The movie Signs defines a community as a group comprised of many people with unique and individually complex roles that must learn to change and adapt when its existence becomes threatened in any way. Though a “community” may be defined many ways depending on size or scale, context, and point of view, it is indisputable that in order for there to be a community, there must be interaction between peoples. Within these times of interaction, individuals gain a place and role within the community surrounding them. Once a community is established, it must learn flexibility in order to continue to survive. The movie Signs presents a community that is going through this adjustment on many levels, with more and more intricate communities within one another. Communities such as the human race as a whole, a nation, a state, a town, and a family are all focused on in their own turn as everyone in this movie struggles to find their individual meaning and place in life. Through the following of individuals within this particular community, it is seen how each individual is key to the outcome of a community’s change, even in death. Throughout the film, each separate character is defined through their reaction to changes around them. There is an emphasis placed on the solitary beings that combine to make a community, and how each person owns their own role in the group to which they belong. Without the individual, a community does not exist.
Community, by the American Heritage Dictionary definition, is a “group of people living in the same locality; a sharing, participation, and fellowship, or society as a whole.” The key word in this definition is group. The root Latin word from which this is derived (communis) meant common. Therefore, a community is a group with something in common. This may be seen at many levels and depths, as a community can be perceived as anything from an interaction on a small scale between a few friends, to the entire world around us that functions within the atmosphere in which we have been placed. A community is made up of individuals, and without these individuals, there is no possibility for a group or even a society to exist. Sure, it may seem as though the loss of any one given individual would not be of great consequence to a larger community, but every individual within that community is a building block for others. With the loss of one, there becomes a hole that cannot be fixed without the adjustment of the community. Each being that a group is comprised of has its own role, and does its own part. In the movie Signs, the focus community would be the Hess family, although the town they live in was also at one time in the film viewed for its own community ties. In the beginning of the film, the Hess family is not a community of similar goals or worldviews, but simply a community of people living together. They then learn how to come together in the time of crisis, and reach as one towards a common goal that will benefit the community as a whole.
Having already established a community through the coming together of individuals with something in common, the strength of the group can be determined by its ability to withstand change. Even a larger community that is dependent on smaller communities to thrive (i.e. a town dependent on the families within it) must learn flexibility. When one part of a body no longer works, the other parts of the body must work extra hard to compensate for the loss. The same is true of a community that experiences a loss or a threat to its state of being. The individuals must bond together to uphold the group as a whole, and continue to survive. In Signs, the town is reliant on Father Graham to continually be a stronghold throughout a time of crisis, while at the same time he himself is dealing with his own loss. Each member of Graham’s family is important to his survival in the same way as the family unit is to the survival of the town’s community around them. When Graham finally breaks down in an obvious state of confusion and shows his inability to continue alone, the family is becomes able to joining together to make an attempt at survival through the crisis. Everything in an individual’s life is in some way connected to a community in which that person belongs. The larger issues at hand, which in this movie would be the “aliens”, are rarely a problem without an internal conflict of some kind. Signs would hold very little significance without the personal perspective of one community that is shown through Graham and his family. It focuses on the impact of a loss and how the family must adapt and change in order to accept this loss and deal with the next issue that comes along. A simple retelling of the classic aliens-take-over-the-world story would be meaningless without the involvement of a community and its reaction to the circumstance. Independence Day would have been utterly pointless if it were not for the community represented through Will Smith’s character and the United States Government, just as Signs could not have gained an audience without Graham’s family and their individual story. The impact and weight of a personalized story, (the Hess family) is essential to the plot.
The individual within a community is essential for the existence of that group to begin with. Although in the world today many people are seen as disposable and worthless in comparison to any given whole community, it is often the little people that make the show work. Bo’s character in Signs is crucial to the survival of her family. Without the youngest child’s innocence, many things would have been passed by all too easily. The strange activity would not have been noticed as early in the movie without Bo’s baby monitor, and many questions about life and death would not have come about without her questioning her father and his conversations with the dead mother. Without the OCD tendencies with water that Bo has, there would not have been a way to defeat the alien. Bo is the smallest character and individual in the family by far, but without her there would be yet another hole in the family’s community. The same can be said about any individual within a community. Though the role of one human being may not seem complex, there is always significance behind what a person does. A community cannot exist without the individuals of which it is comprised.
Signs is not a movie about an alien invasion or the world’s inability to comprehend an attack on the entire human race. It is a about the adjustment and flexibility of a community when it becomes threatened, and the individuals that allow that flexibility to be a possibility. Through the understanding of what a community truly is, and the relevance of an individual to a community as a whole, it is easily seen how the movie Signs greatly surpasses the general audience’s expectations of a mindless thriller. Community is necessary for the existence of an individual, as the individual is necessary for the existence of a community.