How Minions 2: The Rise of Gru explains capitalism

If someone asked you to describe the Minions, what would you say? You would probably detail their little yellow pill-shaped bodies, dressed in overalls and oversized glasses. Perhaps you will provide the context that the Minions are characters first introduced in the 2010 animated children’s film My favorite evil, and that their goal is to serve their villainous master Gru, providing comic relief to a disturbing if bizarre plot. (A man wants to steal the moon.)

You can tell they speak a nonsensical language punctuated by recognizable English words like “banana” (the Minions love bananas) and “potato” and that their similarities show up in everything from shampoo bottles to thongs. If you were generally a non-cynical person, you might say that Minions are cute and people like them. If it wasn’t, you could claim that they are agents of the capitalist machine, ready-made, infinitely marketable mascots that make the destruction of the world at the hands of megacorporations look adorable and fun.

As of this summer, you can also say that the Minions have really cool taste in music. In May, it was announced that the soundtrack for Minions: The Rise of Gru (released July 1) would feature covers of ’70s hits from contemporary cult favorites: Phoebe Bridgers covering the Carpenters, Tierra Whack on Santana. It’s not Minion’s only example of street credibility: menswear blog Hypebeast has cataloged its latest fashion collaborations, which include Japanese graphic artist VERDY, Brooklyn-based fragrance company Joya Studio, and super goopin addition to previous collections with it brands such as BAPE and Away bags.

All of these pieces of merchandise are a blatant effort by Universal Pictures to convince adults — apparently even childless adults who might already find the Minions somewhat subversive or ironically funny — to love and care for the Minions as much as children already do. . not minions need appear in streetwear collabs or expensive sunscreen for your most ardent fans (families) to buy tickets to see minions 2. But the Minions, above all, rely on a single principle: they must be everything, all the time – like the economic system we live in.

What are Minions?

If you really don’t know what Minions are, or would like to hear lots of fun facts about them, in 2015 my colleague Phil Edwards wrote 2,000 words on this very topic. The most interesting part is that canonically, Minions have been around for at least 60 million years (the first lackeys the film shows that they serve a tyrannosaurus rex), are all male (or have traditionally male coded names), and are immortal (the same characters serve the ancient Egyptian pharaohs, Dracula and Napoleon). Most importantly, Minions are driven solely by a desire to serve a master villain and are very depressed when they don’t have one.

Minions is the brainchild of Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, the directors of My favorite evil franchise, which includes three films (a fourth is scheduled for release in 2024) and two films centered exclusively on the Minions. Its design was inspired by the bright orange Oompa Loompas from the original. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory film, as well as the short, furry Jawas by Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Coffin and Renaud voice the Minions themselves and told the LA Times that the Minions are funny because they are, essentially, kids. “They lose focus, they’re not very smart,” Renaud said.

What’s so good (and terrible) about Minions?

The Minions As We Know Them Today Weren’t In The Original 2010 Script My favorite evil. “In the first movie they were portrayed as a big army of brawny thugs doing arch-villain Gru’s dirty work and we soon realized they were very unattractive and made Gru a totally unsympathetic antihero,” Coffin told the Guardian in 2015. To make Gru look charming, they made Minions cute.

The fact that they are adorable is precisely what makes Minions so charming and also so treacherous. With clown comedy and clumsiness, Minions allow kids to see themselves in the characters and allow adults to fawn over them. The LA Times reported in 2013 that when Illumination Studio CEO Chris Meledandri showed them to Japanese animators, they praised them as “kawaii”; the fact that they speak in almost unintelligible squiggles allows them to translate seamlessly across international borders.

However, Minions are, at their core, servants of evil, both on screen and online. In a 2015 article for The Awl called “How Minions Destroyed the Internet,” Brian Feldman argues that because it is the platonic ideal of a franchise mascot – palatable, recognizable blank slates that can be made to do or say what we want – they’ve become the perfect meme. “The Minions were designed to be everything and nothing at the same time,” he writes. So almost any meme can feature a Minion and it would make sense.

Over the course of the 2010s, Minions have become synonymous with a certain type of meme in particular: the “Facebook mom meme”, referring to the concise, sometimes misspelled, fried images that say things like ” I don’t care what you think of me! Unless you think I’m awesome, in which case you’re right. Continue…” or “Putting down the phone and paying attention to who is talking to you? there’s an app for that – it’s called RESPECT.” A Business Insider article from the same year titled “Teenagers on Facebook are begging their moms to stop posting bizarre cartoon memes that don’t make sense” details the consequences of this phenomenon.

The Minions absurdity also exists in the physical world, taking advantage of the surreal and mysterious quality of memes: people have created Minions 5K runs, Minions Tic Tacs, Minions lingerie, Minions pumpkins, a Minions men’s crocheted thong, and so many others that a reporter from Vice tried to live an entire weekend of Minions products.

What do Minions have to do with capitalism?

Being all at once — you can find Minions memes where Minions are gay and proud and Minions memes where Minions hate gays — Minions are the purest expression of capitalism, which extols growth and expansion at the expense of any standards clear lines of morality or logic. The great irony, however, is that the Minions are, first and foremost, workers: the very class most heavily exploited in capitalist systems.

This is the purpose of what may be my all-time favorite scholarly article, “Beautiful Exploitation: Notes on the Un-Free Minions” by scholar Justyna Szklarczyk. The piece, which is translated from Polish, includes phrases such as “The working-class uniform clings to the body of the Minions” and “The bright yellow skin of the Minions makes it impossible for them to reject or abandon their class identity”, and makes the case in point. that Minions embody the ideal workforce and are exploited by it.

“They are standardized, highly interchangeable, and desperate for whatever work they can find,” writes Szklarczyk. “they do not bleed or break, do not require health care, are tireless, are unaffected by growth or aging, remain immutable and immutably ready to work.”

Her exploration comes from the hands, she argues, not just of her master Gru but also of Universal Pictures. By being portrayed as the undisciplined proletariat, the film casts Minions as silly, childish creatures who are only able to upgrade under capitalism: serving a master who belongs to the “transnational jet-set” of villains coded by billionaires who own private jets. and living in palaces is the only way to achieve happiness. Meanwhile, the film suggests that the Minion’s freedom from these masters is “impeded by the ostensibly limited cognitive abilities of the working classes. Thus, the toil of the nascent subject ends up being ridiculed”.

It may be possible to argue that, in exemplifying the effects of capitalism, the My favorite evil franchise is really churning out anti-capitalist commentary. Szklarczyk doesn’t buy into that, however: because Gru is a good master for the Minions, the films fail as critiques of the system and, in fact, condition children to live in an unequal world. “In such a world, those who do not side with Gru are considered cheated, deceived, or clearly wrong,” she writes.

In short, this is how capitalism is packaged and sold: those who are unable to accept the free market as a lovely, lovely playground where everyone feels happy and self-fulfilled are simply too stupid and childish to reap its benefits. It’s no mystery why the Minions’ most outspoken critics are culturally conscious young leftists, people who might find them aesthetically frightening or terrifying, but metaphorically representing something far more sinister.

So there is only one solution: we must free the Minions, just as we must free ourselves.

This column was first published in The Goods newsletter. Sign here so you don’t miss the next one, in addition to receiving newsletter exclusives.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: