David’s Daily Digital Dollop: Dollop 143 – What’s Behind The Mask

Download audio version here

On Friday I wrote about the neurosis caused by trying to think of something creative, interesting and funny to publish on the Internet on a daily basis, which is the purpose of this daily blogging project. I mentioned that it was often difficult to know what will go down well with people, and sometimes I am surprised to find that a blog I’m not so sure about gets a really positive reaction, and other times I create something which I think is amazing and it garners very little attention. Often there is just no knowing how your audience will receive you and how much of an audience your work will gain. I have hundreds of people who listen to and read these Dollops, and overall, I think this project is going reasonably well.

But yesterday, something happened to bring out my neurosis once again, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt it particularly acutely yesterday. I’m sure that, just like me, millions of writers, broadcasters, comedians, artists, musicians, PR people and countless people working in the media, spent yesterday scratching their heads, feeling lost and confused. The cause of this head scratching and confusion? It’s a viral infection. A Viral infection that has its roots in Texas, but has rapidly engulfed the planet.

Perhaps you’ve been infected by it too. At the very least, you’ll likely know about it. On Thursday, a Texan woman called Candace Payne, posted a video on her Facebook page. She had just bought a Star Wars Chewbacca mask, she put it on, and began to laugh hysterically at the sounds the mask was making, and the way the mask looked. That was the crooks of the video. She posted it on her Facebook page purely to amuse her friends. Two days later, that video smashed Facebook’s record for most viewed video, having been watched by over 91 million people.

91 million people! That is more people than live in the UK. The most popular UK radio show is the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show with Chris Evans, which gets 10 million listeners. The most followed person on Twitter is Katy Perry, who has 88 million followers. This woman (a stay at home mom from Texis) has had her video watched by more people than the number of people who follow Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Barack Obama, and countless other celebrities onTwitter.

These major pop stars which I’ve just cited have had millions of dollars thrown at them in order to create their music and their videos. They have legions of people responsible for things like branding and marketing. They have people working with them to write and produce their songs and videos, to style them and think about their image. Their PR team does all it can to create a buzz around them. They are given media training, often told what to say and how to act. Because that is what you have to do to be massively popular. Yet here is an ordinary woman, a complete unknown person as of three days ago, who makes a four minute video of herself in her car, two minutes of which simply consists of her laughing hysterically, and she’s suddenly the biggest thing on the planet right now. She is doing interviews with major media,. She makes it onto news networks all over the world, including the BBC.

It is believed that the biggest selling album of all time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, sold 66 million copies. More people have watched this ordinary woman’s Chewbacca mask video than the number of people who bought the world’s biggest selling album.

A part of me is horrified by this. There are so many talented people agonising over their creations, who are creating the most wonderful things: radio and TV shows, theatre productions, songs, podcasts, blogs … There are so many amazing comedians and musicians and artists out there who will never get anywhere near the recognition or audience that they deserve. So many people struggle to get noticed above the tumultuous noise of everything. Yet, somehow, a loan woman in Texas, without any forethought, sits in her car, presses record on her phone, pulls out a Chewbacca mask and begins to laugh hysterically, and the world goes mad for it. No marketing, no branding, no script, no artistic direction, no PR, no years of honing her talent, no real disearnable talent, skill or ability … Nothing!

I suppose there is a part of me that is a bit aggrieved that I’ve spent everyday this year trying to think of interesting and entertaining things to put on the Internet, and yet I have an average of about 3 to 400 people reading and listening to each episode. The Young’uns Podcast gets about 2000 listeners per episode. And somehow, this woman puts on a mask, laughs, and gets over 91 million people watching. However, as well as being baffled and a bit aggrieved by the amount of people who’ve watched the Chewbacca mask video, I am also excited and joyous that this kind of thing can somehow happen. The weird capriciousness of it all is wonderful. There must be so many PR and marketing people utterly bamboozled about this. And these are the top dogs of the PR world, who know all the buzzwords and blabber on about brand awareness and the importance of running a campaign that is synergistic. Yet even they are left completely flustered about how an ordinary woman with no profile or brand equity, or any of those PR and marketing props, has managed to gain such notoriety overnight. And that is crazily and hilariously beautiful. It is so uncynical and pure; unless of course the whole thing was very cleverly engineered by a PR team, in which case it is terrifying and depressing. But it’s lack of any external influence, and complete absence of any formula, rime or reason, makes this whole thing so incredible and exciting.

all this woman wanted to do was share her happiness and laughter with her friends, and the world wanted to join in. The word is crying out for authentic, unpretentious, none-branded, unfiltered, unbridled fun, that exists purely in and of itself, with no strategy or marketing/PR formula. Because life is full of people trying to sell us products, trying to market things at us, wanting to ram their agendas down our throats. Maybe this could be the planet’s great moment of awakening. The end of capitalism! Yet, alas, this woman will no doubt be snapped up by some advertising company to sell products, be paraded on TV chat shows and be the next big thing. Her laugh will be sold as a novelty ring tone, they’ll release a novely pop record that features sampes of from her video, with the sound of her laughing to a dance beat. She will be the biggest thing on the planet. Until, eventually, inevitably, the tabloids will start writing scandalous stories about her – “Candace Payne, the real woman behind the mask.” She will be slandered and defiled, meaning that she becomes unmarketable, gets unceremoniously dropped by everyone, and consequently falls into a life-long depression, while everyone forgets about her and moves on.

Meanwhile, the same writers, musicians, artists and comedians will still be doing their thing, completely unknown by the majority, but loved and valued by a precious few, and if I can still be one of those people, all those years later, then I will be very happy.

Thanks for reading. I know this has been a bit of an unfunny, uncoordinated jumble of thoughts. In fact, I think this might have been the first Dollop without any jokes. Feel free to leave a comment if any of you did manage to spot a joke or anything funny in today’s Dollop. I tell you what, as a reward for persevering with this boring drivel, why not treat yourself to watching a hilarious video of a woman wearing a Chewbacca mask and laughing.

Facebook Comments

6 thoughts on “David’s Daily Digital Dollop: Dollop 143 – What’s Behind The Mask

  1. I watched the Chewbacca video this morning, and I laughed with the woman’s (real or well-acted) joy and delight in something seemingly trivial, and I think it was the only time I laughed all day. I don’t think the global/viral aspect is relevant. I think that giving joy or sharing in someone’s delight are life-affirming moments, no matter how trivial the cause. Tomorrow I will be dressed as a bumble bee. In fact I’ll be dressed as a bumble bee all week, and will have the privilege of making hundreds of children laugh. And I hope that in years to come, some of them might hear the Ugly Bug song and smile. This has been an unusually serious comment courtesy of Queen Bee (chief of the Ugly Buggers)

    • Agree with you 93 %. Although, the viral/global factor is hardly irrelevant. The fact that a woman making a video in her car to a few of her friends can garner 100 million views is massive, crazy, and wonderfully surreal. We are talking about more people than live in the UK, we’re talking about a bigger number than the ratings for something like Top Gear internationally. So it’s hardly irrelevant, and certainly interesting to consider as a subject. This woman has been made a celebrity overnight.

      I get the impression that you have started practising your role as a bumble bee already, given that I think your comment might have been a tinsy bit stinging, perhaps? as if suggesting that I was belittling the video and the woman. I did use words like “exciting” “wonderful” “joyous.” about the video and the way it’s somehow proliferated. And I wasn’t suggesting it was an act, I was expressing that I would be disappointed if it turned out to be some kind of deliberate PR exercise that essentially ends up making some PR strategist a whole load of money. But I’m very doubtful it was.

      Anyway, wake up tomorrow morning, watch the video again, then hopefully you’ll be buzzing, ready for your day’s bumble bee antics.

      • Not deliberately stinging. Or suggesting you were belittling the video. But, perhaps like you , I was struck by the thought that it might have been a clever set-up, then found myself wondering if that really mattered. 🐝

      • Good, because I would hate to incur the wrath of a bumble bee. Anyway, shouldn’t you be in bed? You’ve got a beezy day tomorrow, so best get some beeauty sleep. Hello? Hello? Is this thing on? OK, not funny. Er, where’s my mask?

        • Haha noticed the time as it came up when I posted that last comment. Realised it might be a good idea to put away the ipad and turn off the lights….zzzzzzz

  2. How utterly fantastic! The celebrities you mention have all been specifically branded, polished and media trained within an inch of believability, to hit target market groups for almost entirely commercial benefit. Even the writers/artists/bloggers at the other end of the scale are placed within market driven parameters because their work will only strike a cord with certain audiences. The joy and laughter expressed by this woman is ubiquitous. Tragically though, I think you are also correct about the media frenzy which has swept up this unabashed expression of delight and tried to harness it to increase sales or generate traffic to web sites/daily blogs (ahem). A cynical attempt to profit from something which is pure and free to everyone. P.S you can read my full opinion on this subject in tomorrow’s on-line edition of The Sun, next the exposed left breast of Candace (37) from Texas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.