Minions: The Rise of Gru broke box-office records this weekend, becoming the highest-grossing 4th of July weekend movie opening ever. The vast majority of those ticket sales probably went to the film’s target audience—families with kids—but some tiny percentage of the box-office bonanza can probably be chocked up to certain members Gen Z, who’ve turned the film into an incredibly pointless but massively popular meme.
Here’s an explanation of the “gentleminion” fad, from someone who’s very much not a teenager and has never seen a Minions movie: Teen boys around the world are donning suits to go see Minions: The Rise of Gru. That’s it. It’s that simple. Sometimes they bring bananas, which is apparently a reference to the Despicable Me series, and sometimes they get rowdy (which is very ungentleminionly behavior, heh), but the key aspects seem to be wearing a suit, going to see Minions, and then posting a video to TikTok.
It seems like there are a few factors driving the trend. One is that the teens in question tend to be just outside the target age for the movie. They grew up on the Despicable Me franchise, which first debuted in 2010, but now they’re at the point where just sincerely going to the movies with your buddies to see little yellow guys speaking gibberish could be kind of embarrassing—so they slapped a hefty layer of irony onto the whole thing, and turned it into a meme. Another is that we’re just past prom season, so there are a lot of sweaty and crumpled recent Men’s Warehouse purchases hanging in closets just waiting for round two.
“My mate saw one of the first videos that was quite small at the time. We wanted to do it just for fun,” an Australian teen called Bill Hirst, who was among the first to participate in the trend, 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 days before that. We had all had our suits ready.”
Of course, like so many other memes, there’s always the chance that #gentleminions could go thoroughly sour. Some theaters are now refusing to sell tickets to groups of teens in formalwear, citing complaints from viewers who just wanted to, you know, enjoy a couple of air-conditioned hours entertaining their small children without being subjected to larger children moshing at the front of the theater. But it feels like there could be ways to nudge this trend toward the side of good—maybe with dedicated gentleminion screenings, in the tradition of participatory film events like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Room.
After all, if the kids don’t get too out of hand, this could be a welcome sign of life for the covid-battered movie industry. Tom Cruise, who’s still in the midst of his mission to save the cinematic viewing experience, is probably shedding a silent tear at seeing kids who are paying to see movies en masse in a way that would be impossible to replicate effectively at home. Plus, mildly acting up at the local multiplex is a teenage rite of passage—so let she among us who hasn’t snuck into a movie screening cast the first stone.