I was on the back of a pickup truck on the way to a friend’s birthday celebration in the province. I was browsing posts on Facebook and a few of my social media friends have shared a video with the thumbnail of what seemed to be a Wookiee, a fictional species of intelligent bipeds from the Star Wars universe, inside a car. Being a big fan of the franchise, I unhesitatingly clicked on the thumbnail to watch it. What ensued was complete brouhaha; I was laughing so hard and so loud at the back of the vehicle it made me tear uncontrollably. I was literally ROFL: rolling on the floor laughing. I was almost mimicking the way the lady was laughing. It was after watching the video, finally cooling down and coming back to my senses was that I realized that I have probably seen the most hilarious yet wholesome video, not only on social media, but in the whole world wide web. Even rewatching the video still makes me burst into laughter. I do not think this will get old; not in the near future.
The viral video you have just seen (or probably seen before, or seen many many times before) is of Candice Payne from Texas, USA. She is what we would usually call a normal woman or mother. She broadcasted her live video on Facebook with the title “It’s the simple joys in life….” on May 19, 2016. Although the title appears simple, the ellipsis somehow gives off an ominous feeling that something crazy is about to happen. Her facial expression during the first few seconds of the video was even unable to hide her excitement. The video has garnered an astounding 166 million views, almost 4 million shares, and around 15 thousand comments and counting. Those numbers have made it the most-watched Facebook Live video of all time. After being epically viral, Candace was ascribed with various nicknames such as Chewbacca Mask Lady, Chewbacca Mom, Chewbacca Woman, Chewbacca Queen and many more with the Chewbacca prefix. Her instant rise to fame earned her the coveted “verified” blue check icon beside her profile name which meant that she has been confirmed by Facebook as the “authentic page or profile for this public figure, media company or brand.” Though her real name is not widely known compared to her nicknames, the topmost result from a simple Google search of “Candace Payne” is a direct Facebook link to her video. Likewise, searching for “Chewbacca Mask” on the search engine would mostly yield results of online news articles on how popular Candace has become aside from the toy mask from Hasbro itself.
The video was incredibly popular that Forbes, a renowned American business magazine which features original articles on finance, industry, investing, and marketing topics, has reported that the mask sold out from every online retailer since the video became viral. Academically speaking, this incident can attest to the power of social media in affecting the sales of a product. One of Forbes proposed benefits (out of ten) is that “every blog post, image, video, or comment you share is a chance for someone to react, and every reaction could lead to a site visit, and eventually a conversion.” This certainly was the case for Hasbro whose sales skyrocketed beyond expectations just because of a short Facebook Live video that even the poster herself was oblivious to its consequences as she was not hired to promote the product. Similarly, Kohl’s, the American department store where she bought the mask after returning clothes that were “a little too big” for her, was able to realize what Candace just did by publishing the video as she was rewarded with about $2,500 in gift cards, Star Wars toys, and 10,000 points in the store’s reward scheme. I remember seeing a Facebook post of my uncle-in-law currently residing in California predicting that Kohl’s would be in the spotlight, and overshadow its competitors such as Target and Walmart, as long as the Chewbacca Lady/Mom is dominating social media. I think this is similar to how Red Lobster, an American casual dining restaurant chain, was placed on the map and their sales spiked to 33% after being name-dropped or mentioned by Beyoncé in her 2016 comeback single, Formation. Red Lobster is not even considered a perfectly nice place to dine in as evidenced by poor reviews on various consumer review websites. Hence, I think we could say that even the most mundane things have a tendency to be immensely popular once the public spotlight has been placed on them, be it simple kids’ toys or ordinary restaurants.
Here we can see Beyoncé serving the masses some Red Lobster
Now we go to Dr Olga Goriunova, a current Senior Lecturer in Digital Culture under the Department of Media Arts of Royal Holloway, University of London. According to Monoskop, she is a “scholar and curator in the fields of digital media arts and cultures”. She has stated that aesthetics, digital art and culture have been her “main long-standing interests”. I am amazed at how she carefully studies art and its relation to the society. On her profile on the Visual Social Media Lab website, she says:
I am interested in how something that used to belong to the realm of aesthetics, such as photographs, images, and works of visual culture, acquires a computational backbone and starts playing new social roles. Images in social media are at the core of developments of a very different kind: commercial, political, subjective, collective.
With her vast research in the field, she has defined three key elements of new media idiocy from “Guitar”, a viral video she analyzed, which Candace’s video clearly similarly possess, namely formal simplicity, DIY aesthetics, and humour.
Olga Goriunova, PhD doing what she does best
Now, let us try to understand what made the video viral by utilizing Goriunova’s ideas.
Goriunova notes that simplicity is “the certain naivety that allows a non-professional to speak.” In this case, Candace Payne, judging from the image she created for her viewers’ point of view, is not exactly portrayed as a professional. She is wearing a Star Wars shirt (which I also want to get for myself, by the way) and speaks very informally. Not to particularly vitiate or judge her, but her confusion with the word “confiscate” as “confenscate” kind of shows how she is not exactly what we would call an expert of the English language. However, she was actually cool about that and it seems that all she wanted to do was spread positivity. To quote her, “it’s all love.”
This is obviously a do-it-yourself (DIY) kind of a video. I think it can be safely assumed that she used her own mobile phone to record this masterpiece inside her car just outside Kohl’s. Note that there are no fancy decorations in the background and no background music whatsoever. The actress in the video is only just her, save for the car seats, the seatbelt, the steering wheel, and the occasional twelve cars and three persons that passed by (yes, I actually counted!) which did not play any essential roles in this chef-d’oeuvre. Moreover, the discernible reason why there is an absence of special digital effects is probably because the video was recorded live, hence Facebook Live, where both real-time editing and post-editing is impossible. Welcome to the generation of instant content! Furthermore, I think it is quite notable that she recorded this video when Facebook Live was still relatively new, since the feature was launched on April 6th of the same year. In an unrelated note, I would also like to point out that I think her hair perfectly matches the mask and it kind of gives an added visual effect.
Again similar to “Guitar”, Candace’s video also exhibits the three folds of humor. As the first fold, laughter is present since Candace’s own laughter from her clear amusement from the Chewbacca mask is not only a component of the video, it is also able to generate hilarity for the audience. As many users of Facebook have commented, her laughter is really “infectious.” The second fold is its vital joy as Candace just oozes of positivity; she exudes sincere delight from wearing the mask. Lastly, the final layer is parodic since Candace is actually making fun of herself as she wears the silly mask that also makes sounds which adds to her enjoyment, exclaiming “Oh, I’m such a happy Chewbacca!” If my interpretation of Goriunova’s point is correct, Candace sees herself through the reflection of her mobile phone by way of the front-facing camera; hence, her “behaviours are as much mocked in [her] self-observation as [she was] made or conformed to.”
Having the time of her life
Apparently, the video was countlessly re-uploaded by various users and what I have initially seen was not the original one. There is kind of a shame in that, or maybe it is just me being a bit of a purist. Anyway, a simple search of “Chewbacca lady” on Google would provide the direct link to the Facebook page the original video was uploaded. It always happens in social media that a popular post, be it a video, picture, etc., gets re-uploaded by another user instead of simply sharing the original post by using the “share” option. A massively popular video on social media that have been shared a gazillion times is what has been called a “viral sensation”. My prediction is that social media will never be boring because of the consistent manifestation of popular content which are more or less funny. It really is the elixir for the mundanity of the real life. I would like to confirm my statement myself since I religiously browse my Facebook timeline to scour for memes and videos that are cute, funny, sad, weird, informative, irritating, etc. When I find something appealing, I instantly (as is the culture in this current generation) share it which everyone on the social network can see. That way, I, too, am participating in the transmission of culture through the new media, particularly by means of social media.
I think it is amazing how popular this video has become. Not only was Candace rewarded by Kohl’s through gift cheques, rewarded by Hasbro by giving her more Star Wars toys and actually making one based on her, have been knighted by Facebook by means of the “verifying” her profile and Mark Zuckerberg giving her a tour of the Facebook headquarters, she was also given various TV spots by the media, further extending her fame and reaching more audiences outside social media. She was able to traverse from new media to old media, and vice versa. Since not all people worldwide have internet connection and access to social media, Candace’s interviews and skits through TV appearances have made her known to the public off-social media. She appeared in morning news shows where she discussed the background story behind the video, as well as in late-night talk shows where she appeared in skits along with the hosts and other guests, wearing the now-famous Chewbacca mask. In turn, her media appearances made people who were previously unaware of her to look up her video in Facebook and catch up with the viral sensation that is occurring online. As a result, many others have also posted their own funny videos on social media wearing a Chewbacca mask.
Exhibit A: Candace spreading the joy of wearing a Chewbacca toy mask
As of writing, she has 830,087 followers on social media. Every public post she makes can be seen by at least 830,087 social media users. I find it honorable that Candace has since used her immense but short-lived popularity to spread love and positivity around the world. Although she is not that popular or relevant nowadays compared to the previous year, she still uses her authentic simplicity to advocate for the appreciation of #simplejoys through her posts on social media. She has since used the hashtag on her posts which demonstrates the appreciation of the simple things in life. Not to promote her or anything, but she also has an upcoming book which she just recently revealed the title. It is called “Laugh It Up!” which would tell its readers more about Candace Payne herself, as well as positive life advices. With all the things that have happened to Candace, I would suppose that she was fortunate enough to be able to discover the secret of life, maybe even before broadcasting her video. I believe that we need more people like her: people that are not only grateful for the little things in life, but also go the extra mile in promoting positivity. Celebrities should take note of her.
by Paolo Ordenes
Goriunova, O. (2012). New Media Idiocy. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 223-235.
‘Chewbacca Mom’ Candace Payne reveals title, cover for new book
The 10 Most Popular Facebook Live Videos of 2016
The following is the transcript of her video. Please note that my intentions for adding this here is not to increase the word count of this blog post. 😉
Hey, I’m – I’m really excited to share with you something I got [clap] [clap]. Okay. I went to Kohl’s today, I had to make a [of] couple returns, as stuff didn’t fit, surprisingly it was a little too big, thank you. I know some of you maybe be thinking the opposite, shame. No, no, no shame. It’s all love. It’s all love, ok. So, here’s what I found when I was at Kohl’s, and I’d like to say that I bought this for my son that would really really want it, and lets be honest, he’ll probably confiscate it from me. Confiscate; that’s a word, right? Ok. So, he’ll probably take it from me, however, this is mine, like, when it’s said and done at the end of the day, this is mine that I bought and I’m going to keep it for my own. You see it, it kind of has Star Wars uh… you’re getting a little hint, ok.
So you want to see what I got, it’s so great. [clap] [clap] [clap] I can’t wait to show you, ok.
This is part of my – my birthday joy. Still rejoicing in my birthday, and so here’s what I got, I’m gonna take it out of the box, and I can’t wait to show you!
Ok, I’m in a parking lot and people are literally looking at me like crazy, I don’t even care, ok.
So here it is. Hold on, hold on, hold on, it may be a little tight, it maybe tight on me, I got to undo it, just a little bit, just hold – stay patient, stay patient! This is gonna be worth it, I promise. Maybe not. Maybe not. But – [laughs] It’s worth it to me. And I had to share with my friends on the internet webs. So here’s what — [laughs] I’m having trouble getting it – patient, patient. Alright, we’re doing good – too good.
Okay, this is what I got, once again this is for me. Not for Duncan and not for Candace, I mean, I’ll let them play with it, I’m not a bad mom. I’m not a jerk. But – in all honesty at the end of the day, it doesn’t go in their toy box, it goes in my room.
So, here we go.
I gotta take off my glasses for it. [laughs]
Oh… my… naturally… Okay, here we go.
So… yes! Now watch when my mouth actually moves.
That’s not me making the noise, it’s the mask.
I’m such a happy CHEWBACCA!
This is worth every penny!
I can’t stop! I can’t stop! Okay! Okay!
Oh my god! I kind of wanna drive like this. Oh…
Okay, now I’m gonna let Chewbacca talk here.
Oh my gosh, I’m in tears, I’m in tears.
This is the best birthday present ever to myself. Wow! Oh my goodness, you all have an incredible day, it’s the simple joys.