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Yatzua Corral

Mr. Garcia Renteria

Rhetoric and Composition I

18 February 2019

Analysis of “A Dustland Fairytale”

Some people may say that the most powerful emotions in the human being are

compassion, guilt, fear, happiness, and love. The Killers depicted all of these feelings in “A

Dustland Fairytale” a single from their third album “Day and Age” which was released in

2008 and portrays the love story of the parents of The Killer´s main vocalist, Brandon

Flowers. A story that started with passion and innocence, but after the conviction of his

father for murder, led to regret and mixed feelings. The video song follows his dad as the

protagonist of this story, which attempts to sensitize its viewers rewarding empathy and

humanity. “A Dustland Fairytale” represents the vulnerability of the human being while

presenting the necessity for forgiveness and affection through the development of an

apologetic atmosphere, suggestive lyrics, and comparison.

The music video is characterized by a regretful atmosphere that wraps up the

viewers to make them sympathize with the main character in order to encourage the

audience to understand the regret behind a mistake. After getting out of prison, the

protagonist of the story decides to stay in a hotel/motel before reaching up to his past lover.

In this hotel, we can see him in the corner of the bed drinking alcohol and crying while

remembering the fight that led him to kill a man and subsequently spend most of his life in
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prison. This image evokes in the audience comprehension. People can easily relate to a

person crying and thinking over past actions and assume that he feels remorse for what he

did. The Killers are trying to awake empathy in the viewers by showing that even though

killing a man will never be right, judging a person for a past he already stood up to will also

be erroneous. The sadness of the protagonist is also reflected when he weeps while visiting

a restaurant from his youth. The Killers attempt to transmit the former convict´s sorrow by

presenting him as an elderly man with tears in his eyes and a broken smile. His smirk

reminds the viewer of a person who is smiling at a memory, rather than the present time,

which gives the impression that the man that appears on screen already paid for his poor

decisions and would have taken a different path in his life if he had the opportunity to do

so. Additionally, in the video, when the protagonist finally decides to confront the girl he

met and loved before being sentenced to jail, his gaze is directed towards the floor the

whole time. His corporal language implies that he is not proud of his actions, that his past

deeds weight so much in him now that he cannot longer see the person he loves directly at

her eyes. These details altogether create a mood of nostalgy and melancholy throughout the

music video, in which the viewer can only be witness of a man consumed by guilt that

longs to make-up for past errors.

The lyrics of the song intended to convey the suffocating fear of the protagonist of

facing rejection and unforgiveness. After getting out of prison, the main character seems to

procrastinate confronting the woman he was in love with. His emotions become evident

because instead of visiting her right away, he rather goes to a bar, spends time in the pool,

and stays in his hotel room to cry. Giving the impression that he is not ready for a

confrontation with the woman he loves yet. The lyrics in the background contribute to this
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theory when they ask “is there still magic in the midnight sun/ or did [she] leave it back in

sixty-one?” Proving that one of the reasons he is delaying the encounter is because he is

scared that the passion and love (magic) that they once felt was a feeling confined to the

past, most specifically to 1961, the year they met when they were both young and naive.

But now that he has lived in the place where “the dreams roll high/ and…the wind don’t

blow,” a site in which “the bird don’t sing,… the field doesn’t grow,” and where “the good

girls die,” he doubts if prison has left anything of him to be loved. A place where not even

the purest things of the world, such as an animal, nature, or an innocent girl want to come

in, must have not only worn out his body but his soul too. And yet, he expects his

“Cinderella” to have compassion for him and don’t go to sleep, not when the “kingdoms

[are] under siege/ and everybody [needs] [her],” in order words he expects his lover to

show sympathy, instead of indifference. Now that he feels like a castle, a whole kingdom

submerged in war without a trace of hope, he needs someone to fight for.

Moreover, through the lyrics, he can only beg his princess to be that someone. As a whole,

the lyrics transmit the terror of the protagonist knowing that he is no longer the “slick

chrome American prince” that he used to be a few decades ago and the uncertainty that this

entails in him. Presenting to the viewer once again the desperation of a person looking for

acceptance in order to motivate the audience to reflect on their values and the importance of

compassion.

Lastly, the most evident device used in the music video is the comparison between

the protagonist before and after he was in prison. Both scenes juxtapose each other and

serve to show the development of him as a character. For instance, he was easily provoked

when he was younger, as shown when he falls into the provocations of the guy he later kills
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during the fight, demonstrating his immaturity and unconcern about legal consequences.

Contrary to when he gets older and finally realizes while wandering throughout the city that

fulfilling his pride at that time was not worth the price paid. This growth in him appears

clear in the lyrics “change came in disguised of revelation/set his soul on fire,” exposing

how his time in prison served as a type of epiphany that led him to become a new version

of himself — a person with a renovated incentive for his life that had a new fuel to feed his

soul. And even though time has taken toll on both, his and her lover´s body, as presented in

the video and pointed out in the song with the phrase “decades disappeared like sinking

ships,” the protagonist pleasantly discovers that the feelings of her “Cinderella” survived

the passing of time after she opens the door and hugs him. Even if their physical

appearances change before and after he committed the crime, their emotions towards each

other did not. As the lyrics of the song indicate, she kept waiting for him because “she

always knew he'd come around.” While the comparison between both periods demonstrates

the magnitude an event can have on a person´s life and the insecurities that this can entail, it

also shows the importance of giving support or at least some understanding to people in

those circumstances.

“A Dustland Fairytale” is more than a love story; it is a tale that using comparison,

striking lyrics, and creating an apologetic tone serves as a voice for all of those that like the

protagonist made a bad decision that cost them part of their lives. It is a tribute for the

people trying to have a new start and a reminder for all of us that to err is human, and a

mistake does not necessarily mean despair and disappointment.