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This or That: Should destructive media trends be celebrated?

This or That: Should destructive media trends be celebrated?

This or That: Should destructive media trends be celebrated?
July 19
13:00 2022

Media trends create more fun than foul by Ayden Runnels

“Morbheads” have become “Gentleminions” over the past month with the release of Illumination Entertainment’s newest film. “Minions: The Rise of Gru” has been met with teens filling theaters across the United States and United Kingdom in tuxedoes and business suits, screaming at screens and tossing bananas in discord that is both equal parts hilarious and condemnable.

It is undeniable that such wild public behavior is traditionally unacceptable in a setting usually reserved for silenced phones, good snacks and comfy recliners. While the abuse of public space shouldn’t be encouraged, fads like #Gentleminions and #morbiussweep have brought a new life into media that would otherwise be a sad corporate cash grab.

The over-corporatization of films has been a severe issue over the past half-decade, as companies roll out sequel after sequel while drowning us in multiverses, spinoffs and reboots. The constant pandering to the most lucrative ideas may bring in the big bucks for studios, but those who long for a more genuine experience are left with little to enjoy.

The viral trends do make us consider why those specific movies became the subject of such crazed movements while shifting what constitutes a good time.

When companies fail to produce high-quality pieces of entertainment and opt for staleness instead of excitement, the responsibility falls to the audience to make it an enjoyable experience. Nobody expected “Morbius” to be a good movie, which is exactly what made the #m1orbiussweep trend so funny — the absurd level of love thrown at the movie highlighted the absurdity of the film itself. The ridiculousness of each element is different but combine for a hilarious synthesis.

The #Gentleminions trend offers a similar critique of what a film represents. The Minions have gained notoriety for the agitating obsession people have for them, and yet another movie starring them is an easy summer cash grab from parents.

Rather than investing in new ideas, Illumination chose to make a fifth installment in what is already the highest-grossing animated film series to date. Feigning an obsession for the small yellow men necessitating formal attire is a wacky way to show ironic distaste while having a good time.

At the heart of the minions trend is an enjoyable experience. For every band of viral adolescents who get themselves banned from the theater, there are dozens that simply dress well and go out with their friends for a memorable movie experience. The internet has a way of highlighting the most disastrous effects of a movement for reactions while hiding the less controversial elements – the “Gentleminions” are not exempt from that rule.

There are unintended victims of this wild trend: the movie theater workers that have to clean the aftermath of a “Gentleminion” evening. There may be cases where the theaters have to clean up a larger and more banana-filled mess than usual, but an often-cited Reddit post that displayed the “chaos” after a “Minions: Rise of Gru” showing was debunked by commenters as a normal level of mess expected of any theater.

It seems unfair to shift the blame to the rowdy few who exude excitement for Gru and his crew while ignoring the fact that most theaters are trashed by the end of any movie. It gives the impression that littering is polite if the lights are down, and you don’t bring attention to yourself.

As for the workers who have to clean the mess, their presence is used at their own disparity. Many are labeled as minimum-wage workers being hit with the brunt of the mess — and this is true. The concern seems to fade away when theater employees are fired for protesting their low wages and hit with union-busting by corporate offices.

There’s no denying many of us found the #morbiussweep and #gentleminion trends to be entertaining in some regard, and both of them represent a new way to engage with media in the modern age. While some suspect virtual and augmented reality will be the future of entertainment, true art will always require a level of human involvement and unpredictability that is virtually unknowable until it strikes. So, expect more unique moviegoing experiences, and embrace them responsibly.

Media trends amplify corporate greed by Jaden Oberkrom

The past year has provided some interesting trends, especially revolving around the release of major films and television shows. There was the #MorbiusSweep, where fans showed ironic love for the blood-sucking anti-hero. The most recent trend to flood the internet is #Gentleminions, in which large groups of people dress up in formal wear and attend a screening of “Minions: The Rise of Gru” together.

These trends have short life spans as they inevitably get old and unfunny – the jokes get dragged out until the next ridiculous opportunity presents itself. While it all seems in good fun, there are multiple reasons why trends like this have more negative outcomes than positive ones.

In a viral Reddit post, a video circulated showing the aftermath of a “Minions: Rise of Gru” screening. Trash takes up a majority of the space on the floor, leaving theater workers as the main victims. From stories of bananas being thrown at the screen to rowdy behavior during the movie itself, some theaters have cracked down on the joke by not allowing those dressed in formal attire into the auditorium at all.

These trends create traction for the film, and it may seem like a positive movement on the surface level. When jokes are at the expense of others, especially those who are working minimum wage jobs, there should be a certain level of respect. Dressing in suits is a fun and respectful way to make a new trend, but the desire to escalate the joke will always rear its ugly head.

This could turn into one of those situations where the production companies feel the need to get in on the joke. Think of a future where films and shows are advertised and created just to see what new trends can come from it.

Sony shot itself in the foot by putting “Morbius” back into theaters thinking the memes would generate a bigger pull at the box office. It failed miserably because people were only talking about the film because of how bad it was. Anyone can find good entertainment in watching large companies fail to read the room, but it won’t take long until they are consistently trying to feed trends to us.

We see it now with TikTok. In one case, pop musician Halsey claimed their label will not let them release music unless viral trends are created using snippets from their music. Once again, on the surface level, it seems like this is a cry for help from the artist. After seeing this type of post from multiple musicians, it is clear it is just a ploy by record labels to boost traction with upcoming projects.

There is no harm in promoting work, but using your audience in a way that makes them feel like they are the reason something does or does not get released is wrong.

Trends are perfect for mass entertainment because they are authentic and random. No one could have guessed audiences would latch onto Jared Leto playing a vampire and annoying pop culture characters that have not been relevant in a decade. Once it boils over and others start to become negatively affected — or companies start to use audiences for their planned trends — then it is time to put things on pause.

Everyone loves good fun and a majority of these trends start off as just that. Some may claim they are harmless, but a clear escalation in some of the jokes proves otherwise. Dressing up in suits, or pretending a terrible movie is the best thing ever is subjectively awesome — there is nothing funnier than seeing something like the Minions get this much attention in 2022.

Problems arise when reckless trend followers use movies as a Trojan Horse for disruptive and destructive behavior. Keeping these trends tame and in the hands of the public is what is most important.

These two major trends have taken the internet by storm, and more studios are looking into ways they can benefit from meme culture. It is pretty easy to sniff out the disingenuous attempts at studios trying to connect with audiences. Staying aware and kind is the biggest takeaway.

There is no need to throw food across a movie theater, there is no need to believe a record label will not release music without a TikTok dance to go with it and there is no need for a studio to persuade you into seeing a movie because of how bad it is. Trends can continue to thrive if they stay respectful and unpredictable.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Ayden Runnels

Ayden Runnels

Jaden Oberkrom

Jaden Oberkrom

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