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Well-dressed teens participating in new 'Minions' movie meme are going viral

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

So, Ari, do you want to hear something that's going to make you feel really old?

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Does anyone ever want to hear something that makes them feel old? OK. Go ahead.

CHANG: Have you ever heard of the GentleMinions (ph)?

SHAPIRO: I've heard of gentlemen. I've heard of Minions. Never heard of GentleMinions.

CHANG: OK. Like, Minions - right? - like, (imitating Minion).

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Like, the little yellow guys.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Minion, inaudible).

SHAPIRO: That's them.

CHANG: (Laughter) OK. So for their new movie, "Minions: The Rise Of Gru," there are, like, these large groups of people, mostly teenage guys, who are suiting up in, like, dress suits and heading out to theaters to watch this movie. And they're calling themselves the GentleMinions.

SHAPIRO: Oh, I get it.

CHANG: OK, got it? All right. And then they make these TikToks about it because of course.

SHAPIRO: Of course.

CHANG: Exactly. And I guess this trend, it's, like, going viral all over the world.

JOSHUA LAW: At first, we saw the TikToks from the American kids at first. So then we just decided to try it out in Singapore.

CHANG: OK. That's 18-year-old Joshua Law from Singapore. And he appeared in one of these GentleMinion videos that got, like, 1.3 million views on TikTok.

SHAPIRO: Oh, no big deal. Just 1.3 - huh? - 1.3 million. Yeah, OK.

CHANG: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. It's like, whatever. And I guess this video is one of the tamer ones, supposedly.

SHAPIRO: I don't - is this safe for public radio?

CHANG: (Laughter) Well, it turns out, like, some of these kids, they get pretty rowdy. Like, they're yelling in the theater. And they're even starting these mosh pits. And some theaters have gone as far as to ban wearing suits altogether.

SHAPIRO: Ban wearing suits.

CHANG: Yeah. Exactly.

SHAPIRO: OK. Why is this trend going viral?

CHANG: Well, you know, Ari, being NPR, we asked an expert about this.

SHAPIRO: What a good idea.

JENNIFER GRYGIEL: Overall, it's just everything is highly memetic. That's why it's also, you know, kind of just taking off.

SHAPIRO: Memetic - like a meme?

CHANG: I think so. OK. So that's Jennifer Grygiel, an associate professor of communications at Syracuse University and an expert in social media and memes. And they say the rising popularity of social media influencer as a career path contributes to some of the absurdity that we are seeing online right now.

GRYGIEL: We've all been geared towards more media. So, you know, again, this just happened to be where you could grow your influence.

SHAPIRO: And, I suppose, free marketing for a movie that's doing pretty well at the box office.

CHANG: Yeah, apparently it's doing awesome at the box office. But Joshua Law - you know, that teenager we heard from earlier - he actually wasn't a huge fan of the movie.

LAW: OK, if I'm going to be honest, I didn't like the movie. I thought it was mediocre at best.

SHAPIRO: So why did he do the whole suit up and post on TikTok about it thing?

LAW: I think we're just bored. There's not really anything funny. It's just there's nothing else better to do.

SHAPIRO: I guess there are worse things bored teens can do.

CHANG: I can think of a few.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michael Levitt
Michael Levitt is a news assistant for All Things Considered who is based in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Political Science. Before coming to NPR, Levitt worked in the solar energy industry and for the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. He has also travelled extensively in the Middle East and speaks Arabic.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.