Theresa Tripucka has been obsessed with Minions practically since they first wobbled across the screen in Despicable Me in 2010. The demented, gibberish-speaking yellow flunkies, dedicated for centuries to the service of the world’s evil masters, charmed Tripucka to no end. Over the years, she’s amassed so much Minion paraphernalia—including a Minion tattoo on her inner right arm—that people in her life know that, when in doubt, they should just get her some Minion thing.
That is, if Tripucka doesn’t have it already. “Basically, anytime I walk anywhere and see something Minion, I pick it up,” she told me. “It doesn’t matter what it is—if there’s a Minion associated with it, I have it.”
And yet Tripucka is not who you’d picture as an avowed Minion-head. She is not, for example, one of the TikTok-inspired teens who have been dressing in suits and sunglasses—the so-called “GentleMinions”—to go see latest go movie, Minions: Rise of Gru, which broke box-office records over the July 4 weekend.
Instead, Tripucka is 52, lives in Florida, and is the mother of older children who aren’t even particular fans of the movies. She’s a whole other breed of fan of the hapless little beasts: She’s what I like to call a “Minion mom.”
Long before guys in suits were arriving en mass in movie theaters across the world, middle-aged women developed an affinity for the pill-shaped cartoon characters. One of the places this was most salient was Facebook. As Rebecca Jennings noted in a recent Vox piece on Minions, “Over the course of the 2010s, Minions have become synonymous with a certain kind of meme in particular: the ‘Facebook mom meme.’” These mom-posted memes often take one-liners, inspirational quotes, or just random jokes and juxtapose them with a picture of a Minion. (They often horrify said moms’ teens.)
The countless Minion-loving Facebook groups that I joined as research for this article affirm that the trend remains very healthy. What I did not understand is why. What draws people, and Minion moms specifically, to their little yellow overlords? I decided to ask a few.
“They are a little bit used and manipulated, so it’s kind of like that underdog theory,” Tripucka offered, speaking of Minions. “They always seem to come back and save the day. I think it’s the underdog aspect of their characters that really draws me to them.”
“For me, when I watch a film whether it’s animated or a series, I want something fun,” Sandra Motley, a 60-year-old from California explains. “The Minions, they seem so happy, they’re a little silly. It’s so far removed from real life you can immerse yourself and get away from reality if you will.” Like Tripucka, Motley has collected Minions over the years, primarily as a way to decorate her office and distract from the monotony of her job.“ I really enjoyed having them in my office because I could look at them. They’re so far removed from what I do day to day. I just find them to be very uplifting.”
Angela Dickey, a 57-year-old Minion lover from Tennessee who is one of the nearly 240,000 members of the “Minion Lovers Group,” struck a more philosophical note. “I think there’s a little Minion in all of us,” she said. “They’re mischievous, and can be annoying, but they have fun.”
Minions also remind Dickey of her own kids, who are adults. “My son is 26 now, but I remember some of the things he would do, and I’ve thought, Minions would do that,” she told me. “Every parent longs for the days when their kid was crawling around in diapers. Minions bring back some of the silly things they did, and the cuteness of it, and it’s a healthy way to remember.”
Carlene Rummery, a 51-year-old in Winnipeg, said she doesn’t see herself as a “Minion mom” but rather as a mom who took her daughter to animated films when she was younger. She started to like Minions because her daughter liked Minions.
“When she was 9, she gave me a Minion doll for Christmas,” Rummery recalled. “I didn’t ask for a Minion doll. I wasn’t hoping to get a Minion doll. But my daughter used her hard-earned allowance that she saved up and a little money from dad to help with buying a present for mom. It’s like, how can I not like Minions? My daughter thinks I should like Minions, so I’m going to love Minions forever.”
Some do recognize that not everyone will understand their love of the little guys.
“It doesn’t really bother me if people don’t like Minions, or judge me for liking Minions,” Tripucka said. “My youngest daughter can’t stand Minions and hates the fact I have Minions all over my house.” Tripucka, referring to the haters, called this a “them problem.”
“I think animated films, in general, have improved over my lifetime,” Motley reasoned, for her part. “They’re doing a really good job of making them still entertaining enough for kids, but are very adult. I think we’ve really evolved and many of the films are more geared towards adults than they are to kids.”
“I don’t think it’s a matter of that it’s weird that it appeals to adult because every animated movie is written in the mindset that a parent is taking a kid to these movies,” Rummery added. “There are Easter eggs for us in every movie, as there are for the kids.”
The Minion moms had words of defense for the GentleMinions, the heirs to the bright-yellow throne of Minion appreciation.
“I think it’s a lovely trend,” Rummery said. “I was sad that the UK theater are kicking those young men out. Let young men be kids, and do this thing that they have this affinity for. Hooting and hollering during a movie—people should be allowed to do that as long as they’re not completely interfering with it.”