At the Oscars this year, even the host was posting selfies on Twitter.
Twitter is the watercooler of the digital age, and nothing drives that home so clearly as a live event. This year’s Academy Awards saw the host, Ellen DeGeneres, get the likes of Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep to pose for a selfie. It quickly became the most retweeted tweet ever, overwhelming Twitter’s servers to such an extent that there was a brief blip in service.
References to Twitter were littered across the show: Cate Blanchett even told Julia Roberts to “hashtag Suck It” in her acceptance speech for Best Actress. By the end of the night, Best Supporting Actress Lupita Ngyong’o’s headband had its own Twitter handle, following in the fine tradition of Angelina Jolie’s leg from 2012.
Watching a telecast — especially of a live event — is no longer a passive event. Getting out a reaction and having it rebroadcasted as many times as possible has become integral to the event itself; the electronic equivalent of hosting a live-watch party. The Oscars are particularly suited to the snark Twitter thrives on. It is a pop culture truism that the ceremony is smugly self-congratulatory, runs overlong and is unfunny — witness the barely suppressed glee at the oft-wavering TRPs and the reams of e-ink devoted to explaining precisely what the Academy needs to do to woo those younger viewers.
Yet the show is also a cultural cornerstone, the culmination of awards season. So when new Best Actor winner Matthew McConaughey calls himself his hero a decade from now, or John Travolta mispronounces a performer’s name, or Will Smith, well, shows up, those moments become targets for experiments in internet humour. New memes are born, circulated and discarded in virtual cage-matches — the more irreverent, the better.