”

Notre-dame was one of the places of asylum, the place where Quasimodo brought Esmeralda to while yelling ‘Sanctuary!’, saving her from being hanged at the pillory.

4. Beauty.

Esmeralda was portrayed to be the beauty in this tale, whereas Quasimodo was the opposite. When Quasimodo decided to participate in the Feast of Fools, he was successfully crowned the Pope of Fools, fooling him into believing that the crowd actually liked him despite his ugliness and hunch-backed built.

“Or rather, his whole person was a grimace. A huge head, bristling with red hair; between his shoulders an enormous hump, a counterpart perceptible in front; a system of thighs and legs so strangely astray that they could touch each other only at the knees, and, viewed from the front, resembled the crescents of two scythes joined by the handles; large feet, monstrous hands; and, with all this deformity, an indescribable and redoubtable air of vigor, agility, and courage,–strange exception to the eternal rule which wills that force as well as beauty shall be the result of harmony. Such was the pope whom the fools had just chosen for themselves.”

However, being called a monster while watching things thrown at him by the same crowd who celebrated him betray his happiness and relief. Fortunately for him, Esmeralda came to his rescue by offering him some water and for that he fell in love with her and returned the favor when he saved her from the rope.

This tale highlights that beauty is nothing when you look at it appearance-wise. Beauty and ugliness radiates from within and the contains of one’s heart should be the basis of it all. Hence, being beautiful and good-looking does not render anyone a Saint, nor does being ugly render anyone a monster/Devil.

All in all, The Hunchback of Notre-dame spoke volumes about love and destiny, the power of written words and above all, the inevitability of fate. The tragic ending of the original tale may not be suitable to be adapted into an animated film by Disney but it was ‘real’ enough to be fathomed by grown-ups. In reality, honestly, life almost always never resembles a fairy-tale with a happy ending. Like The Hunchback of Notre-dame, life is somewhat similarly tragic and sad, where the powerful reigns supreme over the weak, beauty over ugliness, innocent love turns to jealousy and lust, unrequited love stories and yet somehow, fate surpasses them all and determines the ending.


Mary & Max (2009): Of Mental Illness and Friendship.

Image source:


I’ve been keeping this film in my head for review for months now. It had to be pushed back due to my hectic schedule at work and also me suffering from writer’s block. In lieu of our dearly beloved, the late Chester Bennington’s death, I suppose there’s no better time than now to write a review of one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever watched and that has ever been made. A film that exposes and highlights the relation of mental illness and an utterly amazing friendship between two innocent souls.

Mary and Max is an Australian one stop animated comedy-drama film, inspired by the Director’s (Adam Elliot) 20-year old friendship with his pen-friend from New York. The film lasts for around 1.35 hours, was told in third-person narration, depicting the life of an 8-year old Australian girl named Mary Daisy Dinkle as well as the life of a 44-year old New Yorker who is also a Jewish-turned-Atheist man named Max Jerry Horowitz.

Let’s look a wee bit further into the disturbing yet interesting life of both Mary and Max.

Mary is a spectacled child, born with a ‘poodle-coloured’ birthmark on her forehead and were often called names and bullied by her friends for it. Her small family consists of herself and her parents (Vera Dinkle & Norman Dinkle). Vera Dinkle is an alcoholic while Norman Dinkle is obsessed with dead birds. Basically, Mary is a lonely child with complicated parents who just don’t give a damn about her. Her only apparent companions were her agoraphobic neighbour, Len Hislop and a pet rooster she named Ethel.

Max was born a Jewish, but decided to turn himself into an Atheist after researching about God from countless of books. He is diabetic, loves eating chocolate hotdogs, lives alone in his apartment, have a pet cat he named Hal due to the fact that it suffered from Halitosis, some pet snails he named after famous scientists and a pet fish he named Henry IV (started from Henry I until the latest one, whoever lasts longest). He also has a blind neighbour called Ivy who cooks soup for him. Max attends his weekly ‘Overeaters Anonymous’ meetings and also regularly sees his psychiatrist, Dr Bernard Hazelhof.

The only interests that they both share are their love for The Noblets (a TV show) and chocolates. And both of them have no friends but each other.

The Significance of Mary & Max.

  1. Mental Illness.

The film highlights 3 sorts of mental illnesses, suffered by 3 of the characters.

-Max: As the film progresses, Max is exposed to suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome (or an illness he prefers to call Aspies). According to, affected children and adults have difficulty with social interactions and exhibit a restricted range of interests and/or repetitive behaviors. Compared with those affected by other forms of ASD, however, those with Asperger syndrome do not have significant delays or difficulties in language or cognitive development. Some even demonstrate precocious vocabulary – often in a highly specialized field of interest. Actually, from the start of the film itself, the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome can be clearly observed from Max’s behaviour and actions towards particular situations.

For instance, Max’s inability to understand the intent behind another person’s actions, words and behaviors. Max’s expresses his puzzlement on why people cut trees when they need oxygen etc. Max also does not instinctually respond to such “universal” nonverbal cues such as a smile, frown or “come here” motion, which can be seen from his inconvenience on Marjorie Butterworth’s flirtings towards himself. He was also exposed to have had the exact same problem ever since he was a kid. Asperger Syndrome are very often accompanied by unique gifts. Usually, those who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome have a remarkable ability of intense focus. Max’s ability to read two pages of a book at once (an eye for a page) is an example.

Max was however, is only diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he had a major breakdown and had to be submitted to a mental instituition, where he has to stay for 8 months, which halted his letters to Mary.

-Len Hislop: Mary’s neighbour is apparently an ex-army who services during the World War II, a crippled who got both his legs chewed off by piranhas when he was captured by the Japanese. Len suffers from agoraphobia, which means he has unnatural fear of places. Agoraphobics may fear that accidents might happen when they’re at particular places, and they tend to stay away from these places. Hence, in Len case, he’s afraid of leaving his own home due to the illness, and pays Mary to fetch his mail for him. Agoraphobia may be due to genetics or environmental factors. Len might got it due to the trauma of his capture during his service as the US army.

-Mary: As the story starts, Mary is introduced as a girl with low self-esteem, mainly due to her birthmark. She wishes that she can ‘just peel off the birthmark like a band-aid’. She has no friends in school as everyone laughs at her birthmark and the fact that she does not smile, although she fancies her neighbour, a stuttering guy called Damien Popodopoulos. However, her lack of confidence prevented her from befriending him. Fast forward as the story progresses, Mary after saving a sufficient amount of money, undergoes cosmetic surgery to ‘dispose’ off her birthmark. However, even after her physical enhancement, she was still unhappy as she realized that she was wrong about not accepting herself as she is. Her depression becomes serious as she tries to commit suicide by hanging herself in her own home.

  1. Friendship.

“God gave us our relatives: thank God we can choose our friends.”- Ethel Watts Mumford

The beautiful friendship between Mary and Max, started from being total strangers who lives thousands of miles away from each other. However, their friendship lasts for a very long time and it changes their lives and saves them from their own selves. They learn the good, bad and ugly about each other and accept each other for whoever they are. When nobody else wanted to be their companions, they were there for each other, in mutual understanding.

Quoting Max in his final letter,

When I received your book, the emotions inside my brain felt like they were in a trumble dryer, smashing into each other. The hurt felt like when i accidentally stapled my lips together, the reason I forgive you is because you are not perfect. You are imperfect, and so am I. All humans are imperfect, even the man outside my apartment who litters. When I was young, I wanted to be anybody but myself. Dr Bernard Hazelhof said I was on a desert island then I would have to get used to my own company, just me and the coconuts. He said I would have to accept myself, my warts and all, and that we don’t get to choose our warts. They are a part of us and we have to live with them, we can, however, choose our friends and I am glad I have chosen you. Dr Bernard also said, that everyone’s lives are like a very long sidewalk. Some are well paved, others, like mine, have cracks, banana skins and cigarette butts. Your sidewalk is like mine but probably not as many cracks. Hopefully, one day our sidewalks will meet and we can share a can of condensed milk. You are my best friend. You are my only friend.’

The Relationship between Mental Illness & Friendship

Having a strong support frame is crucial for those who suffers from mental illness. If it’s not your family, its your friends. If its not your friends, its your shrink.

Since Mary & Max focuses on the beauty of true friendship, it is safe to say that both Mary & Max has each other and they’re each other’s strength. The companionship and problems that they both share help them uplift their burdens. Max try to view Mary’s problems and solves them like he solves equations, and Mary just be herself, a friend.

When dealing with friends who suffers from mental illness, it is imperative to make them feel connected. Ignoring and belittling those who are in a depressed state might cause more harm than good. Be sure to make them feel happy and keep them in their most optimistic state to prevent them from inflicting further damage towards themselves. Encourage them to live and eat healthily, as Dr Bernard Hazelhof says, ‘A healthy body equals to a healthy mind.’ As mental illness is a disease of the mind, offers your friends to accompany them, to seek for professional help.

All in All

With the increasing number of suicide cases around the world, people should spread the awareness of mental illness. Everybody should know that depression does not necessarily means being sad, and being depressed is not equivalent to being weak.

Hence, it is crucial to treat everyone kindly as each and everyone of us is battling a demon within ourselves, a demon that we hide from the world. Listen to every possible cry for help, and help those who are in need to be saved. Don’t wait until it is too late. Countless of lives can be saved if only we choose to look and listen with our hearts. Society can make a difference.

We can make a difference.

This Is For You

If you’re reading this, and you have depression, I got you.

You are way stronger than you think you are. I believe in you and I love you. I’d have it written in the skies if I could.

Hold on. There are greater things in the world that you need to celebrate. Things get better, life gets better. Make sure you’re there to see it.

I hope this post reaches you in good health, or like Max would say it ‘gey gezunterheyt’.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006): On Nietzsche, Proust, Beauty Pageants & Family.

(Spoiler Alert)

Source: Big Beach

Little Miss Sunshine is a comedy-drama film, starring Academy Award, Golden Globe Award as well as Emmy Award nominees and winners, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Abigal Breslin and Alan Arkin. The film itself was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two: Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Alan Arkin.

The film depicts the imperfections and issues faced by an American family and focuses on their road journey from Albuquerque, New Mexico to California just so that the daughter could participate in a beauty contest called ‘Little Miss Sunshine’. Hence, the title.

Before we start with the message and lessons learnt from the film, let’s look at the main and only characters of each member of this small family. The family consists of the following:

  1. The Dad, Richard Hoover (played by Greg Kinnear), a self-proclaimed ‘life-coach’ who constantly and annoyingly pressed the family about ‘winners and losers’ and the 9 steps ’Refuse to Lose’ programme,
  2. The Mom, Sheryl Hoover (played by Toni Collette), an overworked mother who was a divorcee before marrying the Dad,
  3. The Uncle, Frank Ginsberg (played by Steve Carell), the Mom’s little brother, a gay, depressed and suicidal pre-eminent Proust Scholar in the US,
  4. The Brother, Dwayne Hoover (played by Paul Dano), a Nietszche-loving 16-year old young chap who desires to be a pilot and has taken a vow of silence until he achieve that particular dream,
  5. The Little Daughter, Olive Hoover (played by Abigail Breslin), a 7 year old chubby and spectacled little girl who yearns to become a beauty queen and participated in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest.
  6. The Grandpa, Edwin Hoover (played by Alan Arkin), the heroin-snorter grandfather who also couched the little daughter for her routine on the upcoming Little Miss Sunshine.

Their road journey started when Olive was eligible for the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest at Redondo Beach, California and the whole family was forced to travel in a yellow Volkswagen microbus, a journey they can barely afford, just to see her compete.

  1. The philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Friedrich Nietzsche was a famous German philosopher, with great, well-known and powerful works among which includes ‘The Will to Power’, ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ etc. Nietzsche was known for his criticisms of the traditional European morality and religion, and he was often associated with a group of late modern thinkers such as Marx and Freud.

In Little Miss Sunshine, the association of Nietzsche can be clearly seen on Dwayne Hoover’s character, who was a Nietzsche-loving teenager. Dwayne, played by Paul Dano, can be seen reading Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra in bed before he sleeps as well as along the journey to California and a large portrait of Nietzsche hanging at his bedroom wall. He can also be seen wearing a yellow shirt with bold black words ‘Jesus Was Wrong’ printed on it as well as another white shirt with an image of Nietzsche printed on it.

Source: Tumblr

The concept of philosophies by Nietzsche highlighted in the film was of Nihilism, Will to Power and Ubermensch.

Nihilism came from the Latin word ‘nihil’ which means nothing. It also appears in the verb ‘annihilate’ which means to destroy or bring to nothing. From Nietzsche’s point of view, nihilism is ‘not only the belief that everything deserves to perish; but one actually puts one’s shoulder to the plough; one destroys’ (Will To Power). In simpler words, nihilism is the belief of extreme pessismism and radical scepticism, whereby a nihilist believes in nothing, has no loyalties and no purpose except to destroy. Nihilism is often an opposition to moral and religious values as it is a belief that denies the existence of truth and God by denying the validity of those values and their binding obligations upon humanity.

Will to Power (der Wille zur Macht) is one of Nietzsche’s greatest works, focusing on the human will. Nietzsche believes that the will to power is stronger than the will to survive as can be observed with martyrs willing to die for a cause that they feel gives them greater power. It is also considered stronger than the will to sex, as can be witnessed with monks renouncing sex for a greater cause that they believe in ( Nietzsche highlighted that the will to power is more of an inward force of personal mastery rather than the mastery over others. In a much simpler word, the will to power reflects the power exerted by human in the struggles to quench their desires.

Ubermesnch translated to superhuman/overman, a phrase from Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The concept of Ubermensch according to Nietzsche would simply means the concept of willingness to risk everything for the sake of enhancement of humanity. In a much simpler word, overman is someone who has his own values with the capability to affect others, values independent of others and of herd instincts.

In relation to Little Miss Sunshine, Dwayne’s character has successfully, though not perfectly captures all the 3 concept of philosophies highlighted by Nietzsche.

The concept of nihilism can be seen with Dwayne’s confession of him hating everyone, saying that they were losers and that he did not want to be like them. His shirt with a print of ‘Jesus Was Wrong’ was an association to Nietzsche’s view of nihilism although he did misunderstood Nietzsche with the act of hating everyone when what Nietzsche really tried to convey was nihilism is actually an affirmation of an authentic life unbound by false values.

The concept of will to power and Ubermensch can be seen with Dwayne’s vow of silence in order to achieve his dream to become a pilot. In one of the conversation between Frank and Dwayne in the film, whereby Frank questioned, ‘You don’t speak because of Friedrich Nietzsche?’ was the portrayal of Dwayne’s will to power, which he have gotten from reading Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Having his dream crushed towards the ending of the film reflects Nietzsche’s concept of Ubermensch, where Dwayne realizes that the only thing that matters is his individual will and power to be what he wanted to be regardless of the view of others,

‘…And fuck the Air Force Academy, If I want to fly, I’ll find a way to fly. You do what you love, and fuck the rest.

2.  Marcel Proust.

Marcel Proust was a French novelist, one of the most influential in the 20th century, well-known for his views on pop culture. His best well-known work was a novel of seven volumes, called A la recherché du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) which he did not had a chance to complete before his death.

Basically, Proust’s In Search of Lost Time captures the sources of the meaning of life through the story of Proust himself, in his search for the purpose of life. The book was also an effort of Proust to help others, as his father, Adrien Proust did as one of the greatest doctors in France (

In Search of Lost Time explore social success as one of the sources for a meaningful life. As someone who was born in a great and well-known household, Proust thought that life will be meaningful if he could join the social circles of those higher in hierarchy but was soon disappointed to come to realization that most of those ‘high-class’ society was not as extraordinary but rather, boring, cruel and mean. Hence, Proust highlighted that virtues and vices are scattered throughout the population regardless of income and social hierarchy.

The second source towards a meaningful life, according to Proust, was love. He believed that with the promise of love, came an understanding from one lover to another, and for that lovers can never be alone.

The third and most relatable source of a meaningful life, was art. Proust differentiated art with habits, whereby habits dull our senses and ruined us with familiarity, preventing us from appreciating the beauty of even the smallest things in life. Artist, as stated by Proust, are people who stripped away habits by looking at the world generously at a wider spectrum.

In Search of Lost Time taught readers to appreciate life in every moment while they lasts, the good, bad and ugly. Those moments are the monumental proof of what life really means and feels like.

In relation to Little Miss Sunshine, an obvious character portrayal would be Frank Ginsberg, the pre-eminent Proust Scholar in the United States. The film starts with Frank confessing his failed suicide attempt to Olive, stating that he was very unhappy. According to him, the events unfolding towards him actually tried committing suicide was falling in love with his male grad student who did not love him back-that boy he was in love with fell in love with Larry Sugarman, who is the ‘second most highly regarded Proust Scholar in the US’-he was upset and said things he should not have said and done things he should not have done-he was kicked out of his job-he was forced out of his apartment and had to move in a motel-the MacArthur Foundation awarded a genius grant to Larry Sugarman. Frank easily relates to the French novelist, Marcel Proust, as in being gay and his unrequited love affair with a guy, not to mention that he is actually a Proust Scholar.

Source: Tumblr

In the words of Frank himself in a dialogue with Dwayne about wanting to sleep high school, Marcel Proust was a,

French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he’s also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh-…he gets down to the end of his life and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, those were the best years of his life because they made him who he was. All the years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn’t learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you’re 18, ah think of the suffering you’re gonna miss. I mean, high school? High school – those are your prime suffering years. You don’t get better suffering than that.

3. Beauty Contest.

Little Miss Sunshine in it’s infinite yet hidden wisdom, actually exposed us to the American beauty standards and how human beings, as young as six and seven year olds are not excepted from this standards through various beauty contests held.

Source: Tumblr

The opening of the film itself, showing Olive imitating a beauty queen from a television programme, reflects how the beauty standard set by society affects even those of younger age. Those age at which little girls should think of having fun and being happy and explore the world instead of diet pills, heavy adult-like makeup and staying skinny.

From the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest, it can be clearly seen that the young contestants were hyper-sexualised, competing with revealing swimwear and excessive doll-like makeup. Most contestants have the same facial features and body figure, fake tans and skinny bodies – the American beauty standard.

Which brought us to the scene when Richard and Dwayne, after witnessing those young contestants on stage and how they were heavily judged, decides to pull Olive out of it, worrying that people would laugh at her as she’s not ‘beauty queen material’. The idea was however, rejected by Sheryl, with her saying, ‘Olive is who she is. She has worked so hard. She has poured everything into this. We cant just take it away from her. We cant. I know you wanna protect her, I know honey. But we gotta let Olive be Olive.’

Eventually, Olive stayed to compete, in her own uniquely-ridiculous way. And that was one of the highlights of the film.

4. Family.

From the start to finish of the film, we are offered the views of a tense family on the verge of exploding. The issues of bankruptcy, stress and loss can be felt together throughout the whole story. However, each one of them was somehow overcame with the power of togetherness, family.

They might not be the perfect family. Each protagonist has his and her own problems to be dealt with. But having each others back helped them overcome each struggle that came their way.

For instance, their exceptional teamwork can be seen when dealing with the breakdown of the VW microbus. Despite their occasional lashings at each other, they still work together in order to get the van moving so that Olive can reach the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant on time. It can also be seen when Olive was almost threw off stage for her somehow ‘inappropriate’ dancing routine but the whole family came together to protect her and make her feel comfortable on stage.

Source: Tumblr

When it comes to the theme of love within the family, Dwayne was the character that portrays it the most despite the ‘i-hate-everyone’ demeanour he shows on the surface. When Olive was accidentally abandoned at the gas station, Dwayne was the only one who noticed her disappearance and alerted the other family members. He was also the one who instruct Olive to hug Sheryl when she cried at the hospital, revealing that he actually cares for his Mom despite his reluctance to show it. During his major breakdown, no one but Olive could soothe him, wordlessly at that too. And when Olive was about to go on stage to showcase her routine, he was worried that she would be laughed and judged at and decided to talk her out of it to protect her from the viciously-judgemental crowd.

In a nutshell, Little Miss Sunshine portrays some hidden yet powerful message about being yourself, achieving your dreams, appreciating life and the strength of family. Despite the countless and somewhat ridiculous beauty standards set by society or those who makes money out of it, every single one of us should be thankful for who we are. Beauty is not definitively fair skin, slim figure or long eyelashes. It’s whoever and whatever you are. And you are the person who should have notice it first before anybody else. Be an Ubermensch if you can possibly be, a person with an ultimate power of your own values regardless of the thoughts of others. Struggle and failure is an essence of life. Life is not all about winning. You don’t learn much without losing. So, appreciate each and every losing moments in life. The best love is family love. When nobody else have your back, family will be there for you through thick and thin because ultimately, to be strong is to be together. And that’s exactly what a family offers.

Quoting from Dwayne himself,

Fuck beauty contests. Life is one beauty contest after another.

Regardless of how you look or how well you do in life, you will always be judged. So ‘do what you love and fuck the rest.’ The only judgement that matters is His.

p/s: The soundtrack will blow you away.

Souce: Tumblr

Accepted (2006): Education Is Not A Measure of Intelligence.

(Spoiler Alert)

Source: Google Image


It’s an underrated film, with witty, funny and ridiculously-scripted screenplay accompanied with a strong message for society of all ages. And like most underrated films, it’s definitely one of my all-time favorites.


I remembered watching this back in 2013 and it widened my perspective on learning and self-worth, and most importantly as the title stated, on ACCEPTANCE.

It’s a film that depicts the life of a high school graduate (Bartleby Gaines) trying to get himself accepted into various colleges, only to fail miserably. What he did in regards to the rejection is the main reason why this particular film turns out to be an interesting one.

Accepted has taught me quite a number of lessons, most of which I believe should be shared with everyone who’re willing to read this, especially to the younger generation going through all sorts of rejection in life.


A couple of months ago, I came upon several articles and ‘confessions’ posted through social medias by youths, or more specifically ‘angry’ youths of a particular university comparing themselves and their struggles against those experienced by students of other universities. A deliberate ‘debate’ was sparked up with students claiming and further comparing each other’s struggles about how other people got it easier than them and how the ‘product’ of university A is of lesser quality than the ‘product’ of university B.

We’ve been living in a society that compares about literally EVERYTHING. From education to who owns the latest pair of Nike shoes to who travelled to the most countries. Honestly, aren’t you people sick and tired of it?

I was once asked about what it felt like to be compared with students from another University and to be deemed ‘low quality’ in regards to my education.

Was I angry? Should I lash back at those who claimed so? Do I need to compare what I had gone through with what others had?

Well, here’s the big question. If I were to do all of that, WOULD IT HELP?

Instead of being angry and retaliate, all I got to do is to PROVE them wrong. Action screams louder than words, anyways.

Everyone and I mean everyone, should never be measured by their education. People should NOT be judged by their education but by their intelligence, character and attitude. You can graduate from the lowest ranking University in the whole wide world and you can still be the smartest and humblest person there is. Or you can be a graduate from the most prestigious University with an attitude that disregards other people’s opinions, feelings and sensitivities. Regardless of where you get an education from, it is never an excuse to undermine and condemn others.

The main point is education is not a measure of intelligence. So, why would people focus on the former instead of the latter? Where or what you study does not define you. You define you.

In relation to the film Accepted, even though Bartleby got rejected by every college he applied to, he went on to be the founder of another (South Harmon Institute of Technology), with creativity and passion-based curriculum, that ACCEPTS everyone. As opposed to the neighbouring ‘ivy-league’ college (Harmon Institute of Technology) who discriminates those whom they deemed not at par with their ‘standard’.


How many of you are studying a course that you’re actually interested in? Or are you just following the one and only path laid in front of you? Are you studying blindly just to secure your future, for the sake of getting a job and paying bills? Or are you applying your creativity and passion throughout the learning process? Does the educational system nowadays encourage us to follow our hearts or play it safe? I’ll bet on the latter.

In the film Accepted, South Harmon Institute of Technology offered their students to choose what they wanted to learn regardless of their grades. Since their curriculum focused solely on the student’s passion, learning became a fun and exciting process that each one of them look forward to everyday. Meanwhile, quoting from Bartleby’s speech in the film, ‘Harmon Institute of Technology’s tradition and curriculum puts so much pressure on kids turning them into stress-freak and caffeine-addicts’.

Educational institutions play a massive role in instilling knowledge by letting students express in their own creativity, not by spoon-feeding them with information just to prep them for examinations. How do you expect the younger generations to be great thinkers and changers when they are robbed of their own creativity and freedom of expressions? Victor Pinchuk once stated that, ‘Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics’.


Rejection hurts. Nobody likes being rejected, be it from your crush or from that dream job you applied to, or from your college applications. It is the nature of human beings to yearn to be accepted, to belong. Reality check, you’ll get rejected. Maybe just once, if you’re lucky. I got to say though, I’m pretty much unlucky.

 Nevertheless, what matters most is how you deal with being rejected. Are you going to lie in bed and cry your eyes out for a month? Are you going to play the blame game and endlessly whine like it’s the end of the world? Or are you going to fight back with every part of you, change for the better and show the world what you’ve got?

I chose change. I’ve figured out that as much as you’d think that it’s impossible, it is possible to rely on yourself to make the big leap. Sometimes, all it takes is courage and believe it or not, you have it in you. Just have faith and search for it within yourself.

Rejection is not the end of the world. Life is full of possibilities. Rather than focusing on the fact of not being wanted, why not grasp the possibilities and make something out of them? Rather than waiting for the change to happen, why not be the change?

‘Everybody thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.’ – Leo Tolstoy.

When Bartleby got rejected from every college he applied to, he did not blame anybody for that nor did he beat himself up for the failure. Instead, he started his cunningly brilliant plan by starting his own college which would eventually made him realize of the possibilities that he had accidentally created for himself and for the students who enrolled at South Harmon.

All in all, Accepted taught us to accept ourselves even if nobody else does. Being rejected does not determine your self-worth and you are NOT the definition of those who have rejected you.

As the younger generation who will eventually be the future of our own country, we should embrace the differences between each other, the weaknesses and the strength. Let’s stop the comparisons and start building each other up. One that grows together will never be easily broken because ultimately, unity is strength.