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May 23, 2016

Why the ‘Chewbacca Mask’ video makes me sad

It shouldn't take a Texas woman's laughter to remind people the world is a wondrous place

Viral Videos Opinion
Chewbacca Mask Facebook/Candace Payne

A video of a Texas woman's joy about procuring a Chewbacca mask has been viewed 137 million times in less than a week.

What I’m about to type might get me ostracized both socially and culturally. A man’s gotta have a code, though, and my code tells me that I have to tell you that I don’t find the Chewbacca Mask video as uplifting as everybody else on the face of the planet.

Quite the opposite, actually, so let’s dispense with some necessary disclaimers.

It’s great that Candace Payne was so joyously overwhelmed by the purchase of that Wookie head gear from a Kohl’s in Texas. I mean, just watch this version of the video she streamed onto Facebook that day:

It’s also great that her reaction elicited similar emotional reactions from folks that drove the video to more than 137 million views within milliseconds of its Facebook and YouTube debut.

Even the man inside the Chewbacca costume weighed in!

Happiness, wherever it may legally and/or morally and/or ethically be found, is a good thing. Hell, it makes life worth living. It is the little things that make the world a better place, and this little thing did just that for a whole heck of a lot of people.

Hopefully, Candace is still basking in the glow of a product that made her as happy as I was when Santa delivered the Millennium Falcon model to wee me. 

The overwhelmingly positive response to the video speaks to a goodness in the world that rarely gets bandied about so publicly, and so rarely embraced with such positivity.

That last sentence, though, that’s why the video’s uplifting spirit is so hard for me to fully embrace at 3 p.m. May 23, 2016.

I’ll set aside any suspicion that it was a marketing ploy, even though, oftentimes, that’s exactly what these sorts of viral videos represent. Nope. Not going to buy into that even if it’s driven the price of said masks through the roof and driven the store to throw Payne a little merch. (In the age of branding, the companies who adapt and seize branding opportunities quickly are king.)

Rather than just rolling with the flow, the video left me ruing our national mood. The general American tenor these days is so fully marinated in angry sauce that this video of a happy human being seems so out of place. It feels like an outlier, and it serves as a sharp rebuke to what we've let ourselves become.

So, yeah, I agree with Payne’s assertion that “the world, as a whole, is in need of a good laugh.”

What's given me a sad, though, is the knowledge that a video like this should make the viral rounds each and every day. There's enough supply out there to meet demand. If the mere mention of Dour Donald Trump's name didn't send media hit counters through the universe's ceiling in 12 parsecs, maybe we'd see more of it.

Perhaps it's a reflection on a pessimistic streak or a curmudgeon-y outlook on most things inherent in my field of employ, but moments like this drag me down to the level of a crack fiend. 

That first hit of happiness is sooooo damn good that I need more and more and more, but when eyes return to the public realm, we see politicians wanting to erect walls and ginning up xenophobia, dozens upon dozens of people getting shot in American cities on a nightly basis and, among a whole litany of other things, horses getting euthanized in the name of $2 wagers at the track in Baltimore.

Just like how Chewie couldn't save Han from an angry son, Payne's video can't transform the world into a place of celebratory goodwill all by itself. 

It could be a launching pad for an American Era of Embracing Positivity, but that would mean breaking through our inherent streak of forgetting about it by Wednesday, and replacing it with people screaming at one another about whatever pissed them off on that particular day.

It doesn't have to be this way, but this is the way it is. I'm just as guilty as anyone else for forgetting that, a realization that turned my smile upside down. 

To steal a quote from a fictional boxer whose statue brings joy to a lot of Philly visitors, if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change.

If you want to really make America great again, start by sharing something that makes you happy with others instead of perpetuating the divisive climate that's left America so emotionally raw that it took some lady with a Chewbacca mask to make a temporary difference. You might not get 137 million hits, but it will, even in a small way, balance out the negativity that so wholly defines the current national and international headspace.

Now, if that were to happen, Payne's Chewbacca mask would really be worth every penny she spent on it.