Out of the Limelight and into the Moonlight: An Oscarized Mix-up for the Ages

Out of the Limelight and into the Moonlight: An Oscarized Mix-up for the Ages

The dazzling reflection of a star-lit stage has a funny way of distracting people, as was the case with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway’s presentation of the award for best picture to the wrong film. In a glorious moment of bewilderment, Dunaway incorrectly announced La La Land as the best picture when Moonlight should have received the accolade.

The trivial slip-up was described as “The worst flub in Oscar history” by USA Today and doomed by Oscars Producer Michael De Luca as he described the screw-up “Was like [reading] the Hindenburg Report.” I didn’t watch the Oscars (did anyone?), but these comments address the superficial nature of an honest mistake, and ignores a prime fundamental of live entertainment: When a performance lacks a script, the outcome is not always predictable. The unpredictability of live awards shows gives the audience a chance to view celebrities in a non-scripted environment – one of the only chances fans have to view them “not in character.”

Beatty and Dunaway’s snafu may have deviated from the planned outcome, but the virality (not a disease) and shareability of their trivial oversight inspired positive reactions that kept the moment relevant across social platforms for weeks after the Oscars concluded.


The reaction from media leaders was nearly instant, with TMZ responding less than an hour after the announcement aired; Us Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, and BBC News were quick to follow.

When it comes to performance malfunctions, Facebook is the most lucrative of hunting grounds. Content that may lack newsworthiness in less-focused channels, such as network TV, radio, and print finds serendipitous virality in Facebook’s hyper-concentrated engagement funnel. Of course, this effect assumes the question: why does certain content excel while other time-tested counterparts return average shareability?

The answer is emotion. Yes, the subject that shares little consistency from person to person. Yet in a sea of aggregation, a common denominator emerges: people share stories because it provokes a positive emotional response. “Emotionally provocative content is particularly viral,” claims Jonah Berger, a leading author in content marketing. Positive emotion is a sharable commodity. People are empowered when they share positive emotional content.


The reaction from everyone’s favorite visual social media network was mostly of the “trolling” variety. Instagram is not only a fun and easy way to brag about your optimal life with your friends and family (think beach pics, not study pics), it is also a way to share some comedic relief with your humor loving followers. This particularly bodes well with posts that are referencing current events. Instantly, users were circulating newly-adapted memes and funny hashtags. People are using past events to make fun of and reference current events.

This type of social media posting is not directly letting the people know what happened, but what is sharing is fake new. No one really minds that this event actually happened, yet people mind that it happened in relation to other events.


Probably the most accessible of all media channels, Twitter was flooded by Oscar fans and attention-seekers alike following Beatty’s most unfortunate announcement. #tbt to Steve Harvey during the Miss Universe Pageant, perhaps Ryan Gosling and Miss Columbia can console each other.

While we all love a good twitter rant about so-and-so celebrity making a fool of themselves the question we should be asking ourselves is; why is this kind of content so catchy? This is fake news with a capital F, and yet, people are still taking to social media in order to share their opinions about it. Why? WHY do we care so much that Warren Beatty said the wrong title for an award? Is that really the most devastating thing that’s happened so far this year? No, it’s not, but it sure is relatable. Virality of news doesn’t happen because the content is impactful or important on some degree, it happens because the content is ridiculous and relatable. Warren Beatty’s slip-up isn’t about to be aired on CNN or Fox News, but it’s perfect fodder for social media. He is a human and he made a mistake; we ALL make mistakes, whether it’s during the Miss Universe Pageant or during the Oscars.


YouTube is a unique platform in that posting original content takes a lot of back end work. If someone wants to tweet something “original,” they only need to put their stream of consciousness thought into 140 characters or less (*cough cough* although some people should probably do more quality control before they press post). To post a video on YouTube, a user typically needs to be inspired by an idea for a video, draft the content, take the video, edit the video, and finally publish it.

After the Oscars best picture mix up, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram had huge spikes in activity. Surprisingly, YouTube didn’t take too long to follow suit. It’s as if people were already poised behind their web cams ready to take a reaction video, or even had a video running live while they watched the Oscars (a little bit creepy… if anyone needs a reason to put black tape over their laptop camera, watch the Black Mirror episode Shut Up And Dance). In less than an hour after the wrong envelope was handed over, a search for “Oscars best picture mix up” yielded 100s of videos, particularly comedic spoofs, commentary from entertainment channels, and user-generated reaction videos. But Emma Stone is still so endearing (do you see the way Ryan Gosling looks at her?), that more tribute videos were made for her best actress win, rather than poking fun at the mix up.

YouTube is much more than Charlie the Unicorn (what’s up 90s kids), Double Rainbow, makeup tutorials, music videos, and stupid people doing stupid things. YouTube has informative and creative reaction videos, and is somehow able to take snippets of any event and make it ridiculously funny. It’s still the best way for a bored college student to waste time after 1AM… but it deserves a bit more credit than we give it. And for those of us who don’t have a TV – YouTube is filled with clips from the Oscars, Entertainment News, Comedy Shows, and anything you can think of… but didn’t have a chance to see real-time.

Here are a few of our favorite videos that were prompted by the event:
1) User Reaction Video
2) James Corden Spoof
3) A Tribute to Emma Stone


No matter what platform you use… remember to post and consume responsibly 😉

We all have a little Steve Harvey and Warren Beatty in us, you just gotta own it #SorryNotSorry

Sassy marketers… out!