Bee Movie, a movie that for all intents and purposes should have disappeared from the cultural landscape, remains top of mind thanks to a plethora of internet memes. Social media isn’t always lauded as beneficial to the well-being of our psyches, but every once in a while it actually does us some good – reviving forgotten pieces of art and entertainment, keeping them top of mind. It indeed worked its mysterious magic with the reclamation of Bee Movie, an animated film by DreamWorks from 2007 that, without memes’ help, probably would have been long forgotten by now.
Bee Movie was destined to be disposable family entertainment in the years following its release. Instead, this movie about a bee, voiced and created by none other than Jerry Seinfeld, who sues the human race after he discovers that they eat the honey that the bee population produces, became a never-ending meme factory. When taking a step back and looking at the overall existence of this movie, its destiny really comes as no surprise.
‘Bee Movie’ Is Jerry Seinfeld’s Best Work After ‘Seinfeld’
Subjectively speaking, if there were ever a time and place to be a fly on the wall, it would have been during the dinner at which Seinfeld and DreamWorks co-founder Steven Spielberg dreamed up Bee Movie. The legendary director was enamored with the film title’s play on words, as a nod to the genre of “B-movies” from classic Hollywood. Seinfeld, who kept a low profile and took on no major projects following the conclusion of his eponymous sitcom, was riffing on the title as a joke, but with Spielberg’s approval and collaboration with Dreamworks to follow, Bee Movie became real and spectacular.
Naturally, there is a level of absurdity to the entire existence of Bee Movie, a movie seemingly born to inspire an output of Internet memes. While there is nothing abnormal about a big star or cultural icon taking on the voice of an animated lead like Barry B. Benson, Bee Movie remains the only major project by Jerry post-Seinfeld. Besides the non-scripted streaming show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Seinfeld has not been the show-runner of a new sitcom, writer of a live-action film, and has only put out a limited number of stand-up specials. His other Seinfeld castmates – Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards – have all had varied career follow-ups. With such a successful sitcom under his belt, Bee Movie serving as the stand-alone subsequent project for Seinfeld is perhaps the most bizarre outcome. The memes associated with the movie stand as a commentary of sorts regarding Seinfeld’s peculiar career arc.
The marketing and press surrounding the film is equally, if not more, bizarre. In one trailer for the movie, Seinfeld is dressed up in a bee costume, and struggles to accurately portray acting like a bee. While on set, Spielberg emerges, discussing his frustrations, and suggests that they make the movie a cartoon. The trailer is no plot, and all vibes. Truthfully, more marketing ought to capture more energy and less story. Roger Ebert‘s two-star review of Bee Movie included a quote from Karl Marx, perfectly suitable for Ebert’s bewildered reaction to the movie. There is a clip that has gone viral of Seinfeld as a guest on Larry King’s talk show on CNN, where comedian becomes appalled at King’s mistaken insinuation that Seinfeld was canceled by NBC, rather than walking away under his own volition. At the end of this hilarious clip, King announces “Bee Movie opens tomorrow.” If this exchange couldn’t have been more fitting for the promotion of the film, Larry King voices a bee-version of himself in Bee Movie.
‘Bee Movie’s Premise Is Unhinged
As previously noted, the film’s zany premise warrants the meme-making. The plot centers around the Seinfeld-voiced Barry B. Benson, recently graduated from college, is disappointed by his inevitable future of being stuck in a mundane life as a honey manufacturer for life. One day, he makes a trip outside his home, a bee hive, to New York City, and encounters a florist named Vanessa (Reneé Zellweger). He then, once discovering that humans eat honey, decides to sue the human race for their exploitation of bees and the environment. Well, families may not have asked for it, but they got an animated cross between The Wizard of Oz and Erin Brockovich.
The movie’s plot is quite dense for an animated family picture. There is a trial, a feud between Barry and Vanessa’s boyfriend, Ken (Patrick Warburton), and a character redemption arc for Barry’s friend Montgomery (Matthew Broderick) after he is defamed in court. The memes that were inspired from the movie certainly feed into the chaotic nature of its story. They work as a reaffirmation that pop culture of the 2000s was eccentric, and yet society accepted it as the normal. The fact that the Internet cult following of Bee Movie was stagnant until the mid-2010s suggested that there was a clinging to nostalgia for the kind of gonzo pop culture that was present in 2007.
The Memes Make ‘Bee Movie’ Feel Even More Charming
More than any other component, the sheer sincerity of Bee Movie is how it transformed into a meme fountain. Lacking tongue-in-cheek self-awareness is an outlier for DreamWorks animated films, as they were founded to be the hip and cool antithesis to Disney. The movie’s premise may be outlandish, but there is no upending of audience expectations. The title suggests that the movie is about bees, and that is what the story delivers. One of its most popular memes is the various iterations of “Bee Movie, but every time ‘bee’ is said, it speeds up.” Much like on his sitcom, Seinfeld is true to his persona, now just in bee form. It hardly even feels like he’s acting. Many of Barry’s interactions play like PG versions of the banter between Jerry and George on Seinfeld.
While the bee-related puns and other play on words in Bee Movie memes are quite hackneyed, and could be interpreted as lazy impressions of Seinfeld’s stand-up routines, they are endearing nonetheless. Bee Movie is the ultimate example of being nothing more than what it sets out to be. It is plain old good family entertainment, and in 2016, the approximate time frame when the memes surged in popularity, the wholesomeness of Bee Movie was a breath of fresh air. The memes function as a sign of admiration, not ridicule, in relation to the movie’s earnestness, and it’s acknowledgment as a charming piece of family entertainment.