Film & Media Studies Theory

Whitman College – FMS 387

This is US



From time to time, one might find him or herself interested in the life and work of a celebrity. It is something extremely relevant in our society today, and it seems hard to escape this curiosity that occasionally borders on obsession. The image above is an example of this idea. It is an image from One Direction’s movie, This is Us. This movie has the possibility of being sweet, lovable story about five young men making it big, but also stretches greatly into the realm of propaganda, and serves as publicity for the band.

Looking at the image above on strictly a denotative level, one can see an enormous crowd of people holding signs, buildings, a city in the background, and two members of the band holding up their fingers to their mouths and holding out hands to the crowd. From this, it becomes clear that the picture is of somewhat rabid One Direction fans, who are loud enough from where the men stand that they need to be told to be quiet. The building upon which the two men stand becomes a barrier between them and the massive crowd, insinuating that the fans are sort of “wild” and would not be able to contain themselves without a physical barrier restricting their movement. The building can also be seen as a pedestal of some sort, as the image is somewhat reminiscent of a king or queen addressing their subjects from above. Although you cannot see the faces of the fans, from the above mentioned ideas and the massive number of them present, it is clear that they are consumed by this insane fanaticism, and that these boys are considered almost as royalty. However, they are also being shown as humble by trying to quiet the crowd, as they would not want their image to be skewed by any sort of hubris.

In the context of the One Direction film, this communicates how important this band has become in many people’s lives. It shows their fans undying love for them, and just how many of these fans there actually are. This could, when more of the public sees the film, create even more of this fanaticism. Essentially, the myth projected from this image is that of the importance of celebrities in today’s society, or more specifically, that teen stars are good role models and objects of fantasy. Even further, this represents the myth that celebrities are in fact superior to everyone else and make the world a better place. These people would not be reacting this way if they were just walking down the street and saw the same five guys (before they were famous). Because they are famous, they have become “super humans” of a sort. This is not a new phenomenon. According to Barthes,  a myth is “giving historical intention a natural justification” (268) and something that becomes “naturalize[d]” (268). It can be traced back to the faces in Hollywood during the 30’s and to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones later in the 60s and 70s. So this has been built up throughout the past, but now occurs a sort of natural phenomenon in our society. We are preconditioned to think that this is how we are supposed to act towards celebrities. A fascination with celebrity life is prevalent in American culture, which is not only shown by images such as above, but also by talk shows like TMZ and many others, as well as magazines like Star, People, US Weekly and the National Enquirer. There is an insatiable hunger to know about the lives of these people. The fact that there is so much focus on them and that sometimes people are more interested in them and less in their own lives makes them sort of a focal point of our society. And as if all of that wasn’t enough:



2 thoughts on “This is US

  1. Excellent myth — but what is it about the way the celebrities themselves are portrayed that makes it clear that they’re good role models?

  2. I really like your myth! But I think it is also interesting how easily things can be taken out of context to fit the same myth. I, rather unfortunately, had to see this movie and I remember this scene as being a couple of the boys gazing out at a crowd waiting to get into the stadium. I also remember that they weren’t trying to quiet down the crowd in an act of hubris, they were playing with the crowd by having them quiet down then roar back to life (the classic up down up down). While I think that context still fits your myth, the fact you were able to read a photo of the same scene and still have it emphasize the same thing is really interesting to me.

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