Thesis Statements
My Own Private Idaho
• Gus Van Sant’s use of a still life technique to
document the sex scenes challenges or
defamiliarizes the way sex is typically represented
in Hollywood film, ultimately suggesting a
challenge to heteronormative modes of
representation. Normally, we associate still life
with painting and to film people in this manner
gives them an in-human, object-like quality. The
still life technique is inherently constructivist,
emphasizing Van Sant’s critique of essentialist
notions of gender and sexuality.
• In MOPI, Gus Van Sant humanizes the
marginalized lower class while dehumanizing
the dominant upper class in order to position
the upper class as the abject, questioning its
morals and values, ultimately suggesting that
maintaining positions of privilege and power
requires the loss of expressive freedoms and
• Gus Van Sant uses images of dilapidated,
empty barns to symbolize the inevitable
fruitlessness of Mike’s search for a home. This
is significant because the plot of the movie
relies on this journey.
• In MOPI, Van Sant showcases Mike’s
narcolepsy in order to question the lack of
control and freedom in relation to his life. The
representation of narcolepsy ultimately
suggests that the anxiety and stress is a
cyclical order in which the act of falling asleep
results from stressful situations but also
creates more stress upon Mike’s life.
• In MOPI, Gus Van Sant showcases Scotty’s
decision to embrace a heterosexual life in
order to question the privilege this life entails,
ultimately suggesting that heterosexuality is a
performance one makes in order to belong to
the dominant group and reap the benefits of
heteronormative power.
• In MOPI, Gus Van Sant makes use of the
“double protagonist” character dialectic to
enforce the boundary that exists between the
normative and destitute classes, by
functionally alienating one, then the other,
through a repositioning of the power of the
“narcissist” and “masochist” character.

Thesis Statements