Credit: Magazing insert: Mason's Extract of Herbs, circa 1900?. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

August 14th saw the release of Bee Movie on Netflix where it captivated the minds of millions of viewers across the UK, making a swift flight to the top of the charts.  I’m sure we’re all familiar with the story of Barry Benson who in an effort to spread his wings, flies away from home, sues the human race, destabilises the global ecosystem and most importantly puts a very literal spin on the phrase ‘punching above your weight’ – seriously, Vanessa, you could do so much better.  But, I hear you say, isn’t this a children’s film we’re talking about?  Surely something like that would’ve passed its expiration date by now?  

I’ve abandoned most of the things that I cherished in 2007: the stuffed toys, the Mr Men books, the fashion  – God forbid I ever unironically wear socks and crocs again – and yet, seeing the film’s title light up the top of my laptop window was all it took for me to dive headfirst into my childhood for 95 minutes straight.  Embarrassingly, I must say it was the hordes of memes which sprung from films like Bee Movie, Monsters Inc., Shrek etc. which first revived my interest.  The no-context frames of Barry Benson or Mike Waszowski certainly helped (re)establish the films as the comedic icons of my childhood, albeit at a very surface-deep level.  Despite this, I still had the underlying suspicion that, like Vanessa’s begrudging -but desperately relatable- partner Ken, my patience wouldn’t last more than five minutes into watching a talking bee…  

… And oh was I wrong.  My black and yellow expectations were brushed to the side as Bee Movie shone back a definitive yellow and black.  As I watched I was hit with countless jokes and double entendres that buzzed right over my head 13 years ago.  Not to mention the absurdly comic yet completely normalised idea that bees have a society which emulates our own.  It felt like a completely new film.  In my 7-year-old innocence I found myself vehemently shipping Barry and Venessa and laughing at anyone who questioned them.  I watched Ken’s life fall to pieces from what I then thought was simple jealousy.  Only now do I realise that he is probably the only normal character in the film, bearing the brunt of the final comedic nail in the coffin:  hiring a personal therapist at the end of it all to get over the trauma that his girlfriend dumped him for  a “bedbug”.  Aside from the bestiality and the oh-so-problematic yet enjoyable incest jibes – yes, Adam, we’re all cousins – I will be forever baffled at how they managed to create an entire hive full of Jewish nuclear families marked with Seinfeldesque satire and stereotypes.  Think how Barry’s mum immediately strikes up the role of matchmaker, demanding that he find a girl who’s “Bee-ish” enough and if she’s a wasp (perhaps White Anglo-Saxon Protestant?), Adam says, “Your parents will kill you!”  

And if you thought this hidden layer of humour was a surprise, just wait till you see the cast.  Turns out, the voice behind the iconic Barry Benson is only the even more iconic Jerry Seinfeld?  Who would’ve thought?  I half expected to hear “Hello… Newman!” and other Seinfeld-isms peppered across the script.  And it doesn’t stop there: we have Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) as Adam, Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) as Vanessa and Ray Liotta being… well… Ray Liotta.  Likewise, picture Sully and Randall from Monsters Inc. as Walt and Donny from The Big Lebowski, or try Austin Powers as Shrek, or even Ross Geller and Borat as Madagascar’s Melman and King Julian.  Now I guarantee the vast majority of Bee Movie’s target audience had never seen Seinfeld, the Bridget Jones films or Goodfellas.  I remember laughing awkwardly at the Ray Liotta and Bee Larry King cameos but never really getting it.  But after a few years and several hundred hours of “grown-up” TV I can enjoy it for all it’s worth.  Time really has let Bee Movie and its fellow childhood classics age like fine wine.

So why exactly is Bee Movie still so good? With films like these, it’s not only the comedy that improves with age.  Like a fairy tale or a parable, it’s always the message that makes the magic.  Bee Movie, Shrek, Monsters Inc. all share a common message of inclusivity and acceptance which is more relevant for us now than ever.  Rom-coms, thrillers and action movies certainly do well to keep us entertained but sometimes it’s the most simple of films sprinkled with childish innocence that do the best to help us remember our morals and forget about the complications of everyday life.  As phoney as that sounds, I’ll just say, Bee Movie is the only reason I don’t whip out the can of Raid whenever I see a bee squaring up to its reflection in my bedroom window.  (Wasps and flies, however, are fair game.)  So if you have a  moment in the dwindling weeks of this vac, take a break from your studies, responsibilities, concerns and go rediscover your childhood.  Go watch Bee Movie.  It might just change your world.

Tariq Sinnetamby

Tariq (he/him) is a second-year English student at Trinity College. Aside from his degree, Tariq indulges in mixology and barbering, hoping one day to combine the two. He is also head of Marketing at StepShop Oxford.