What the Minions Movie Teaches About Knowing Your Audience

Like thousands others, I took in the Minions movie on its opening weekend. Although I’m not a huge fan of the Despicable Me movies, the minions are cute and fun. The trailers looked great and so off we went to the darkened theater.

I loved it.

Although a kid’s movie on the surface, Minions offers great entertainment for adults as well, which is why it provides an excellent lesson understanding direct and implied audiences.

Any writing, whether it is a text to a friend, a business letter, or a work of high literature, has two or more audiences that authors must keep in mind when composing materials. The first is the obvious person that you are thinking of when you write. The audience of the text is the friend, and the author of the literary work aims at readers of a certain age, background, and perhaps culture.

The implied audience includes that group of people that may see the writing on its way to the intended reader. For texts, the implied reader could be a hacker and the world, such as when private sexting messages of famous individuals were leaked to the press. The unexpected reader could also be a family member that accidently picks up your or the friend’s phone. Thus it is a wise idea not to text about surprise parties or clandestine meetings in hotels. You never know who else might see those words.

For the literary story, the implied audience includes the agent, the editor, and the critic, among others. Each of these individuals has different reasons for reading the manuscript and will have different reactions to it. This affects the book’s format and its contents. Just try to submit manuscript in anything other than Times New Roman or Courier and see how quickly professionals reject it. Put too many obscenities in a young adult story (even if they do talk that way) and the book will never make it past the adult editors and agents. The awareness of the implied audience should and does affect the content and form of the writer’s work.

So what does the Minions movie have to do with this?

The film’s first audience is easily the kids who love sight gags and funny noises. The T-Rex balancing on a rolling boulder evokes laughter from most folks, even the very young. However, the cinema people also include material for the people taking the kids to the movies, the parents and grandparents.

The story is set in 1969 and effectively interweaves cultural symbols from that period, from the Beatles on Abbey Road and the conspiracy theory that the moon landing was faked. The movie’s music also featured delightful throwbacks to that time, including The Monkeys’ theme song hilariously woven into a section the story. No child will truly get those references and I wonder how many 30-somethings will as well. However, those of us who grew up in the sixties and seventies rolled with laughter.

Of course, the movie has other implied audiences (critics, the Academy of Motion Pictures), but the lesson learned here was that they knew parents would be “trapped” in the theater alongside the kids and sought to entertain them as well. Because of this deep understanding of the audience, Minions is quite likely to become the summer hit and sell very well once the Blu-ray becomes available.

One word of advice: If you go to see the movie, stay until the very end for some of the funniest scenes.

As always, happy writing!

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