We Talked With the Writer of Minions About Trump Minion T-Shirts

Brian Lynch doesn't think the shirts work, really: "The Deplorable Me shirts are declaring, or celebrating that their candidate is a villain, and that's … strange."

Trump Minions shirt

A Trump supporter wears a bootleg “Deplorable Me” Minions T-shirt at a rally in Chester Township on September 22nd. | Photo by Dan McQuade

Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton said that “to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.” The phrase became an instant moment, and became the subject of columns and fact-checks and polls and Slack chat transcripts run as stories. The phrase stuck.

What’s interesting is how quickly Trump supporters co-opted and reclaimed the term like they’re a bunch of liberals. At last night’s Donald Trump rally in Delco, multiple speakers called themselves one of the deplorable ones. “Hello my fellow deplorables,” said Otto Voit, said the Republican candidate for state treasurer who claims he was the first candidate in the state to endorse Trump. “And I know out there, there are adorable deplorables,” he said later.

In the crowd, T-shirts were the game. Loads of Trump supporters wore T-shirts proudly declaring themselves one of the deplorables. Michael Goodart, of Springfield, Missouri, is a two-time candidate for state House there. He’s also a T-shirt vendor with his own screenprinting company. He was outside the rally last night selling “Deplorable Votes Matter” T-shirts and a “Deplorables” Teamsters parody logo shirts, as well as other gear.

Michael Goodart, with a Deplorables t-shirt

Michael Goodart is traveling around behind Donald Trump selling T-shirts. He says he was once a realtor, but entered the T-shirt game when he was two months behind on his mortgage. He started with “DON’T TREAD ON ME” T-shirts at a St. Louis Tea Party rally, and spent summers hawking shirts in Branson, Missouri. | Photo by Dan McQuade

Goodart said a friend of his did this “Deplorables” Teamsters parody design in about a half-hour. “Of course, unions are always Democrat,” he said. “It’s funny: A lot of Teamsters and police officers see the union logo and go, ‘Oh!’”

There were also “Deplorable Me” Minions parody Trump T-shirts being hawked at the event. Clinton said her “basket of deplorables” comment on a Friday. By Tuesday, Goodart said, the Minions parody shirts were being sold outside the rallies. He and his friend came up with the Teamsters-style design because he says he doesn’t like to steal other people’s works (he says this is a rarity in the T-shirt vendor business).

Probably because “Deplorable Me” is a pretty obvious parody, there’s loads of merchandise out there that shows Donald Trump as a Minion.

It makes sense. Bootleg Minions gear — often mixed with another property, like superheroes or Ninja Turtles — is all over the Wildwood boardwalk. Minion memes are all over Facebook. Trump Minions were inevitable.

Brian Lynch wrote Minions, which Comcast says is Universal’s most profitable film ever. He saw the Minions T-shirt last night. “I feel freaking gross,” he tweeted.

Lynch came to write Minions after writing the 60-page script for the Despicable Me ride at Universal Studios. He suggested a plot for the Despicable Me spinoff, and received the sole writing credit for the screenplay. He says he’s seen his share of bootleg Minions gear.

“There is a Minion shirt for everyone,” he tells Philadelphia magazine. “I’ve seen Minion Star Wars, Minion Simpsons, Minion Impracticable Jokers. My friend got me a shirt that had the Minions as Indiana Jones and Short Round and Gru as the villain from Temple of Doom.”

But how did Minions become the new Bootleg Bart Simpson? They do share their yellow color with the Simpson family. “When the movie was released overseas and it did well everywhere, I quickly learned that because these guys don’t speak any one language, anyone in the world can appreciate them,” he said. “The Minions are for everyone — except the people that get annoyed at the Minions memes that your aunt posts on Facebook.”

Lynch is mum on his feelings about Trump, and says if he has to live with Darth Vader minions, he has to live with Donald Trump minions. But he doesn’t think the shirts work, really: “The Minions work for villains,” he says. “The worse a villain is, the more they want to work for him or her. So the Deplorable Me shirts are declaring, or celebrating that their candidate is a villain, and that’s … strange. It’s not even a mixed message. It’s ‘He’s a Bad Guy, Vote The Bad Guy.’”

Regardless of their confusing sentiments, Deplorable Me shirts — and other Minions bootlegs — are going to stick around. Despicable Me 3 comes out June 30th of next year.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.