What shall we call this phenomenon? Minionphobia? Minionism? There's certainly something to be said for the sheer vitriol being spewed in opposition to the recent release of The Minions, and the huge following its accumulated. For every piece of marketing thrown at us, there's someone online calling for us all to just shut up about the Minions, or going so far as to burn their plushies in hate-filled Vines. I'm not here to contribute to any of the Minion-hate. I'm here to rationalize it...
As vocal as people are about their anger towards those blathering twinky-shaped evil-enablers, there's an undercurrent of confusion to their disdain. If we're going by their design and their functions in the projects they appear in, the Minions are no different to the aliens from Toy Story, or the Penguins of Madagascar. They're just background sideshows tagging along with larger projects, so what is that magic quality to the Minions that under some people's skin, and into other people's wallets?
They don't depend on a story
The Minions do not depend on the stories they appear in, and I say this with the knowledge that they just got an entire movie to themselves. While the aliens in Toy Story represent the helpless situation of some toys, and the Penguins of Madagascar constantly have their own endeavors alongside the main plot, the Minions are sprinkled on the complete product of Despicable Me. They are absolute sideshows, and worse than that, they are sideshows that hijacked the entire franchise.
Perhaps the Minions are just a brutally honest confirmation that we don't go to movies to see compelling stories, but simply for the dancing distractions that exist within them. I'd go as far as suggesting that a potential Minions sequel could be a dadaist experiment in pure jabbering bouncy banana nonsense, devoid of plot or artistic intent, and the audience would be just as happy to buy a ticket. That's something a lot of people don't want Hollywood to catch on to.
Strangely enough, this could be the biggest factor in animosity towards the Minions. Popularity comes hand in hand with simplicity, but go too simple, and you've got something intellectually offensive on your hands! Put simply, an image retains its dignity the fewer T-shirts and lunch boxes it can be slapped on, and the Minions have been slapped on a LOT of T-shirts and lunch boxes. I'm not trashing the integrity of commercialized art, that would mean trashing basically every Disney movie ever. The Minions are special, in that their design is so simple (yellow circle with eyes or eye, wearing overalls) that they're almost their own incredibly basic visual language. This makes them particularly hard to add to broader art styles. It's like adding half second fart noises to a symphony. The Minions lend themselves so poorly to any other kind of visual style, it's almost a form of aesthetic imperialism.
They're all voiced by one man
This is Pierrre Coffin. He's the director of Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, and the recently released Minions, where he voices every single one of the little critters. Where something like Penguins of Madagascar employs an entire cast of talented comedians to bring its distinct characters to life, Minions relies on one guy's funny voice over and over again. Not to diss the guy, but it comes off as a little weird to commit so hard to creating a pleasure as frivolous as "BANANA!" The fact that the Minions can be voiced by one man until the end of time speaks to their interchangeability, and to them being a fluid product that our screens are being flooded with. And who's doing that flooding? Us.
It's not just the Minions; it's the fans
Remember when I said that no one quite knows why the Minions anger them? Yeah, no one knows why they like the Minions either. Ask any self-proclaimed fan what the appeal is, and it's unlikely they'll tell you anything more nuanced than "they're fun". That's not necessarily a bad thing. There are tonnes of things where the main appeal is "fun". The problem with the Minions is that there is literally no way to react to them other than the way they were intended for.
This is why the Minions are so applicable to those false memes you see re-posted by your aunt on Facebook. Memes are about appropriating images and icons for our own unconventional entertainment, but there is no way to appropriate the Minions without playing into the mode of address that Dreamworks wanted right from the start. When you see people touting Minions T-shirts or posting Minions memes, you're seeing no more human expression than a Facebook like for a massive blockbuster release. As much as you might want to think otherwise, there is no way to approach the Minions as an individual.
So there you have just a few reasons why the Minions are provoking such vocal hate across the internet. So the next time someone says "they're just funny!" to you, read this article to them. Then they'll probably call weird, which let's face it, you read this far, you are...