When Carson Paskill goes to the movies, he normally chooses a comfortable outfit of sweatpants and a sweatshirt. But last weekend he arrived in a black suit, white collared shirt, and dress shoes.
Paskill, 20, attended a showing of “Minions: The Rise of Gru” at Century 16 in Beaverton, Oregon on July 2 with eight of his friends, with eight of his friends, all dressed in suits for the occasion.
“Everyone over 25 was, really, really confused about what we were doing there,” said Mr. Paskill, who has 1.6 million followers on TikTok. “Like, ‘why is everyone wearing suits?'”
The inspiration is a TikTok trend known as #GentleMinions, which has racked up over 61 million views on the platform. It encourages ‘minions’ moviegoers to film themselves dressing up in suits and sunglasses to attend screenings of the latest installment of the ‘Despicable Me’ series.
You may be wondering, why does it fit? The exact answer is elusive. Participants are also encouraged to decorate bananas, a Minion’s favorite snack, or to hold their hands in a spire, Gru’s signature pose.
The first “Despicable Me” movie was released in 2010, introducing audiences to Minions, the chaotic overalls-clad yellow characters who speak gibberish, and Gru, the villainous protagonist voiced by Steve Carell. It was followed by four other films, “Despicable Me 2” in 2013, a “Minions” spin-off in 2015 and “Despicable Me 3” in 2017. (“Despicable Me 4” is slated for 2024.)
For Obie Ike (19) and other members of Gen Z, the films became an integral part of his childhood. So when he found out there would be another, he knew he had to go see it out of “pure nostalgia.”
Mr. Ike, of East Riverdale, Maryland, and five of his friends bought tickets – and then they learned about the trend.
“We thought it would just be fun,” he said. “It sounds a little strange, but it’s not harmful and, hey, you just look really nice going to a movie.”
After Mr. Ike and his friends saw the film, which Mr. Ike described as “very healthy and well put together”, they saw fellow #GentleMinions also decked out in suits. The groups decided to join forces, posing for photos and TikToks while trying to “look as friendly as possible”.
Teens around the world, including Australia, Singapore, Portugal and Canada, took part. And while #GentleMinions is a pun on the word “gentlemen,” the trend isn’t just for guys.
Sofia Dominic, 19, attended the “Minions” screening with Mr. Paskill and his friends. She chose black pants and borrowed her boyfriend’s button-down shirt. Another girl in the group wore a black dress with heels, which Ms Dominic said “goes well with it.”
“Originally it was just going to be for men,” said Ms. Dominic. “But they’re very inclusive.”
“Minions” shattered box office records over its opening weekend, becoming the most profitable opening over the Independence Day holiday. According to an NBC Universal spokesperson, it has raised more than $200 million worldwide to date.
Jenna Johnson, an assistant professor at Toronto Metropolitan University who specializes in social media, noted that Universal Pictures, the film’s distributor, had endorsed and promoted the trend on social media, commenting on videos and encouraging young people. to wear their suits to the theater.
“What’s interesting about this is that it may seem like it’s an organic consumer-driven viral social media trend on TikTok, but it could actually be part of an effective PR stunt that’s just getting off the ground,” said Mrs. Johnson.
Mr Paskill said that although he has seen previous ‘Minion’ movies, the main motivation for him to buy a ticket was taking part in the TikTok Challenge.
“I doubt I would have seen that movie in theaters if it hadn’t been for the trend,” he said. “But I really enjoyed the movie, which is great because it wasn’t just a gimmick. It actually wasn’t such a bad movie and I thought it was quite funny.”
There have been reports of people being disruptive rather than just looking neat. The videos also encourage their well-dressed participants to clap enthusiastically throughout the film, which has gotten out of hand in some cases.
A cinema chain in the United Kingdom forbidden moviegoers from arriving in formal attire after rowdy Gentle Minions disrupted the screenings. Other cinemas also have warnings posted to those who appear in suits, that they may be asked to leave.
At Vue Cinema in Worcester, England, groups of teenagers in costumes reportedly clapped, cheered and imitated Minions throughout the film, prompting other attendees to demand refunds that cost the theater more than $1,200. Another theater in Guernsey, England, closed its doors for a day after multiple groups threw things and swore during Minions performances.
Mr Paskill said that when a guard saw him and his friends dressed up, the guard asked them not to disturb. But Ms. Dominic said the other onlookers saw their outfits as a joke and reacted positively to their antics.
“I think from most of the videos it’s largely an attempt to create a viral video rather than trying to wreak havoc,” said Ms Johnson, the social media researcher.
More than creating a viral video or harmless mayhem, Mr Paskill said the challenge gave him a chance to get out of the house with his friends.
“In other trends you see it, and then you just sit in your room and do it,” Mr. Paskill said. “But this was all night, so I thought it was a great time.”