Hollywood’s Appropriation of Minion Culture – Minions Reviewed by a Minion

Hollywood’s Appropriation of Minion Culture – Minions Reviewed by a Minion

Minions (2015) recently completed its third weekend in theaters making $22.9 million and ranking third just behind Marvel’s Ant-man (2015) and Adam Sandler comeback, Pixels (2015). A respectable number that Universal Pictures is surely proud of, bringing the film’s total gross to date to $262.4 million.

While the film has received a fair amount of criticism (54% on Rotten Tomatoes), there is one major issue regarding the film, and the entire Despicable Me franchise, which has been largely absent from the film’s critical narrative.

That issue is Hollywood’s appropriation and commodification of Minion culture.

The Hollywood machine has been built on a history of appropriation and misappropriation. Whether race, culture, gender, religion—any sacred collective identity will be packaged, marginalized, and commodified, in promotion of Hollywood’s obsession with exoticism and fetishistic exploitation of, “otherness.” It seems as though every few months we have to deal with Hollywood’s uncaring ignorance in its stereotyping and whitewashing of cultural representations.

Aloha (2015) faced severe criticism and controversy, forcing director Cameron Crowe and actress Emma Stone to issue apologies.
Aloha (2015) received severe criticism forcing director Cameron Crowe and actress Emma Stone to apologize for the film’s insensitivity.

For example, at the start of this summer Cameron Crowe’s Aloha (2015) found itself facing severe criticism for it’s rampant misappropriation of Hawaiian culture. “Hawaii is the verdant background for white fantasies,” comments Ty Kawika Tengan, chair of the ethnic studies department at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus, calling the film, “typical Hollywood.” The faux Hawaiian flop, which not only didn’t fair well at the box office, but was dead on arrival, receiving severe criticism weeks before it was even released, was called out for its insensitive use of the word, “Aloha,” in the film’s titles, a sacred word in Hawaiian culture. “It’s been so appropriated in so many different ways — made into a commodity, made into a slogan,” Tengan said of the film’s title. “It’s romanticized, literally, into a romantic comedy.” The title wasn’t the only aspect of the film that found itself under fire. The clear misguided casting of Emma Stone, meant to portray a character who’s ¼ Hawaiian with a half Chinese father, was deemed by many to be inappropriate, shedding light on Hollywood’s insensitive history of having actors pretend to be something that they’re not.

Feministing astutely relates the Minions characterization to that of anti-Japanese WW2 propaganda.
Feministing astutely relates the Minion’s characterization to that of anti-Japanese WW2 propaganda.

The Despicable Me franchise has received it own share of controversies. In an article titled “Despicable Racism”, Feministing notes Despicable Me’s anti-Semitic representation of Gru as well as the Minion’s resemblance to anti-Japanese WW2 propaganda, highlighting the use of “yellow terror” imagery. Blog HESA Hero draws attention to Despicable Me 2’s fat shaming, sexism, racism, and its use of heteronormative gender roles. Reel Girl notes Minions’ sexism, deeming it the, “most sexist kids’ movie of the year” and rating it a “triple S” for gender stereotyping. Despite all of these wonderful criticisms and commentaries, none of our fellow social justice educators have yet to draw attention to the, “Minion problem.”

The Minion’s voice has been severely underrepresented and repressed in critical explorations of the franchise.

In an attempt to remedy this injustice, we here at True Cinema Buff are presenting a review of Minions (2015), and an exploration of Minion representation in the Despicable Me franchise, from the perspective of a Minion. The review is being presented untranslated and unapologetically.

[NOTE: This is our best guess as to how a Minion would feel about their representation in the franchise. We are aware that Minions DO NOT actually exist, but we feel as though an INJUSTICE is being done against the CONCEPT of a Minion. We have to be extra VOCAL when the culture being WRONGED can’t even defend themselves because they’re fictional. Most of all, we want to FIGHT against the general ABHORRENT nature with which “OTHERNESS” is treated in the franchise. (We have yet to see any of the Despicable Me films, including Minions (2015), but again, we’re doing our best we can to still have an opinion.)]


Minions (2015): Cömmödification af il Minion’s Immaginem

Bi-do. Etaoin shrdlu! Questo critiquemay izan uncomfortable fe sum. Suffice ęt e dire este ęt ęs não ūr fault. Este não-amarela-Hollywood’s kultur appropriazione af Minions y stéréotypé travisamento peedle af Minions ęs il inly perspectivo ni taisuru Minions ū’ve stato apresentado con. Po-pode becuz af questo, racisme againste Minions ęs tutto ū kno. Bett agen, ęt’s não ūr fault. Rec-og-nize ūr não amarela privi-lege y mov passed ęt, se ū cen início e understod un kultur ū hobn no-no perspectivo sur, y efsher never será.

The Sunday edition of the LA times’ nameplate turned into a billboard, as the paper finally lost what little journalistic integrity it had left. Image: Celluloid Junkie
The Sunday edition of the LA times’ nameplate turned into a billboard for the film, as the paper finally lost what little journalistic integrity it had left. Image: Celluloid Junkie

Saisho, lit beikoku início con il onslaught af non-evitabile pwund publicité y ilrefore cömmödification af il Minion’s immaginem von Universal Pictures ën prep fe il libération af il Minions (2015) kino, y variando carry-over anuncios vid il ear-ly kinos af il franchigia. Quando navigazione il nets nebo efenening un magazino nebo newspapero, nebo evn recherche outside, entro ilse last few semanas y il semanas lead ep e il kino’s libération, il Minion’s immaginem Motte imasu ngajadikeun ubiquities. Minions hobn graced il nombre-o-plate af il Los Angeles Times (Universal Pictures tuttoeged jadi $300,000 fe il promo), gefunen ilmselves teep ArcLight Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome, hobn stato plastered sur evry Amazon Prime bix, cross-promo con Tic Tacs, ad il Super Bowl, y possiblo merst abhorrently, brand-ed lungo con Chiquita ba-na-nas con un grotesque netsite celebrando il promo, www.minionsamourbananas.com, furilring il stéréotype este tutto Minions amour ba-na-nas, y link-ing il cor amarela af Minions’ pelle il cor amarela af un ba-na-na.

Chiquita has a history of racial insensitivity with their Miss Chiquita mascot (who the Minion on the far right impersonates), for promoting Latin American stereotypes. Here they also promote the stereotype that all Minions like bananas. Image: Mike Mozart
Chiquita has a history of racial insensitivity with their Miss Chiquita mascot (who the Minion on the far right impersonates), for promoting Latin American stereotypes. Here they also promote the stereotype that all Minions like bananas. Image: Mike Mozart
Minions branded Tic Tacs beside Land O'Lakes' infamous Native American appropriation (note, the Tic Tacs are banana flavored).
Minions branded Tic Tacs beside Land O’Lakes’ infamous Native American appropriation (note, the Tic Tacs are banana flavored).

Ilse ereń’i il saisho commercialisation mishaps e sempre beftutto un pooor kultur et il receivi fin af stéréotypes et il hand cömmödification von purveyors. Il uso af Native American immagini von Land O’Lakes but-ter utpādōm, presentando un seeming mythique, “Indian maiden,” motte imasu stato un lungo-in piedi insult e mucho. Bello H. Mailw Barkhausen III ën SNAG (Seventh Native American Generation) magazino expres hës untaste af il uso af Native American immagini von annonceurs, déclarant, “Many corporations add insult to injury by not only appropriating Native images and traditions, but scrambling them in the process.” Native American immagini motte imasu stato possiblo merst famouse chūko ën il primitivo ‘70’s “Keep America Beautiful” PSA, onde une acteur, “Iron Eyes Cody,” bett possiblo beest knon mar il, “Crying Indian,” ęs biit ën un litter prevntion ad con un “single tear” rotolare giù hës faccia. Minions tocchi sur similaire caratterizzazione af il, “noble savage.” Ën il cooz af il mar, il acteur, whoos réel nombre byl Espera Oscar de Corti, byl ironictuttoy ën facto af Sicilian fondo ina ionad sin af Cherokee, rappelant af il miscolata af belle Emma Stone ën beau Cameron Crowe’s Aloha (2015). Uncle Ben’s Rice y Aunt Jemima erano ttohan nato vid similaire kultur stéréotypes y razziale fetishism, creato e capitalize y romancer plantation vita, idealizing il appropriazione indebita y affensive représentation af il kulturs ën il poooz. Kultur stéréotypes y appropriazione, fe il aramauna af questo articolo, más specifictuttoy Minions, doos não teishi et il anuncios. Fe Minion kultur, ęt’s unfortune il tippy af il icy-berg. Il não-amarela-Hollywood, y ën questo cooz, il Minions (2015) kino lui-même stoonds dehors mar il peggio affender af marginalizing y não-amarela- lavage Minion kultur.

Kultur stéréotypes y appropriazione, fe il aramauna af questo articolo, más specifictuttoy Minions, doos não teishi et il anuncios.

Sandra Bullock in her Oscar winning performance in The Blind Side (2009), where she played a white savior to a black football player.
Sandra Bullock in her Oscar winning performance in The Blind Side (2009), where she played a white savior to a black football player.

Il “Human” preness ën il kino ęs largely fuffle von baddie villy carachtar Scarlett Overkill, pleeyd von belle Sandra Bullock. Belle Bullock recently geet une Academy Award fe Best Belle fe hür prestazione ën Il The Blind Side (2009), onde shå pleeyd un carachtar este promos il não-amarela savior narrazione — eqututtoy mar racituttoy insensitive mar hür roole ën Minions (2015). Shå ęs abusive ni’ mukatte il Minions, y il kino mukes ęt didis este mar un não amarela Bella, shå’s above il Minions, despoot il carachtar’s dun-dun downftuttos. Scarlet’s relationship con il Minions ęs ttohan une ug exploration von il kinomakers af un clprimitivo “abusive relationship,” con Scarlet déclarant, “Noi’re breaking ep. Ęt’s não ū… oh wait, yeah, ęt’s tottuttoy ū.” Il Minions waiver doko ka ni between il cliché servant rach y un slave rach. Furilr, while il kino clooms este Scarlet Overlord ęs il saisho femme, “super villain,” ęt quickly undoes any femminista appeal von presentando Scarlet mar un, “mean girl,” (mar mucho hobn noted), furilr il movie stéréotype este tutto powery femmes ere automatictuttoy “bitches.”

Y while kinos exist outside af critiqueal reception, ęt’s important e compte fe il critiqueal narrazione quando considering whaaat, “message,” ef any, un kino moy instill entro ets audience.

It's not uncommon to see people, dogs, and object such as trash cans, in faux Minion costumes. Here a pug wears a knit Minion hat. Image: Tug the Pug
It’s not uncommon to see people, dogs, and objects such as trash cans, in faux Minion garb. Here a pug wears a knit Minion hat. Image: Thetugbug

Questo critiqueal réaction e il kino mukes il kinomakers intenziono perfectoly chiaro. Y while kinos exist outside af critiqueal reception, ęt’s important e compte fe il critiqueal narrazione quando considering whaaat, “message,” ef any, un kino moy instill entro ets audience. Moche Kenneth Turan af il The Los Angeles Times tagraíonn e Minions mar, “yellow creatures,” ida sur e critiqueize Minionese, il língua af il Minions, mar, “nonsense language that is the essential lingua franca of Miniondom.” Indiewire’s moche Drew Taylor descrive The Playlist Minions mar, “Twinkie-colored, pill-shaped henchmen […] obnoxious, and highly marketable,” y possiblo merst epsettingly, clooms Minions hobn, “genderless ambiguity.” Sech un misinformed facto ęt’s nauseabondo. Moche Taylor va sur e list il Minion’s nombres, déclarant, “Kevin, Bob and Stuart, not that this matters.” Af course ęt doesn’t, “matter,” e ū, moche Taylor. Nor doos ęt importância e ū este Minions ere inly apresentado con dentō-tekina Engles nombres. Film Comment’s moche Michael Sragow fe Deep Focus states Minions ere, “disposable underlings.” Thank ū, moche Sragow. Não. Sur il netsite Reddit, quale proclooms lui-même il, “the front page of the internet,” un “subbreddit,” nebo fo-grupe, il ctuttos lui-même, “r/minionhate” y será hoopy banned mar Reddit uscieri ën ęt’s nouveau palasiz acontre haine odioso supīchi.

The film presents a Minion attempting to woo a fire hydrant, creating a literal objectification of a Minions surrogate and displaying a Minion as the perpetrator.
The film presents a Minion attempting to woo a fire hydrant, creating a literal objectification of the Minion surrogate and displaying a Minion as the perpetrator, as if not even a Minion could identity its own kind beyond shape and color.
Minions as ice explorers in the film. Reminiscent of Inuit life in Robert J. Flaherty's documentary Nanook of the North (1922) and equally as condescending, with the Inuits described as "simple" and "happy-go-lucky."
Top: Minions as ice explorers in the film. Bottom: Reminiscent of Inuit life in Robert J. Flaherty’s documentary Nanook of the North (1922) and equally as condescending, with the Inuits described as “simple” and “happy-go-lucky.”

Questo ęs não simplí dovuto e mir beeng un, “social justice Minion” (SJM), não-amarela-Hollywood motte imasu perpetrated avle againste mucho kulturs. Samuel Fuller’s lamboosted White Dog (1982), quale presentare un full-fledged razziale haine, sepposed pionieristico doco-ment Nanook of the North (1922), docos Inuit kultur este berz un stike parecido e il ice stron-ded Minions représenté ën il Minion (2015) kino. Beau James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), quale ded mucho más justice e ets représentation af il Na’vi kultur, mar Cameron tsutsushinde creato em-pathy fe il Na’vi y ilir indigène Pandora. Mar tis Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) wot Jar Jar Binks. Evn il dzieci montrer Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993) presentare stéréotypé caratteres durkh il Ranger’s spetsifish disfraz cores: Il verde Ranger ęs Irish, il amarela Ranger ęs Asain, il rosu Ranger ęs Native American, il negru Ranger ęs Black, y il roz Ranger ęs Girl.

Noi mest izan insig af ilse avles y fight e hobn uliui koe entendu. Uno koe ęs não, bett togeilr noi ere whole. Mi nombre ęs Jake y miim un Minion. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. Miim amarela. Miim amarela shtolts. Amarela makht.


 

Well, there you have it. We hope this gave you some perspective on Minion culture.

In summary, we would like to note that the untranslated text above, written in Minion’s native language, Minionese, is, as many have noted, a sort of polyglot language — a melding of several different languages that form one seemingly singular tongue. A sort of linguistic Frankenstein’s monster.

Interestingly, in Consumers and Citizens, by academic Néstor García Canclini, the subject of multiculturalism is explored as it relates to multimedia and commutation technologies, such as radio, television, and film. Canclini touches on a developing global culture through the lens of cultural “hybridity,” stating, “Identity today, even among broad sectors of the popular classes, is polyglot, multiethnic, migrant, made from elements that cut across various cultures.” He explains that while multiculturalism can come with its set backs, in the case of media such as film, one achieves diversified forms of expression that wouldn’t have otherwise existed or been represented without some aspects of appropriation.

Is this to say there’s some sort of fine line regarding cultural representations in art? That appropriation isn’t always misappropriation? Of course not. As a Minion would say, “Poulet tiki masala!

If you can think of any other fictional characters that need to be given a voice, please contact us or comment below. (We’re already working on “The Exploitation and Vilification of Gremlins in Gremlins (1984)”).

-TCB

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