Ellen DeGeneres, the Oscars, and the Selfie That Broke Twitter



While hosting the Academy Awards last night, Ellen DeGeneres tweeted this selfie that quickly set a record as the most retweeted item EVAH. Her caption: "If only Bradley's arm was longer. Best photo ever." The traffic on Twitter was so massive the service actually couldn't keep up for a while.

As the Los Angeles Times wrote, the popularity of the image above easily busted the previous retweet record, which was held by President Barack Obama, who sometime in 2012 tweeted, "Four more years."

At 9 p.m. PST, the Ellen tweet was pushing 1.8 million retweets (although Twitter stuttered with the traffic load brought on by the tweet, and different users were seeing different totals).

That obliterates the Obama retweet total of 778,801.

Is there any socio-cultural import to be found in this? Does this mean that culture trumps politics? That celebs are more attractive than pols? That Sunday night is the right time for infamously long, boring awards shows? That Obama's second-term agenda is as dead as the future careers of the folks winning best supporting Oscars?

Perhaps it's worth looking at the compositional differences between the two biggest tweets of all time. The stars are looking at viewers and directly engaging us in joy and fellowship; it's an invitation to share in a moment. Obama's eyes are closed and he's in a rapturous embrace with (presumably) his wife and lover. The viewer is cast in the role of a voyeur rather than an active participant. Perhaps that's a metaphor for Obama's presidency in which many if not most of his biggest "accomplishments"—TARP, Obamacare, dragnet surveillance—have been wildly unpopular with the voting masses. We are supposed to gaze upon him and follow him around but not disturb his reveries.

Hash it out in the comments.

For a list of Oscar winners, go here.