Bud Kennedy

Chewbacca mask had Texas ‘Star Wars’ fan trending above Clinton

Candace Payne’s video has been shared more than 3 million times.
Candace Payne’s video has been shared more than 3 million times. Facebook.com

Candace Payne is in.

Hillary Clinton is out.

When it comes to online searches, at least, more Google users in recent days have looked for the “Chewbacca mask lady” than for the apparent Democratic presidential nominee.

Payne, 37, is the Grand Prairie resident who put on a $20 talking Star Wars: The Force Awakens Chewbacca mask from Kohl’s on Thursday and laughed her way into the world’s heart.

Partly thanks to Star Wars fans, but mostly thanks to Payne’s hearty and happy laughs, the video had been shared on 3.2 million Facebook pages by midday Tuesday.

After a round of network TV appearances, Payne now has a personal invitation from the “real Chewbacca,” actor Peter Mayhew of rural Wise County west of Boyd, to join him at a Dallas fan convention.

Her four-minute video and searches for “Chewbacca mask video” and phrases such as “Chewbacca mom” outranked searches for information on the Democratic front-runner Saturday and again in recent days.

Occasionally, searches for the mask video even surpassed those for Democratic rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, and once for apparent Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.

“The forces driving this traffic are not as dissimilar as they seem,” said TCU political science professor Adam Schiffer, a scholar on the media and politics.

“They’re driven by people making an emotional connection, and by something novel or provocative. The election was novel, and generated a lot of intensity. But the race is in a steady state now.”

Web users don’t need to search for Clinton because they know her, said James Henson, a University of Texas at Austin political science professor and a scholar on politics and the Internet.

“People are not spending a lot of time looking for her,” he said.

“On the other hand, it’s hard not to see something like this video and see that it has the feel of something entirely guileless, compared to an entirely guile-filled presidential campaign.”

Payne’s innocent laughter struck a chord in a time of worldwide conflict and worry, said Linda Metcalf, a marriage and family therapist and professor of graduate counseling at Texas Wesleyan University.

“Having kids, there are times when you see things in a store that you’d like to play with but wouldn’t,” she said.

“She’s got such a contagious laugh. … With all the political arguments lately and the [Egypt] airline crash, so many things are getting us down. Then a normal person does something fun on video, and it gets our attention.”

We’re burned out on the campaign. Never on Star Wars.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.