Going Through the Motions: American Bodies in Pharrell Williams’s “24 Hours of Happy”

Transatlantica : Revue d'Études Américaines. 2018;1


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Transatlantica : Revue d'Études Américaines

ISSN: 1765-2766 (Online)

Publisher:  Association Française d'Etudes Américaines

LCC Subject Category: History America: America

Country of publisher: France

Language of fulltext: French, English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML, ePUB, XML



Claude Chastagner


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 25 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

The video promoting Pharrell Williams’s 2013 hit “Happy” is unusual: it runs continuously for 24 hours and displays a succession of around 400 people dancing to the song and often singing its lyrics and displaying with their bodies and facial expressions the spirit of happiness that the song epitomizes. This article analyzes the strategies chosen by the dancers to represent “happiness” and raises several questions: on what basis has the selection of moves and facial expressions been made? With what expected or unexpected impact on the viewers? Is there a specific “American” body language to display happiness? If so, has it evolved in time? Have other parts of the world been affected by similar changes? Does such a body language point to a pressure to conform and thereby raise questions related to freedom? What can we infer from the emphasis put on happiness in this video, and more broadly in US popular culture and public policies?