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The Plugged In Show, Episode 137.5, The GentleMinion Phenomenon

Gru and some minions smiling.


Gru, it seems, isn’t the only thing that’s rising.

The box office tally for Minions: The Rise of Gru is climbing as well. It’s made $237 million in North America since July 1, and the yellow critters show few signs of slowing. It’s already the seventh-highest-grossing film of the year, and at a time when some studios are shipping their kids’-centric films straight to streaming services.

What explains the box-office might of Minions? The greatness of Gru?

Would you expect … teens?

If you haven’t heard, many of those millions of tickets were sold to teens—and teens wearing suits. And the gas that’s powering that unexpected engine is the #GentleMinions TikTok meme.

According to PostTrak (and as reported by The Hollywood Reporter), more than a third of the tickets sold to The Rise of Gru have been to folks between the ages of 13 and 17. Pretty significant, when the franchise’s last film (Despicable Me 3) drew just 8% from that demographic.

Part of that draw? Nostalgia. Apparently, even teens long for elements of the good old days.

“The GentleMinions trend is popular with teenagers and young adults, who have grown up with the Despicable Me franchise,” wrote Emma Wallenbrock for Slate. “There might be an element of irony in buying tickets en masse to a kids’ movie as a high schooler, but the Minions have been accompanying Gen Z for basically our whole lives.”

“This is what happens when a generation grows up with a franchise,” says one insider close to the movie. Universal president of domestic distribution Jim Orr added, “The movie is playing to a very broad audience, as well to families and the very young.”

But there’s more to this Minion meme movement than just nostalgia. And Plugged In Director Adam Holz and I want to tell you about a few of them on a special edition of The Plugged In Show.

Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

4 Responses

  1. -As a late Gen Xer who grew up at a time when teens were disgusted by corporate branding, allergic to nostalgia, and obsessed with never selling out, contemporary fandom puzzles and saddens me. But hey, to each his own. As corporate franchises go, this one seems pretty innocuous. Better Minions than Marvel.

  2. -I disagree with your conclusion. Minions have, for a long time thanks to Facebook, been regarded as the worst memes on the planet. Then Morbius came out and bombed as the second worst grossing superhero movie ever and the internet collectively laughed it into oblivion.
    So then they collectively decided to add insult to injury and go to see Minions: Rise of Gru in order to just absolutely wreak havoc on the movie industry.
    Because funny.
    That’s it, not nostalgia (at least for most), not a particular love for animation, or even just Illumination – just because we hate Morbius.

  3. -I’d want to thank you for creating such an interesting article for this blog. This article presented me with a wide range of information. Please keep posting.

  4. -Anyone remember when they used to do midnight screenings of Rocky Horror? Very similar.