Sociology Applied to #GentleMinions

Shock Horror – groups of older children have been ‘descending’ on cinemas recently to ‘disruptively watch’ the latest Despicable Me Movie – Minions: The Rise of Gru.

These children have been meeting up at cinemas in groups as large as 50, dressed in suits and calling themselves ‘Gentleminions’ and filming themselves getting up to various antics such as walking in slow motion through cinema lobbies with hands held in a particular ‘pointy finger’ despicable me pose and being rowdy during viewings of the movie – doing things such as cheering when Gru appears on screen…

Some of these children filmed these antics and uploaded them to TikTok where some videos received hundreds of thousands of views, some into the millions.

Cinema staff and management weren’t so amused by the actions of the ‘gentleminions’ with some cinemas banning groups of older children in suits from buying tickets for the movie, and with some parents of younger children saying they were scared by these antics.

These acts of minor deviance by young people should be of interest to anybody studying the Crime and Deviance aspect of sociology – as such disruptive and rowdy behaviour is clearly deviant in the context of a cinema where the social norms are that viewers keep themselves to themselves in the lobby are and are quiet during screenings.

But there’s a lot more Sociology we can apply to this contemporary event!

Sociology Applied to the #GentleMinions

First off – I call them older children because I can’t quite bring myself to call them young men, which in terms of their biological age at least some of them are. (At least I think most of them are 16-20 judging by their physical appearance, it’s hard to tell – the older I get the younger the young seem to be!).

So the first sociological concept this event reminds me of is the ‘social construction of childhood‘ – it reminds me that childhood is something flexible, and in this case we have young adults actively choosing to regress into a state of childhood for an evening.

Think about it – these people would have grown up with the ‘Despicable Me’ Franchise, being actual biological children when most of the movies were screened – and now, once the five year wait is over for the next instalment they want to regress back into that time that was probably more comforting for most of them!

So this is an illustration of the blurring of the boundaries between adulthood and childhood and in this case of adults choosing to act like children for a short while.

A Thoroughly Postmodern Event!

Obviously (hopefully) Despicable Me and the Minions are not real, they are a media construction, a cartoon.

This event couldn’t have happened without the media – and probably wouldn’t have happened without TikTok.

These kind of stunts are much more appealing to get involved in if your going to feature in a video that gets hundreds of thousands of views, after all!

An attempt at Belonging…?

Becoming a #GentleMinion, engaging in minor disruptive stunts in the cinema, filming them and uploading to TikTok is a pretty accessible way of feeling like you’re part of of something larger.

Think about it – the Minions ‘belong’ – they are like a very large community that work together, for the most part, for shared purpose, something that it is somewhat lacking in our real world postmodern society that is increasingly divisive and fractured.

But just by wearing a suit and pranking in the cinema for an evening and being part of a TikTok upload you get to be part of a global ‘movement’ that for a fleeting moment share their love of this movie.

It may be a fleeting and desperate attempt at belonging, but I kind of get it – and it’s harmless enough.

A minor moral panic….?

They’re hardly the mods and rockers but these cinema antics were/ are deviant and they did upset people and this did cause a response from the cinema-authorities, who banned some youths in suits from watching the Despicable Me movie…

So we have present three aspects of Stan Cohen’s classic moral panic theory….

However, in terms of degree of deviance these events are clearly not that harmful, and more interestingly it’s the youths themselves sharing their antics on TikTok – not the mainstream media exaggerating how deviant or disruptive they were.

#GentleMinions – Final Thoughts…

Personally I see this as relatively harmless youthful antics, not great for young kinds watching the movie with their parents, but in the grand scheme of things this is on the low end of social harm!

And this is hardly a challenge to the social order – if anything it reinforces it – it’s young people saying how much they like to consume mainstream media – I mean if any of these people were a threat to existing power structures they’d be out campaigning with a real social movement and probably wouldn’t spend so much time identifying with a cartoon!

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