The 2017 Rick & Morty Szechuan sauce incident
Read to the end for a shirt that goes insanely hard
The Rise Of The #Gentleminions
Over the weekend, Universal Pictures released Minions: The Rise of Gru in theaters. And it’s doing pretty well! Its box office earnings have already broken a Fourth of July weekend record and it’s also part of a big meme that’s sweeping TikTok right now, one that the Daily Mail described as: “Bizarre new TikTok trend sees large groups of young men don formal suits to attend Minions: The Rise of Gru screenings - but some cinemas are BANNING the behaviour” lol. The trend is being called the #Gentleminions.
Like all forms of Gen Z internet humor, the #Gentleminions meme is based off a bunch of other bits of internet ephemera that are all in conversation with each other.
In 2019, people on 4chan started making memes with the phrase “two tickets to Joker, please” slapped on to pictures of like weird stereotypical-looking incels. Then that spread to Reddit and TikTok and kind of inverted, so instead of the joke being that only weird nerds would want to go see Joker in theaters, it was now pictures of Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman or Ryan Gosling as Drive guy. From there, a bunch of people starting replacing Joker with other movies. YouTubers, TikTokers, and various streamers then started making jokes in the lead-up to the new Minions movie that people should dress like Patrick Bateman or like other chad-like men (basically just like wear fancy suits) to go see Rise Of Gru. And now, this weekend, people are doing it.
NBC News’ Morgan Sung tweeted yesterday, “can someone write about the Minions comeback from Facebook wine mom to TikTok cosplaying at the movie theater.” And the responses to Sung’s tweet are real good. One user named @continuitea replied, “It's the first few stages in the Shrekification of Minions (ironic celebration in text framework to post-ironic nontextual meme content generation).” Which I think I sort of agree with — to a point.
I think this meme is largely rooted in nostalgia for the Minions franchise, which has been running for over a decade now. But the #Gentleminions trend has also made me wonder if, by comparing Gen Z online culture to the millennial internet behavior that came before it, we’re actually trying to force it into archetypes that don’t really fit. Perhaps it’s time to stop defining how Gen Z uses the internet by referencing how millennials use(d) the internet.
One of my favorite pieces of analysis on Gen Z internet culture was written by Joshua Citarella in 2019. It’s dense, and a little overly serious for my taste, but it’s the first, and, so far, only piece I’ve seen that attempts to reckon with all of the various conflicting natures of internet users born between 1997-2012. They’re the wokest generation yet, none of them believe in gender binaries, they care deeply about consent and personal boundaries, and they’re extremely environmentally conscious, but they’re also predatory capitalists and hardcore white nationalists that are weirdly obsessed with pre-Vatican II Catholicism (and vaping). “How can this all fit together,” the millennial columnists scream as they actively ignore that Jared Kushner, Mark Zuckerberg, and Kim Jong-un are all also millennials.
“Millennials are individualist, entrepreneurial, and focused on a personal brand while Gen-Zers are collectivist, nihilistic, and interested in identity play,” Citarella writes. And that’s sort of how each generation’s memes work, as well.
One of the first Gen Z memes to leak over into real life was the 2017 Rick & Morty Szechuan sauce incident. If you don’t remember, McDonald’s re-released a dipping sauce from 1998 after it became a gag in the show Rick & Morty and, subsequently, a meme on sites like Reddit and YouTube. When McDonald’s announced the sauce was coming back, teenage boys lined up around the block, and then went completely berserk when locations ran out of the sauce. Pretty much every Gen Z meme has followed this exact pattern ever since. An internet meme goes viral, but in such a way that it can’t really be commented on by brands or mainstream society at large, either because it’s too weird or too niche. It continues to grow as a cultish inside joke thanks to TikTok. Then it finally spills over into real life, seemingly inexplicably. And then, if real life can’t handle the viral stress of the internet leaking out into a physical space, chaos ensues. Police show up. A riot breaks out. Movie theaters ban teenage boys from wearing suits to see a Minions movie.
You can see these same mechanisms at play with the irl recreations of the Anakin/Obi-Wan Kenobi fight from Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, and, more recently, in last year’s Adrian’s Kickback, as well as the Josh Swain Facebook fight.
To bring this all together, Citarella was broadly correct when he wrote that millennials were individualistic and Gen Z were collectivist, but I think more crucially, millennials, and their memes, were interested in changing and altering the internet, whereas Gen Z seems to be more interested in how their memes can change and alter the world around them. #Gentleminions is obviously both nostalgic and ironic, but it’s less focused on expressing irony than it is about using a piece of internet content to actively mobilize people. It’s about bringing a bunch of people together, doing something objectively weird, and then sharing videos and posts about it back on internet platforms with the expressed desire of inspiring others to do the same. It’s about testing the limits of what’s possible, not digitally, but physically and culturally. Which also kind of explains by Gen Z are all weird edgelords. Gen Z internet culture is a constant shitpost, happening irl and online simultaneously.
Anyways, I’m sorry I wrote this many serious words about Minions.
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The Minecraft YouTube Community Says Goodbye To Technoblade
Last week, Minecraft player Technoblade, real name Alex, died at the age of 23. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2021. Technoblade was a member of the Dream SMP since 2020. An SMP is a Survival Multiplayer server and the one run by the pseudonymous player Dream is the most popular one. Dream SMP members use the server as a sandbox to act out semi-improvised stories that millions of fans have been following for years. I’ve compared the Dream SMP in the past to WWE, a kayfabe story about a group of Minecraft players trying to maintain their server.
Technoblade’s death has had a massive impact across the internet this week and it’s clear that for his young fans this is one of their first times they’re really processing a big celebrity death. There are already truthers out there who are claiming that this was all faked for content. Though, nothing that’s been posted by young Minecraft fans can match the head-scratching and, frankly, gross meme Elon Musk posted about it.
But ignore all that and, instead, go watch Technoblade’s last video, which was posted after his death and is titled “so long nerds”. Even if you’re someone who still hasn’t been able to really wrap your head around the enormity of how popular Minecraft YouTube is, I recommend watching it. It features Technoblade’s dad reading a final message from the streamer, who wrote, “If I had another 100 lives, I think I would choose to be Technoblade again every single time as those were the happiest years of my life.”
A Good Tweet
The British Army’s Twitter Was Hijacked By An NFT Scam
Over the weekend, the verified Twitter account for the British Army turned into an NFT zombie account. It changed its banner, profile picture, display name, and bio and started shilling a somewhat popular NFT collection called The Possessed. In fact, the account’s rebrand was pretty much verbatim what you see on The Possessed’s account.
The creator of The Possessed, @tmw_buidls, has tweeted about the incident, writing, “I'd love if some of the news agencies covering the @BritishArmy breach would clarify they were IMPERSONATING @ThePossessedNFT,” seemingly claiming that whoever hijacked the account was not affiliated with The Possessed.
The press office for the British Ministry of Defense wrote, “The breach of the Army’s Twitter and YouTube accounts that occurred earlier today has been resolved and an investigation is underway. The Army takes information security extremely seriously and until their investigation is complete it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
The interesting detail there is that their YouTube account was also compromised. Does that mean that the British Ministry of Defense was using the same login for both? Another interesting detail from the BBC is that the hijacked account wasn’t just shilling The Possessed NFTs, but also an NFT line called Bapesclan. The BBC included a very BBC-ian description of the Bapesclan NFT Twitter account, writing that it had “a profile picture featuring an ape-like cartoon figure with make-up mimicking a clown.”
DALL-E 2 Keeps Getting More Powerful
Photographer Michael Green used the DALL-E 2 A.I. to generate images based on the work of famous photographers and the results are incredible. You may have heard that DALL-E 2 can’t do human faces, but that’s actually only true for the “mini” version. The full version of the A.I. is much more powerful. Uh oh!!!
God Of War But It’s The Simpsons
A clip from this video went super viral on Twitter over the weekend. The original was posted by the YouTuber ToastedShoes last month. It’s God Of War with a mod that makes all the characters Simpsons characters and it’s extremely funny. Also, the voice acting is really good!
What The Heck Is A Shipping Page?
I bookmarked this Reddit post last week because it involves a thing I hadn’t really ever heard of. Which makes sense, I’m in my early 30s and I don’t have kids. The original poster, a 16-year-old boy, said that he had caused a bunch of drama in his school for starting what he called “a shipping page”. Weirdly, it wasn’t the shipping page, in general, that people had a problem with, but the fact it was then used to bully another student.
“I (16M) thought that it would be a funny idea to run something like a shipping page for our class and stuff. I made a new instagram account, followed a bunch of my classmates, and dmed them asking for funny ships that they wanted to see posted on the account,” the original poster wrote.
This whole thing is super weird, but probably the weirdest part, for me, at least, is that other teenagers didn’t find the idea of a shipping page weird. All of the other users on the Reddit post pretty much agree that a shipping page, in general, is weird and that the original poster was an asshole for starting one. But this begs the question — is this a thing? Like are teenagers “shipping” each other? Or is this just one weird group of friends? Let me know if you’ve ever heard of this before!
A Good Techno Song
Some Stray Links
“Pamela Paul Is the New Worst Columnist at the New York Times”
P.S. here’s a shirt that goes insanely hard.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
I haven’t heard of teens calling it “shipping” but “make fun of unpopular person by saying how ridiculous it would be if anyone liked them” is age-old
Isn’t gentleminions in the vein of flashmobs and doing absurd stuff IRL for the sake of, as they used to say, “the lulz”?