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Minions helped me revive an old friendship

Reconnecting is hard, but a daily Minion-themed check-in made it easy

a compilation of various minion memes Photo composition: Petrana Radulovic/Polygon | Source images: Illumination

Every morning at 10 a.m., my phone alarm reminds me that it’s time to send some sort of Minion-related image to one of my best friends. Sometimes it’s a dark nonsense meme, deep-fried beyond recognition. Sometimes it’s an overly saccharine inspirational quote from Pinterest, tailored to the day of the week. Sometimes it’s just a photo of a grocery store sheet cake with a Minion on it, with a generic happy birthday message slapped on top. There’s no rhyme or reason to what I pick, except for how I feel in the moment. Do I want something genuinely funny? Do I want to be on theme? Or do I want to lean into absurdism? Fortunately, there’s a Minion for every mood and mode.

I’ve been doing this every day for almost two years. My friend and I lived together for a year and a half in college, then parted ways pretty uneventfully. Life took us in different directions. Even with every social media messaging application ready at our fingertips, staying in touch without the common ground of school, exams, and a shared living space became hard. As so often happens, though we still considered each other friends, we drifted apart. We still talked occasionally, but not with the same frequency.

In the doldrums of 2020, when the pandemic forced everyone’s communication to move to virtual spaces, we started talking again. At one point, I saw a store screenshot of a Minion shirt from Uniqlo pop up on his Instagram story — a bright yellow top with three understated Minions poking out from the chest area. I told him I’d buy him one, but he’d have to wear it. In my hubris, I assumed everyone was as annoyed by the bright yellow Illumination characters as I was. Launched in 2010’s Despicable Me, Minions have overwhelmed the pop culture landscape, becoming ubiquitous, then ironic, then just irritating again. At least to me.

But to my surprise, my friend replied that he likes Minions unironically, and thinks they’re pretty cute. I told him I would challenge that love and send him a Minion every single day until he eventually rescinded that statement.

I am the type of person who won’t back down when committing to a bit, so I made sure to set an alarm on my phone for the next morning, and I gleefully sent him a picture of a Minion when it rang. And I haven’t stopped since.

Admittedly, I’ve missed a few days over the last two years, but I always make it up with two the next day. And I don’t always have time to do it right at 10 a.m., but I do my best to carve out that time so I can continue the joke. He usually sends back a wordless picture, which can range from simple cute animal photos to long elaborate bits of his own making. (Once, he sent me promotional posters from the 2013 turkey emancipation movie Free Birds every day for a week. It was nowhere near Thanksgiving.) Sometimes he gives me an update about his day or I mention the cute starters in the new Pokémon game, and we carry on the conversation. Sometimes he doesn’t reply. But it’s still a space every day where I reach out and say hello in a completely silly manner.

a text conversation with a minions meme and a promotional image from Free Birds Image: Petrana Radulovic/Polygon
Image: Petrana Radulovic/Polygon

Through these little yellow creatures, we’ve reconnected. We still have a lot in common, it turns out, even after almost two years of silence. He didn’t know I’d gotten into anime in the interim, since I never really watched it in college. Now he sometimes replies to my Minion memes with pictures of my favorite anime characters. My plan to get him to rescind his love of Minions has greatly backfired. Now when I see one of those little yellow fellows, I’m overwhelmed with a strange affection.

Making friends as an adult is hard, but keeping old ones can be even harder. The transition from college to working adulthood often means some friends will be left behind, due to distance, differing interests, or just being in very different places in life. Social media sometimes hurts just as much as it helps, especially when FOMO feelings strike. There are definitely people I mostly keep in touch with when I find a meme or TikTok that reminds me of them. And while that’s communication, it’s also sporadic, though more intimate than just liking or commenting on a social media update. It’s a Hey I thought of you or a This brought me joy, so I wanted to share it.

But these Minion memes? They’re lighthearted, trivial, and purposefully inane. But the key was to send one every dang day, and that’s what made them a success. Since I’m not prioritizing finding a meme or video that’s actually funny, there’s less pressure on a hypothetical conversation. There’s no need for my friend to follow up with obligatory questions or rote reactions.

Sometimes when I reconnect with old friends, I get nervous. How much do I talk about who we used to be versus who we are now? Am I honest when they ask me how I am, or do I save that for another time? Do we acknowledge the people we once knew, who have been burned out of our lives for one reason or another, or do we simply let them linger, like ghosts in the mist? Do I bid old friends farewell when the conversation dies down, or do I just leave the exchange hanging until we return, if we ever do? How do I tell someone that I used to be able to talk to them about anything, but now I find myself overthinking every word I say? How do I say that things are different now, but they mattered to me once, and that this feeling never really goes away?

In this one case, instead of any of those things, I started with Minion memes. There’s inherently less pressure to make reconnecting and maintaining a friendship meaningful and perfect when the conversation looks like this:

a text conversation involving a minion and warak dawali Image: Petrana Radulovic/Polygon

These little personal curated reminders of our friendship have become the perfect way to initiate a conversation. After sending a meme, I can ask “Did you see the new Fire Emblem trailer?” or say “I have an interview tomorrow, wish me luck!” (Which is, of course, followed by a Minion luck meme.) Having a fixed point of time every day to check in with my friend acknowledges that we’re both available if we want the conversation to continue — but also that there are no hard feelings if one of us is head-down with life, or just isn’t up for it. The important part is that we know we’re there for each other.

I can’t in good faith vouch for the Minion Method as a universal connector. Just as every friendship is different, every person’s feelings about Minions are different. But making a point to connect — however briefly — on a superficial level every day has made it easier to connect when it matters. With a new Minions movie coming out, it’s clear that Minions aren’t going anywhere, and neither are the memes I continue to send to my friend. I’ll send him this story too, and he’ll probably get a good laugh out of it. And then maybe our conversation will drift off, as we answer work emails and wash dishes and deal with the humdrum of real life. At least until tomorrow morning, when I diligently search for a new meme and begin anew.

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