Before their latest feature film "Minions" debuts July 10 and we're swept up in a deluge of garbled nonsense, let's spare a few thoughts for Minions. Because social media has turned them into a pervasive, and very perplexing, meme.
"People keep sending them to me," Minions creator Pierre Coffin told The Huffington Post last week. "It's been a little overwhelming."
The sudden popularity of these pill-shaped screwballs has not been lost on Coffin, who voices the main Minions and has served as co-director of the "Despicable Me" franchise.
"There's a lot of yellow and blue out there. I can't step onto the street now without seeing a kid with a backpack or a T-shirt or with something that's Minion-related," he observed. But Coffin has mixed feelings about our apparent obsession, online and off.
"It's, like, too much marketing? I'm almost concerned people will be disappointed [in the movie] after seeing all these things around ... it's unconsciously creating these high expectations."
Indeed, it's become increasingly hard to escape the Minions' realm of influence. Presumably, you might avoid them by not hanging around children, except they make Minion garb for grown adults, too. And anyone who eats bananas. People love Minions.
Actually, we're not even sure Minions qualify as a meme. Memes typically come with a set of unspoken rules, acting as storytelling shorthand or representation of some specific and common emotional reaction. Minion memes, on the other hand, have never enjoyed such consistency. Their utility remains unclear.
Maybe Minions are emoji? Maybe they're groupthink. Maybe they lend a veil of legitimacy to some lame joke or another, the Hallmark plaques of social media.
At the very least, we can sum up everything we know about them with relative ease. They walked out of a Cretaceous-era ocean -- although an original storyboard had them evolving from egg yolks -- to serve evildoers for millennia. (That is, until they're transformed by three little orphaned human girls in 90 minutes at the beginning of the 21st century.)
That's actually the basis of their new movie: little henchmen trailing one wretched overlord after another throughout history. There's some dark stuff in there, which the animation team gracefully ignored. Would we still share images of Minions howling with laughter if we knew they tried to help Judas betray Christ? Lent a hand to Vlad the Impaler?
Perhaps we love Minions because they remind us of ourselves. Or an evil-henchman version of ourselves.
"They’re very stylized and unique-looking characters," co-director Kyle Balda told The Hollywood News, "but so much of their gesturing is [human], so you can empathize a lot with them and project yourself onto them very easily."
Minions are malleable and numerous enough (fans have counted over 10,000) to run the complete gamut of human emotion. Plus, Coffin pointed out, they're surprisingly easy to draw -- goggled eye, rounded body, some overalls. So they can do anything you need them to do.
For his part, Coffin doesn't seem to care much if his creations are used as a mouthpiece for totally unrelated messages.
"As long as it's funny, I don't mind. If it's becoming racist and violent, that's where the line is," he told HuffPost. So it seems the only ones who can put a stop to Minion memes taking over the Internet is us.
"I'm very European, so I'm very pessimistic," Coffin said amiably. "I just hope people won't get fed up with them."