In the movie It Should Happen To You, Gladys is a model of successful transition from an anonymous figure to a famous person. She not only brings herself enormous satisfaction, but also has profound influence on the society by taking commercial advertisements. According to Roland Barthes’ theory of myth, there is a special relationship between Gladys and her commercial advertisements, or more precisely the society in general. The motivation that associated intimately with the social phenomenon alludes to the real face of the culture.
People at that period enjoy themselves in the peaceful nvironment and, at the same time, lose themselves in the chaotic and money-oriented world. The clip starts from the moment Gladys officially beginning her advertising career. The first shot is long and appears with dissolving effect from the last shot. The non-diegetic sound in this shot is relaxing with a brisk pace. The camera is slightly low, picturing Gladys lying naked in a well-decorated bathtub with delicate hairstyle and bubbles. Two male assistants on each side of the bathtub are taking care of her carefully.
One of them uses something like an eggbeater to keep the bubbles in shape and he other man is holding a loofa sponge in order to maintain the face of Gladys in the best possible condition for later shooting. Gladys’ unpleasant face in the first few seconds reveals her uncomfortableness under this circumstance. As the camera zooms out gradually, the director walks into the frame from the left and the two assistants go away. The angle is slightly higher since most parts of the bathtub can be seen and the face of the director is exposed from an awkward perspective.
The camera stops moving backward when the director kneel on the ground, showing the posture Gladys have to perform. A paperboard on the right bottom side of the frame reveals the final representation of the advertisement. The second shot appears after a straight cut, showing a close-up of the face of Gladys, as well as the delicate decorations on the shelves behind her. At the same time, the non-diegetic sound starts to change into another higher pitch. Gladys raises her right arm highly up and holds the soap by her left hand. Her lovely smile corresponds to the lively tune of the background music.
Then, the camera switches to the third shop quickly, framing from the right rear side with a high angle. This long shot records the moment Gladys is going to take the official portraiture. The back of the director occupies the left side of the frame, while the head of Gladys is shown and most of her body is covered with bubbles in the bathtub. As the camera zooms in gradually to a close-up, Gladys tries to smile pleasingly according to the request of the director. The frame dissolves progressively to next shot, while the music starts to change with a slow pitch.
This shot begins with a straight angle, medium close-up. Gladys sits on a boat unpleasantly, especially when she takes over the bundle of ucks. The next shot reveals the interior setting of the studio from a medium-long shot. The several ducks swimming in the water and Gladys practicing hunting rifle at the background of the frame are in contrast to the background of static outdoor landscape. On the foreground of the frame, the equipment of shooting is placed orderly, and the director is busy with adjusting the lights.
Two men stand on the right side, maintaining the security of Gladys. Then, the camera cuts into a medium shot of Gladys holding the gun with a pleasant smile, after the director giving an order. As the music returning to its original high pitch, the frame dissolves from the last shot to the shooting site of the third advertisement with a long shot. The shot takes from the right side of the studio, displaying the overall arrangement of the equipment. Gladys has been hoisted up on the skis, and the director and his assistants are waiting for later shooting.
The camera pans right quickly without noticing. The medium shot from a slightly low angle shows the simulative scenes of Gladys skiing in the studio. Gladys’ body is relatively small due to her distance to the camera. Then, it shifts to a close-up of the face of Gladys, who wears the latest fashion ski suit and a frozen smile in the snowfield. When the director urges to see the perfect smile, the exhausted Gladys nearly falls off. The next shows the chaotic moment in the studio immediately from the side with a medium-long shot.
At the same time, the non-diegetic sound also synchronizes to the movements with high-pitched sounds of a violin. Then, the camera pans slightly right, when the people move right. The next several seconds of tracking shot with a medium close-up of Gladys from bottom to top exposes her errifying emotions. Even though the assistants try to comfort her, she is scared because of this unexpected accident and her big and innocent eyes keep looking for a certain answer among them. The background music disappears for the several seconds.
Then, the camera shifts back to the moment of taking a photo with a medium-long shot. In this few seconds, there is only the conversation between photographer and assistants, instead of the voice of Gladys. When everyone, except Gladys, is ready for shooting, the camera presents a close-up to the face of Gladys again. Her facial expression certainly reveals her uncomfortableness. She pretends to smile happily due to the command of the director. The last tracking shot begins from the side, including the back of the director.
When the camera focuses on Gladys gradually, the director continually requests her to look loveable. According to Roland Barthes’ theory of myth, there are two levels of signs, and both of them consist of the signifier, signified, and sign. The three advertisement Gladys made in the clip can be identified as the sign on the first level, which also indicated as the signifier in the next level. At the same time, “the sign is arbitrary… Yet this arbitrariness has limits, which come from the associative relations of the word….
The mythical signification, on the other hand, is never arbitrary; it is always in part motivated, and unavoidably contains some analogy. (Barthes 126)” In the case of Gladys, she apparently does not care too much about the three advertisements. In the film, she is willing to do anything that can make her to be known by the public, even though sometimes she might feel uncomfortable. Gladys can take as much as possible for advertising, but Evan Adam IIl’s notion of average American girl remain the same al| the time.
The origin of this notion, to some extent, might come from the real experience of the director George Cukor. Its association with the society is the decisive opportunity to understand the meaning of the myth. It Should Happen to You is a comedy released in 1950s America. It was a time the whole society recovered itself from the Great Depression and began to embrace kinds of entertainments. People in the gradually peaceful and prosperous society want to be famous inevitably and have some oney-oriented desires.
Therefore, Gladys is one of the evident examples promoting the idea of average American girl in the fictional world through her commercial advertisements. According to the experience of Gladys, she definitely wins everything she wants and has a profound influence on the whole society. Even though the ending of the film denies the behaviors of Gladys by picturing the moment Gladys leaves the city without thinking of the billboard anymore, the irrefutable impacts of her earlier actions are worth pursuing further within the social context.