Bee Movie. (Illustration by Marcus Escobar, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
This mediocre kids movie became an infamous internet meme. (Illustration by Marcus Escobar, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

How ‘Bee Movie’ Became an Iconic Part of Pop Culture

It’s been over a decade since the film’s initial release, but the movie is still an internet meme legend.

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Bee Movie. (Illustration by Marcus Escobar, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
It’s been over a decade since the film’s initial release, but the movie is still an internet meme legend.

As a kid, there were few things more entertaining than vibrant movies with nonsensical and comedic plots. “Shrek,” “Cars” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” are just a few of the many bizarre animated movies produced in the 2000s. But no mediocre kids film stands out more than “Bee Movie,” which in recent years, has become an iconic part of internet pop culture.

“Bee Movie” grossed nearly $300 million worldwide after its initial theatrical release in 2007, and it was a 2008 Golden Globes nominee for the best animated film. But overall, it wasn’t a hit with movie critics. It received a 54 out of 100 on Metacritic and a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, “Bee Movie” was made for children, not for film critics, but many cult classic kids movies like “Shrek” and “Inside Out” have garnered much more acclaim.

The animation in “Bee Movie” was nothing groundbreaking; its style was relatively common for kids movies at the time. Alongside that, a few critics believed that the humor in “Bee Movie” was bland, grating and too random. Despite not being a great film, the movie still managed to become a quintessential part of pop culture.

The plot of “Bee Movie” doesn’t have to be good because it is so outlandish. It starts off with the graduating collegiate bee class of 9:15 a.m., where the audience meets Barry and his friend Adam. Immediately after the bees graduate, they’re whisked away on a tour of the hive to give them an idea of their possible careers. However, they’re warned that the job they pick will be the job they have for the rest of their lives.

This knowledge sends Barry into a spiral. He can’t figure out what job he wants, and he hates the idea of making the wrong choice and being stuck in a career he hates for the entirety of his existence. While the idea of a bee experiencing a quarter-life crisis is funny, it’s also oddly relatable.

Though humans have a much longer lifespan than bees and therefore have much more time to decide their future careers, many college students still struggle with choosing the right major. It can be stressful to choose a career path so early in life and seeing this familiar struggle on screen in such a bizarre setting could be a part of why “Bee Movie” has become such a cult classic for young adults.

To figure out what he wants to do with his life, Barry decides to venture outside of the hive. He befriends a human woman named Vanessa, and the two of them strike up a flirty friendship. Because of the outrageous implications, their odd relationship makes up a big portion of “Bee Movie” memes.

On a trip to the grocery store, Berry discovers that humans are stealing honey from bees. He describes his outrage to Vanessa, and the two decide to fight back by suing the entire human race for their crimes against bee-kind. The rest of the movie deals with the case and the chaos that erupts once the trial is over.

This brief summary doesn’t fully encapsulate the depth of “Bee Movie.” There are a lot of jokes that include adult content, which makes the film enjoyable for mature viewers as well. However, plenty of kids movies include jokes catered to adults, so what makes “Bee Movie” stand out from the pack? Why is it that a chaotic movie about talking bees has been turned into an infamous meme?

In December 2012, Tumblr exploded with “Bee Movie” memes. There was no rhyme or reason to the memes. A few of them compared Barry the bee to pictures of Jerry Seinfeldthe character’s voice actor, and included puns of the word “bee.” After the original flood of “Bee Movie” memes on Tumblr, the viral images multiplied.

People started making memes of the film and posting them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media websites. In 2013, one woman posted the entire “Bee Movie” script on someone’s Facebook wall. This started a trend of weaponizing the script against others. In some schools, students would write the entire script in each other’s yearbooks, or send the entire script to each other over text messages.

On Reddit, someone posted the screenplay rewritten in Shakespearean English, and there are multiple websites that pop up when you Google the “Bee Movie” script. All someone has to do to annoy their friends is copy the screenplay and send it in a giant text message. One fan even made a sweatshirt with the whole movie screenplay pasted on the front.

A wide array of fan-made “Bee Movie” merchandise is available on websites like Redbubble.  There are stickers with Barry pulling down his sunglasses and throwing up a peace sign for sale. There’s even a sticker with one of Barry’s infamous quotes from the film: “Ya like jazz?” Anyone who enjoys the movie or the memes can order one of these stickers and brand themselves as a “Bee Movie” fan, which just adds to the hype of this iconic flick.

Just a few years ago, the “Bee Movie” memes made the jump from pictures to videos. On YouTube, there are a wide variety of videos about the film. These include gems like “The Entire Bee Movie but every time it says bee it speeds up by 15%,” which has 6.3 million views; “The Bee Movie at 3000% speed except when they say ‘bee,’” with 4.9 million views; and “Barry Benson saying ‘ya like jazz?’ 1,073,741,824 times,” with an impressive 21 million views.

For whatever reason, videos and memes about “Bee Movie” are extremely popular. And even though “Bee Movie” started out as a mediocre kids film, it has become so much more: a cult classic that will be loved by the internet for years to come.

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