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‘Happy Chewbacca’ video is a conquering force on social media

NEW YORK — It was a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in joy.

NEW YORK — It was a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in joy.


The cause was a Facebook video capturing a Texas woman’s enthusiastic, infectious laughter as she tried on a Chewbacca mask in her car.

The video, originally broadcast live on Friday (May 20), propelled the woman, Candace Payne, into sudden social media fame.

Ms Payne, of Grand Prairie, Texas, had just bought the “Star Wars” character mask at a department store Thursday with a gift card she had gotten for her 37th birthday the week before.

Sitting in her car, and wearing a T-shirt with an image of the Death Star and the caption “Epic Fail,” she put her smartphone in a dashboard holder and began streaming video via Facebook. Ms Payne clapped her hands with child-on-a-Christmas-morning excitement, and spent about two minutes explaining her purchase before removing the Chewbacca electronic mask from the box.

Then she put it on. And a social media star was born.

The more she laughed, the more the hinged jaws of the mask opened, which triggered the Wookiee sound effect, provoking still more laughter.

“Oh, I am such a happy Chewbacca!” she cried. “I kind of want to drive around like this.”

The video became an Internet sensation. As of Monday morning, it had been viewed 136 million times on Facebook, and had been shared on many other sites. Ms Payne, who has a publicist to field calls from the news media, has been interviewed by the BBC, NPR and “Good Morning America”.

Her video spawned a #HappyChewbacca theme on Twitter and even drew praise from the actor Peter Mayhew, who has played the 7-foot-plus Wookiee.

In an interview on Saturday, Ms Payne said just seeing herself on the phone’s screen as she was recording set her off into gales of laughter.

She said she did not anticipate that the video would gain widespread attention. She joked that she had just wanted to document the fact that the mask belonged to her, and not her 7-year-old daughter or 6-year-old son.

Regardless, viewers roared — and shared her video — with approval.

Payne said the experience has brought “blessing upon blessing”. She has heard from people with anxiety or depression who thanked her for lifting their spirits and from the mother of an autistic girl who said her daughter laughed for the first time in months.

The department store that sold the mask, Kohl’s, seized on the video as a marketing opportunity, delivering a collection of “Star Wars” merchandise to the Payne family as well as US$2,500 (S$3,454) in gift cards.

Ms Payne said she first watched the original 1977 Star Wars movie on her honeymoon 15 years ago. She said she appreciated Chewbacca’s ability to be expressive and emotional with minimal dialogue.

Ms Payne noted that “Chewie” had endured a devastating loss in the most recent film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

“I finally felt that Chewbacca got his joy back and all was right with the world,” she said. THE NEW YORK TIMES

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