Following Michelle Obama’s Sunday night video appearance at the Academy Awards, CNN used a clip of Happy Days character Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli jumping a shark on water skis to question whether the first lady had diminished herself.
The 1977 Happy Days scene and the phrase “jump the shark” has come to describe the moment when a gimmick damages someone or something’s reputation beyond the point of repair.
“An editor at Salon.com thinks the first lady is following in Fonzie’s footsteps by presenting the award for best picture at the Oscars,” CNN host Carol Costello announced on Monday after showing the Happy Days clip.
Costello noted that the first lady had also recently met with Sesame Street‘s Big Bird about her campaign to combat childhood obesity, appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s show and talked to TV chef Rachel Ray “about those much-buzzed-about bangs.”
“Some say maybe the Oscars aren’t the best use of the first lady’s time,” the CNN host continued. “Instead of all those cameos, she might champion some grittier political issues like the deficit, gun control or the pressing need for bipartisanship… Did Michelle Obama jump the shark at the Oscars?”
CNN contributor L.Z. Granderson reminded Costello that Laura Bush had also appeared in a video at the 2002 Academy Awards.
Granderson also noted that critics were forgetting that Michelle Obama “is not actually a politician, she’s married to a politician.”
After first expressing outrage about the current first lady’s Sunday night cameo, conservative pundits like radio host Dana Loesch and columnist Michelle Malkin later rushed to defend Oscar appearances by Laura Bush and Ronald Reagan.
“Reagan was former president of the Screen Actors Guild. Sorry, did I miss Michelle Obama’s past career in Hollywood?,” Malkin wrote on Twitter Sunday night, adding that the first lady would soon “be in every movie theater preview telling you to shut your cellphone off & put away the popcorn.”
“The left can’t produce a video of Laura Bush presenting because it doesn’t EXIST,” Loesch argued. “They want to deflect because FLOTUS presenting shows bias and the propaganda involved around their ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ flick.”
But Costello’s point seemed to be that the first lady had better things to do with her time: “Imagine if Michelle Obama would reach out to Ms. Boehner… And they had lunch together and they talked about their husbands.”
“I think the Oscars jumped the shark, like, four hours before Michelle Obama was even on TV,” CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash told Costello on Monday. “Jumping the shark had nothing to do with Michelle Obama.”
Watch this video from CNN’s Newsroom, broadcast Feb. 25, 2013.