They live among us. Violent, despicable and legion, these lab-reared humanoids have only one objective: world domination. They are the Minions, and they must be stopped.
Sure they look harmless, but their goggle clad faces loom Eckleburgian over every section of our sellable society. “Marry! Reproduce! Consume! Obey!” they seem to say and, without realising, we’ve become the unwitting slaves in their design. Make no mistake; this is their world now.
How did they manage their daring coup? Not with a bang but a whimper. Minions are so inoffensive that every brand wants to be associated with them, and as a result, none of us can escape them. Whether we’re eating Minion Happy Meals, watching Minion makeup tutorials or bidding for Minion heels, the bastards are all around us (or, in the case of Minion tampons, all up inside us).
They understood that if they connected themselves to brands, we’d consider them important, and in turn, they could synergise with more brands. It was through this monstrously inflated feedback loop, this giant yellow snowball effect, that the Minions rose to power.
Designed to be devoid of personality, they’re not so much characters as broad slapstick comedy made flesh. Every fibre of their innocuous being is calculated. They are mass appeal.
White, but not so white as to alienate people of colour. Colourful, but not so colourful as to deter white people. I know that marketing men at Universal Pictures agonised over the Minions’ pigment, because once they were done, they trademarked Minion Yellow as a “new colour”, and co-marketed it with Pantone.
“Minionese“, the gibberish language spoken by our soon-to-be-overlords, is also an aggregated concoction. As well as broken English, it contains several terms that originate from Spanish, Filipino, Korean, and Mandarin Chinese. It’s noting short of linguistic tokenism.
Like the rest of the Minions project, Minionese is an ingenious and deeply cynical device. It allows Universal to reap the financial rewards of diversification, while also enjoying the lucrative star power of an almost exclusively Caucasian cast. That Hiroyuki Sanada, one of the only non-white cast members in Minions, voices a character called “Sumo Villain” says it all really.
My concerns here are neither alarmist nor pedantic. Minions are a muddled, patronising embodiment of how Universal Pictures see their audience, and more broadly, how we are trained to disdainfully perceive the capitalist service class, even from within it.
Gender is one of the few things in the world that you can’t average in order to sell cinema tickets. Many people don’t like it when you expose its arbitrary and fragile construction. Queerness, conventional wisdom holds, doesn’t make for great for box-office.
Faced with having to make an actual decision for once in their lives, the design committee at Universal again took path of least resistance, and decreed that all Minions are all male (men being the default category under patriarchy). “Seeing how dumb and stupid they often are, I just couldn’t imagine Minions being girls”,reasoned Minions’ dumb and stupid male co-director Pierre Coffin.
More than hollow, Minions actually a black hole. A branding singularity so blandly palatable that it’s colonised our minds not through force, but via apathy. That they’re aimed at children excuses their crimes not an iota.
If left unchecked, Minions will become the very texture of modern life. This gaping maw of eternal blandness will consume everything that we hold dear, and that’s why I’m asking you to fight it. Boycott the colour yellow, picket a movie theatre, force Minions off brand, and tweet in solidarity using #StopMinions2k15. Meet me at the barricades comrade; we’re going to win this war.
Originally published at Abstract Magazine on 28th July 2015.