The Day an Empty Chair Ruled the Internet

Empty Obama Chair, Clint Eastwood's arch-enemyBehold the face of America’s newest sensation. LOLcats, Kardashians, and the horrors of something calling itself “Honey Boo Boo” all took a back seat to the poor, defenseless chair that withstood a tongue-lashing from Academy Award Winner Clint Eastwood at the closing of the Republican National Convention, which in turn drew an awful lot of press to cover any number of foregone conclusions.

I refuse to watch the video on principle — the principle being, partisan politics don’t interest me. This keeps me shut out of a lot of online discussions and ensures no one will ever pay me a steady income to become a TV pundit. I’m fine with that, but it usually means I have to go slink off into a dark corner and find ways to entertain myself until politics go away.

My admittedly secondhand understanding of the situation, then, is that the 82-year-old director was invited to close the ceremony with no small amount of star power, somehow mistook the chair for President Barack Obama, and attempted to bully it until it cried. I’ve yet to confirm if anyone involved in the incident referred this peculiar condition to Dr. Oliver Sacks.

Maybe this merciless haranguing was the most hilarious improv set of the year. Maybe it was an unmitigated disaster, like the time Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosted the Oscars. Maybe I’ve misread and Obama was actually standing off-camera on the other side of the chair, or had been shrunk with Pym particles and was resting comfortably under the chair. All I know for sure is that this spirited but one-sided argument took over my Twitter feed Thursday night and effectively shut down all other topics and memes. On Facebook, the empty chair emerged from its humble beginnings in Nowheresville and became the talk of the town, superseding the usual daily barrage of Photoshop yuks and Zynga proclamations. This week, NASA launched a rocket bearing twin probes to study the Van Allen radiation belts (the real story here being: believe it or not, NASA is still in the launching business), but that link has now been kicked off all front pages in favor of headlines about verbally abused furniture.

Some people have joked about its unintentional symbolism. Others applaud the moment as Eastwood’s best comedy gig since the flicks he made with that annoying orangutan. Someone naturally registered “Invisible Obama” as a Twitter alias. Rest assured our nation’s crack Photoshop gag specialists rushed to fill the chair with repurposed images of Kermit the Frog, the Sad Keanu meme, and Lord knows what other variations I’ve missed. The Internet plans to milk this new, inanimate media personality for all it can, until the Chair gets greedy and begins demanding large paychecks to make forgettable cameos in terrible films.

Nothing I could write about anything right now could hold an audience’s attention a fraction as much as that now-legendary empty chair’s misadventure has. I’ll just shut up and let the video roll below for the truly, insatiably curious who missed this unique spectacle. I did watch a few seconds of it just to confirm that, of all the versions uploaded, the Wall Street Journal‘s version had the best screen resolution, but that’s as far as I went.

I salute you, empty chair. Enjoy your fifteen minutes, and try to be kind to us little people during your wild ride on the shaky wooden coaster of fly-by-night stardom. Remember, today’s celebrity is tomorrow’s Goodwill bargain.

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