McDonald’s Minions: A Trick of the Ear

Sometimes we hear what we want to.

Recently McDonald’s came out with a line of toys for their Happy Meals based on the upcoming movie MINIONS.

You know the minions, right? Those little yellow capsule shaped critters that speak a nonsense language that has been dubbed “minionese” Well, the little toy in the Happy Meal speaks some of these nonsense phrases when you tap it on the butt and a lot of people think that one of the phrases sounds an awful lot like the little critter is saying “what the fuck?” Videos are being posted on youtube with parents tapping the little toys’ butts and making it say phrases until it gets to the one that sounds offensive. “That’s not a phrase that kids should be hearing from a toy,” they intone reproachfully. “Seriously, McDonald’s?” they scold.

What the fuck?

Seriously, parents? Do you honestly think that a huge mega-corporation like McDonald’s would do that? Deliberately distribute a toy that utters profane phrases in an attempt to corrupt the youth of America?

Seriously, people?

McDonald’s is a corporation whose dominance of the fast food market is not the sure thing it once was. They have been scrambling in the past few years to combat their image as a major contributor to the nation’s obesity and heart disease problems. They have enough trouble trying to justify the huge amounts of crappy food they sell to impressionable youths around the world.

The last thing they need is a scandal involving a cursing toy.

But people hear what they want to hear. Or, more accurately, people hear what they are used to hearing. If a minion toy says a phrase with an inflection that sounds like another sentence with the same inflection we hear the sentence we are most used to hearing. Recently Taylor Swift released a song called Blank Space. In it she had a lyric about having a long list of ex-lovers.

Well, most people don’t have a long list of ex-lovers, so they tried to interpret the lyrics based on their day-to-day experiences. Thus “I’ve got a long list of ex-lovers” in their minds was transmuted to “Gotta love those Starbuck’s lovers”

What the fuck?

Like a trick of the eye, this is a trick of the ear. We hear what makes most sense to us. After all, who doesn’t love a Starbuck’s lover?

When my kids were young my daughter had a toy bat from the animated movie Anastasia. The bat spoke with a Peter Lorre type accent and it said a handful of different phrases from the film including one that we couldn’t quite make out. It sounded like the Peter Lorre bat was telling us to “…buy some tequila.”

Once we saw the film we realized that what it was actually saying was: “Stress… it’s a killer!”. Which doesn’t make much sense on its own but in the context of the film made some sort of sense (kind of). It’s funny what a bad recording can turn itself into in the fertile mind.

It’s like that classic song from the early sixties by the Kingsmen. Louie, Louie, the song made famous by the movie Animal House, had lyrics that were barely intelligible. The Kingsmen’s lead singer, Jack Ely, slurred his way through the infamous rhythm and blues song in one take.. The unintelligible lyrics l;ed to speculation that it was done intentionally to cover up the profanity laden lyrics that graphically described the sexual congress of a sailor and his lady. The song became so notorious even the FBI had some agents investigating it to see if it was, in fact, lewd and depraved.

Even J. Edgar’s finest had to finally admit that the lyrics were unintelligible gibberish.

But people heard what they wanted to hear. Kids wanted to believe that these raucous singers were singing about things that were forbidden, playing into their narratives of raging hormones. For their parents it played into their narrative of the rock and roll music phenomenon being a danger to their pure and chaste children. They found it easy to believe that it was a menace, deliberately corrupting America’s youth.

That’s probably why today’s parents believe that McDonald’s minion toys are teaching their kids to speak profanity. It’s happening, after all. Children all over North America are offering up expletives that would make sailors blush. Parents have to blame somebody (not themselves, of course, they are blameless victims!) so why not an evil corporate giant who is easily made the villain because of the way that their fast food outlets made them and their kids fat.

Never mind about personal choice. Never mind about taking responsibility for one’s own actions or eating habits, or, now, their lack of vigilance when it comes to uttering profanity in front of their darling offspring. No! Blame the villain! Blame corporate culture for filling our kids ears with hateful profanity!

Yeah, that’s the ticket!

What the fuck?