The Internet, as the modern stage for conversation, is flooded with Tweets, status updates, blog posts, tumblrs and memes reflecting what people think about what’s going on in the world around them. During election seasons, it has become the sounding board for people to not only discuss, but parody, satire, comment and skewer the political class. Politicians understand that videos that go viral reflect how people see them, which is one reason they have spent some $78 million on online ads this year.
Below are 10 of the top viral videos from the 2012 US presidential campaign. Many of them set to popular music, and reflecting the major themes of the campaigns through the discourse of humor.
1. Epic Rap Battle
Over 28 million views.
Released October 15, 2012.
The Epic Rap Battle is a Web series that puts historical or fictional characters head-to-head in a spoken-word sparring match, to see who comes out on top. This edition featured Republican Mitt Romney slamming (in the poetry sense) US President Barack Obama with digs such as, “You’re all Barack and no bite / been no change and we’re all still hoping / that you’ll shut your mouth / like Guantanamo Bay, they’re both open.” The US president rhymes back, “Republicans need a puppet and you fit / got their hands so far up your rear, call you Mitt.” In the end, a rapping Abraham Lincoln descends, his teeth covered by a metal grill, in the talons of a bird, declaring “The president shall not be the shiniest of two turds.” Epic indeed.
2. Obama Singing Sexy and I Know It
8.7 million views.
Released March 26, 2012.
The clip was the most successful of a series that edited bits and pieces of real speeches together to fill in the words to a popular song. Obama built his likability, in part, on his ability to appear cool; “Slow-jamming the news” with Jimmy Fallon notched him over six million hits on Youtube, and made for an effective Republican rejoinder that celebrity does not a good president make. Yet there is something priceless about seeing the president singing “wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle” in the style of party band LMFAO.
3. Bad Lip Reading of the First Presidential Debate
7.5 million views.
Released October 9, 2012.
The Bad Lip Reading series ingeniously mutes the volume of any given verbal exchange and replaces it with what the speaker looks like they’re saying. The escapist result allows them to make it look like the leading politicians and pundits are actually uttering absurdities such as, “I see a purple idiot who speaks German with a big, spunky labra-doodle puppy.” or “It’s party time chumps!” This episode takes on the Denver debate that virtually eliminated the steady lead Obama had in the polls up until then, and has tried desperately to recover since.
4. Romney Style
12 million views.
Released October 8, 2012.
CollegeHumor, a relative veteran of presidential spoofing, put together this parody of PSY’s international hit “Gangam Style” that features the former Massachusetts governor singing, “I got distinguished hair / and a jet that flies me way up in the air.” The highlight may be the appearance of vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who sings, “I’m the VP nominee, your budget I’ll be cuttin’ / I got the eyes and body so you know that I’m gonna be struttin’.”
5. Tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney
12 million views.
Released October 30, 2012.
“This is my four year old daughter, Abigael, after hearing one too many mentions of the election,” the uploader writes a week before election day. Many people apparently concurred that they were ready for the election to be over.
6. Will the real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up
6.5 million views.
Released March 19, 2012.
The parody of Eminem’s Real Slim Shady laid out one of Mitt Romney’s greatest vulnerabilities--that he has changed his positions for political gain--by splicing together real sound bytes to make them rhyme. “I”m concerned about banks, they’re unable to lend / corporations are people, my friend!” Mitt raps.
7. Joss Whedon and the Zombie Apocalypse
6.5 million views.
Released October 28, 2012.
Sci-fi Hollywood screenwriter Joss Whedon has a cult following for his work on series such as Buffy and movies such as The Cabin in the Woods. Perhaps it only makes sense that he would see the stakes of the election as nothing less than a zombie apocalypse, blasting Romney (verbally, not with a shotgun, as would be required for zombies) as promoting policies “that will guarantee poverty, unemployment, overpopulation, disease, rioting. All crucial elements in creating a nightmare zombie wasteland.”
8. Sarah Silverman: Let My People Vote
2.5 million views.
Released September 20, 2012.
In perhaps the most viral hit released by the JCER, a Jewish SuperPAC, comedian Sarah Silverman, warns voters about new ID laws, seen as attempts to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning voters, and urges them to get the right forms to vote on election day. Even if that means “nana” should get a gun license.
9. Obama That I Used to Know
1.7 million views.
Released August 4, 2012.
The parody of Gotye’s sleeper hit Somebody That I Used To Know, the original of which has been watched over 300 million times on Youtube, speaks to the disaffected Obama voter from 2008, whose visions of hope and change were shattered by four years of reality. “Because you won and then you cut me off / now your speeches never soar as high as unemployment,” the character sings as he is painted to match an Obama “hope” poster in the background. “Now you’re not Obama that I used to know.”
10. West Wing Reunion
1 million views.
Released September 19, 2012.
Bridget Mary McCormack, a nominee for the Michigan Supreme Court, somehow managed to get the cast of the popular political drama The West Wing together for a television ad. Urging partisan voters not to ignore the nonpartisan portion of the ballot, on which McCormack is running, the gang bantered in a Sorkin-esque “walk and talk” that easily evokes nostalgia for the better days of the Jed Bartlett administration.