The Americans 2013

The opening sequence for the 2013 television series, The Americans, utilizes design elements such as the juxtaposition of Russian and American-inspied imagery, a fast-paced style of movement, Russian-inspired musical elements, and a sans serif typeface reminiscent of Russian Communist Propaganda. The combination of these elements, which respectively represent visuals, movement, sound, and typography, set the tone for viewers of the series, giving them context for the show’s main themes, genre and time period. 

The title sequence begins with a series of fast-moving pictures and videos from the latter half of the twentieth century. The movement is jerky, with quick cuts from one image or video to the next. The images and videos have an older film quality that appears authentic to the 1980’s. Many of the pictures represent elements of popular culture and politics from Russia and the United States during the Cold War. Common elements from the two countries are juxtaposed against one another to create visual dissonance and intrigue. 

The entire sequence is paired with an instrumental theme featuring subtle elements of an Eastern European musical style. This element of the title sequence further emphasizes the Russian influence within the sequence when paired with the iconic imagery emblem of the Russian Communist Party. The featured song is set in a minor key, indicative of a drama and suspense.

In addition to the inclusion of Russian Communist iconography, the title sequence for The Americans also features a sans serif typeface reminiscent of Russian Communist Propaganda from the 1980’s. When displaying the names of the actors, the name is first shown in Russian. Then, the English translation is overlaid like a mask overtop of the original text. This is an indicator that one of the show’s primary themes may be deception. 

While I have not personally seen this series, I have gained a great deal of context simply from viewing this opening sequence. The use of design elements truly set the tone for this dramatic period drama. 


Discussion — 2 Responses

  • Maddy Kelly 03/25/2021 on 10:49 AM

    What an awesome analysis with so many great reference photos, historical context, and design analyses. The Cold War and the US’s Red Scare are some crazy examples of design’s impact and recording of history. I mean, even the typeface you describe immediately recalls Russia, and I can’t help but wonder why that’s so recognizable to American audiences! I would be interested to learn more about not only Russian propaganda, but visuals that the US pushed as anti-USSR sentiment!

  • Ben Dulaney 03/27/2021 on 8:01 PM

    I really like the way you broke down the different elements of this opening sequence. I think that your observation about deception being alluded to by the way the actors’ names are introduced is particularly intriguing. Are there any other formal elements you saw that suggested deception? From what I know about the show, the juxtaposition of cultural elements from the Soviet Union and the United States is very heavily featured and it makes sense to have that in the opening as well. I think that Overall, from your review, it seems that the opening sets the tone, themes, and setting of the show very well.

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