This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
If you're reading this, chances are you hate the Minions, those gibbering cylinders for children from the Despicable Me films. These cute little characters have brought nothing but joy and laughter to kids across the world, and to quite a few adults too—but for some people, the chronically embittered, those who've lost touch with any sense of wonder or enchantment, the Minions inspire a furious, almost pathological, hatred.
Every poster for their upcoming film, every plush toy and brand tie-in, fills you with fury and dread. The internet is full of pictures of Minions on fire, and you love to watch them burn. You're not quite sure why, but hating the Minions has somehow become an incredibly important part of who you are. Bile, not blood, bubbles under your skin.
Even things that superficially resemble the Minions now have you foaming with rage. Loofahs are intolerable. You stamp on bags of Wotsits until dust pops from the seams, your arms flailing in pointless circles, your face contorted into an inhuman snarl, until supermarket security drags you away. The sight of a clitoris makes you want to puke. It's been noted of Islamophobia that the Islamophobe is dependent on Muslims to maintain his identity—if there were no Muslims, the EDL and Britain First would have to invent them. In the same way, it is you, the Minion-hater, who needs the Minions. If it weren't for them, your hatred would spill out everywhere, and then nothing would be safe.
There is, admittedly, one good reason for hating the Minions. According to the films, the Minions have existed for millions of years, and in every age, they've loyally served the greatest villain on Earth. They're always trying to do evil, even if it's somewhat held up by their hilarious incompetence. So at the start of the recently released film Minions we see Minions accidentally pushing a tyrannosaur into a volcano, crushing thousands of Egyptian slaves beneath a poorly built pyramid, and ruining Napoleon's ambitions on the battlefield with an errant cannonball.
This potted history papers over a few cracks. Minions must have been there, piling human skulls on human skulls, some of them still blood-splattered, some hanging with stringy trails of human flesh, when the Mongols came to sack Baghdad in 1258. Pith-helmeted Minions fumbled the quinine as the British Raj starved millions in India. And eventually, the Minions would have allied themselves with Adolf Hitler. Helmeted Minions directing artillery fire in the wrong direction during the siege of Leningrad. Minions in Einsatzgruppe uniforms, chasing bananas into the mass graves. Minions falling from the guard towers at Auschwitz. After all, they're evil.
Strangely, though, the fact that the Minions are complicit in the crimes of the Third Reich doesn't seem to be why people hate them so much. With a few exceptions, most complaints about the Minions have nothing to do with their intrinsic evil. Instead, there's a familiar triad of unsatisfying objections: They're stupid, they're annoying, and they're taking over everything.
This isn't untrue, but it is frankly weird. Of course the Minions are stupid; they're for children. It's like complaining that a cardboard picture book doesn't have any literary subtexts, or that the Teletubbies don't pass the Bechdel Test. There's something pathetic about Minion hate; it has echoes of the grown man who feels the need to constantly whinge about how rubbish One Direction and Justin Bieber are, as if he's facing some desperate psychological need to prove that he's better than a 12-year-old girl.
It's a narcissism of small differences: If you're infuriated by stuff for children, it might be because you're not actually all that sure how far above it you really are. The German Marxist August Bebel described anti-Semitism as the "socialism of fools." All the evils that the capitalist class actually commits are displaced onto a mythologized figure of the Jew. In the same way, all anxieties about the current state of culture can be soaked up by the spongy, grinning form of the Minion.
We're living in strange times. Any new radical thinker is now required, as if by law, to spend most of their time engaging in irreverent readings of Hollywood blockbusters. People who call themselves scholars and intellectuals happily and uncritically munch down anything a cynical culture industry squeezes into their mouths, whether it's a stupid two-hour car chase or a music video torture flick, so long as they can claim it's empowering. If we've all been turned into giddy, jam-smeared infants, clapping our pudgy hands at every new entertainment, then hating the Minions lets us pretend to ourselves that we're still adults. The Minions might well be deliberately annoying: It's their unpopularity that lets the slow enshittening of all reality carry on unimpeded.
It's not just that people are afraid to admit that they're no better than the Minions. There's a quiet, buried terror in Minion hate: the possibility that this chirpy, cyclopean, computer-generated moron might actually be better than you are.
The Minions are animated by a genuine desire to commit acts of evil, but they're entirely incompetent; against their better judgement, they end up doing good. They're a mirror held up to our current political reality, and like every mirror, in them everything is inverted. Real people tend to be vaguely unpleasant, but most of us aren't exactly evil. Ask the average person what kind of a society they'd like to live in, and it'd probably be something far fairer and kinder than what exists. But despite the fact that nobody really likes it, the world that we've created is one that's insane: a planet choking itself to death, a politics propelled by envy and malice, a culture wallowing flatulently in its own idiocy. This madness is something we all unwittingly reproduce every day of our lives. Everyone is, to some degree, complicit.
People try to be good, and the result is starvation, slaughter, and stupidity. The Minions want to wreak a hideous destruction upon the world, and in the process they show just how easy doing good really is. Their failure is always inventive: ours is pure impotence. It might be true that, as some people have complained, the Minions are taking over everything. They're on the side of buses, on clothes, on the internet; tomorrow morning the sun might rise as a giant, cheerfully yellow Minion. Their reign is coming, an eternal dominion. But it's not as if humanity has done a particularly good job of running the world. Maybe we should let them have it.
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