Is this America?

Last night, Twitter turned into one long promotional platform for Syfy’s “Sharknado, a spoof on disaster movies. But once again, it seems that a ton of tweets does not necessarily translate into huge ratings. “Sharknado” had an audience of just over 1 million people and only a 0.4 rating in the 18-49 demographic in early Nielsen numbers. Bottom line: It doesn’t take a lot of people to make a lot of noise on Twitter.

Business Week says that number, if true, is poor even by the standards of Syfy schlocksploitation. Their “octobear versus sharkosaurus” mutant monster genre draws an average of 1.5 million viewers per film, and sometimes much more. It’s hard for me to believe that a movie with this sort of hype on social media could actually underperform relative to the usual crapola — and maybe it didn’t. Preliminary ratings sometimes underestimate the total audience. But for what it’s worth, the Orlando Sentinel is reporting that “Sharknado” finished 35th in the local market with just a smidgen over 35,000 viewers. Which raises the question: When did we, as a people, lose our sense of national identity?

The movie did well in one medium, though:

It briefly hit 5,000 tweets per minute at the end, when Ian Ziering used a chainsaw to cut through a shark’s belly and then emerged from it, covered in viscera, reborn unto the world through a man-made sharkgina. But even those numbers are deceiving. Granted, it was tops last night among TV shows with 386,000 “social interactions,” but to put that in perspective, the season premiere of “Teen Wolf” on MTV last month drew a cool million. How could a silly, preposterous show like that top “Sharknado”?

Actually, there’s a lesson here:

That’s cute, but it’s kind of true. Online media is really just different forms of epistemic closure overlapping. “Sharknado” is a media phenomenon because pop-culture critics, both professional and amateur, love camp that’s as gleefully ridiculous as this. But if you’re not one of those people and you’re just looking for something good to watch, why would you spend two hours on it? It was so low-budget, the scenes of the characters “driving” around were shot exclusively in close-up through the windshield to pretend-hide the fact that they weren’t actually moving. If you’re the sort of person who’s willing to devote two hours of your life to ironic appreciation of egregious schlock, you were in a happy place. How many people are like that nationally? More than a million, I would have guessed, but maybe that’s my own epistemic closure talking

Exit question: This … doesn’t mean we’re not going to get “Sharknado 2,” does it?

Update: New ratings from THR show “Sharknado” at 1.4 million viewers — much closer to Syfy’s average for movies like this, but still lower than expected given the insane social-media hype.