BuzzFeed’s exploding watermelon can take a hike. There’s a new most-watched Facebook Live video of all time (and by “all time,” I of course mean “the five-plus months since Facebook Live Video became available to noncelebrities”). The new title belongs to one Candace Payne, whose four-minute video of herself putting on a noise-making Chewbacca mask and laughing hysterically in a car has, as of this writing, been viewed more than 52 million times since it was originally live-streamed Thursday afternoon.
Payne’s minidocumentary was an unlikely candidate to become a record-setting viral video. Payne is not famous. The video doesn’t contain some mind-blowing life hack. There’s not even really a surprise for people who didn’t watch it live, because as soon as her video started getting social traction, sites started posting it under headlines like “This Woman’s Chewbacca Mask Made Her Laugh Hysterically!” (Way to ruin the ending, Just Jared.)
So why have tens of millions of people watched a video Payne made for her “friends on the Internet webs”? Because Payne is charming. She’s self-deprecating about her weight, her trouble pronouncing the word confiscate, and the fact that people in the parking lot are staring at her. She makes no bones about the fact that she bought the mask for herself, not for her kids. And she has a great, genuine laugh, which goes on for at least a full minute as the mask, designed to make noise when the mouth moves, faintly emits Chewbacca roars. Payne’s joy is infectious. It is impossible to watch the video without smiling, even if you’re simultaneously wondering, “Why am I watching this?”
As one of my colleagues put it, in an attempt to explain the appeal of the video, “She’s so happy, whereas everyone else on the Internet is complaining about something.” (Today, for instance, people are complaining about a terrible xoJane essay about the death of a mentally ill woman, Oklahoma’s unconstitutional law making abortion a felony, and the Clinton campaign’s very bad attempts at making a Venn diagram.) As Payne wrote in her description of the video on Facebook, “It’s the simple joys in life.” For Payne, the simple joy came in the form of a Chewbacca mask. For us, it comes in the form of a rare viral video that isn’t a cynical play for views and that’s funny at no one’s expense.