It’s safe to say that the internet is not a real place, yet its effects can be felt in our everyday lives. Behind-the-scenes photos of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie have captured the internet’s attention, giving us endless Barbie memes that I will never get tired of—and don’t get me started on the meme-culture surrounding Morbius.
This strange brew of cinematic memificiation has backed theaters and studios into a corner. While it is fun to sit back and marvel at the way the internet’s collectively ridiculous hive-mind works, it's a whole other beast to see a joke play out in real life.
The most recent film to take the internet by storm is Minions: The Rise of Gru. The franchise has been synonymous with meme culture for quite a while. Unlike Sony’s failed re-release of Morbius (which the internet is trying to get a second re-release of), people did show up to watch the movie, and they are doing it like #Gentleminions.
Well, they were at first, but the joke has gone too far.
If you are unfamiliar with the rise of #Gentleminions, let me break it down for you and what it means for the future of cinemas.
The Rise of #Gentleminons
After a two-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Minions: The Rise of Gru hit theaters over the weekend and was met with resounding enthusiasm. Some audience members decided to take their excitement to the next level by dressing in suits for the occasion.
This is a result of a TikTok and Twitter trend that took shape this weekend. Dubbed #Gentleminions, the hashtag has accrued 5 million views on TikTok, gaining so much traction that executives from Universal Pictures, the distributor behind the Despicable Me spinoff, issued a formal acknowledgment of the trend.
Bill Hirst created one of the first posts on TikTok to take part in the trend. Hirst’s video features a group of teens dressed in suit jackets moving up an escalator towards a movie theater. The video has over 8.5 million views over the past week and helped motivate the absurd trend.
“My mate saw one of the first videos that was quite small at the time. We wanted to do it just for fun,” Hirst told Variety. “We just chucked on our suits and went straight to the cinemas… It was very spontaneous. We had our formal literally a couple [of] days before that. We had all had our suits ready.”
Another TikTok user named Obi, who goes by the username @nigeriannightmare0 on TikTok, told Variety that they were “really civil, we just kept mannered and watched the movie. It wasn’t until we exited the theater that we saw this other group… It kind of reminded me of the Peter Parker memes, with the different Spider-Men pointing at each other.”
The trend seems to primarily attract the same demographic of young men. Considering that a person who was seven years old when the first Despicable Me hit theaters in 2010 is now around the age of 19 and is more than likely deeply embedded in the internet, Minions: The Rise of Gru is the perfect storm of nostalgia and meme-culture.
The Effects of the Trend
Jokes are funny until they go too far. The Independent reported that some of the #Gentleminions cheered, clapped, shouted, and mocked the Minion voices in theaters, disrupting those who wanted to watch the film without distraction.
Certain fans also moshed in front of the screen during the showing while another showing had fans throwing bananas at the screen, creating a dangerous situation for the families that are in the crowd.
A Vue Cinema in Worcester shared that they had to issue $1,552 worth of refunds in one day due to complaints, and an Odeon cinema issued a warning that anyone dressed in suits would be refused entry to the movie.
“I’ve heard from a couple employees just on TikTok that it’s been absolutely hectic the past couple of days,” Hirst told Variety. “They see one session with like six different groups showing up in suits and it’s just packed.”
Theaters have been a place of uncertainty since re-opening after the pandemic, and people are making their situation a strange one. With the bat that was released during a showing of The Batman, the cult of Nicole Kidman’s AMC ad, Morbius’ release, and the teens who are a bit too zealous to see a children’s movie, movie-goers don't know what to expect when they sit down at their local theater to watch a movie. This uncertainty creates a problem for theaters and their patrons and could spell disaster for the state of theaters in the future.
These wild reactions to specific movies could create a cult following that is much in the same vein as The Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Room. The major difference is that many of these negative incidents are happening on opening weekend with people taking a joke too far.
We all enjoy making jokes about our favorite good, bad, and upcoming movies that remind us of a better time, but it’s important to understand that it’s a joke. Don’t be the one who takes a joke too far and ruins everyone's good time. Speaking as someone who is generally excited to see Barbie because of the memes surrounding the production, I would like to watch it without people throwing Barbie dolls at the screen. Instead, be cool and blast Aqua's "Barbie Girl" in the parking lot afterward.
If you are a #Gentleminion, make sure you are enjoying the cinematic experience that is Minion: The Rise of Gru with the family of five sitting next to you. Share a laugh, eat some popcorn, and be a decent human being who is simply in on a joke.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!