“Minions: The Rise of Gru” did gangbusters over the weekend. The latest film in the “Despicable Me” franchise of a would-be villain and his bizarre yellow henchmen had the biggest opening ever over the July 4th holiday.
For all its success in drawing audiences back to theaters, distributor Universal Pictures has, at least partially, the “Gentleminions” to thank.
Gentleminions are young people who film themselves dressed in formalwear, flooding unsuspecting movie theaters to see the newest “Minions” flick and hollering at the screen like they’re lining the ring at Wrestlemania. TikTok teens are arguably not the audience Illumination had in mind when concocting the latest slapstick-heavy animated children’s film, but they’ve turned out in droves anyway thanks to the viral trend – the hashtag #Gentleminions has over 22 million views and counting on the platform.
The Gentleminions are not always welcome, though. They’re showing up at theaters everywhere from the US to Australia and countries in between, causing chaos to the point that some theaters have banned them from buying tickets to “Minions” if they come dressed in a suit.
If you spot a Gentleminion at a viewing of “Minions,” don’t panic – they’re typically harmless, if irksomely obsessed with the little yellow menaces. Here’s how the odd trend came to be – and how teenage boys on TikTok became the Minions’ biggest fans.
To understand the Gentleminions, one must first understand the Minions themselves.
Minions first hit the scene when the first “Despicable Me” premiered in 2010. Immediately, viewers were drawn to the oblong creatures in overalls who served villain-turned-softie Gru. With names like Kevin and Bob, a penchant for drag and a wholly unique delivery of the word “banana,” the Minions endeared themselves to audience members across generations – including Facebook users of a certain age, some of whom started sharing memes of Minions that convey the thankless exhaustion of parenthood.
And then there are the ironic Minion memes, those shared by irreverent young people and jaded adults. The Minions, these users postulate, are funny because they are not funny, but they’re so unfunny that the same memes have become funny again. Somehow, within that cycle of earnestness and irony, the Minions have become what they’ve always striven to be: Comedy legends.
Now, in 2022, the children who grew up with Minions are now young adults and very fluent in internetspeak. Enter the Gentleminions.
To be a Gentleminion, one must arrive at the movie theater in formal attire – usually a suit and tie. Then, after one has purchased a ticket to “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” one must film themselves before, during and after the film to demonstrate their excitement. One must cheer, leap up in glee and generally disrupt the viewing experience to inhabit the Gentleminion ethos. And then, of course, one must post their excursion on TikTok, setting the clip to a song called “Rich Minion” by the rapper Yeat.
Why dress up for a night at the theater? Bill Hirst, an Australian teen whose Gentleminions video has received millions of views, told Variety it was all “just for fun” after he and his friends saw another group of boys on TikTok who donned suits to the movies.
“We just chucked on our suits and went straight to the cinemas,” he said. “It was very spontaneous”
In a few cases, though, the Gentleminions’ mostly innocent revelry has soured. The only movie theater in Guernsey, in the British Isles, had to cancel screenings of the film after a horde of Gentleminions vandalized the theater and led some children at the screenings to leave in tears, its manager told the BBC.
Some American theaters have also seen light vandalism: A representative for a major theater chain who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record told the Los Angeles Times that its employees have been alerted to the trend after some Gentleminions caused minor property damage, though it doesn’t currently have rules in place to stop them from seeing the film.
Movie theaters have long been the preferred domains of many a raucous teen, but the Gentleminions have pushed many theaters to their limits. In the UK, several theaters have banned certain young people from purchasing tickets to the film as a result of the chaos in Guernsey and other locales, the Guardian reported. One theater said it would not admit any “unaccompanied children wearing suits” who came to see the Minions make mischief.
Whether American cinemas will take the same steps to curb the chaos remains to be seen. CNN reached out to national chains AMC, Regal and Cinemark for comment on their response to the Gentleminions trend and is waiting to hear back.
Meanwhile, Universal Pictures has wholeheartedly embraced the Gentleminions: In a tweet last week, the company wrote: “to everyone showing up to @Minions in suits: we see you and we love you.”
The Minions themselves even sent the Gentleminions a video salute on TikTok, wishing them “Bobspeed.” Their new “fans” might be seeing the film for disingenuous laughs, but the Minions are taking their teasing all the way to the bank.