gasp emoji

17 of the Most Disturbing Moments in The Emoji Movie

Photo: Sony Pictures Animation/CTMG, Inc.

Spoilers ahead for The Emoji Movie.

As an attempt to turn the available intellectual property of text-message glyphs into a coherent narrative, The Emoji Movie is a failure. On a surface level, it tells a story of self-empowerment so bland and meaningless it was once literally titled EmojiMovie: Express Yourself. But as a disturbing example of what happens when you try to turn a brand into a movie, it’s darkly fascinating. The moment you begin thinking too hard about any aspect of the film, it becomes apparent that it is nothing less than an existential horror show. Here are 17 of the most upsetting, weirdest moments from The Emoji Movie, which will haunt me for the rest of my days.

The film places an emoji over the Columbia Pictures logo.
This is but a taste of what’s to come, but I strongly believe that you should only change studio and production-company logos for films that are actually good.

The emoji operate under a vicious class system, wherein the most popular emoji enjoy their own club and amenities denied to the rest of the emoji.
Emoji basically live in high school all the time, a horror compounded by the fact that the phone they live in is owned by a 14-year-old boy. (At one point, the film reveals the eggplant is one of the least popular emoji — just wait a few years, and then it’s gonna be ruled by aubergine.)

Much of the high-five emoji’s motivation comes from the fact that he has been displaced from the popular lounge by the fist bump and believes he deserves attention again.
“Racial subtext abounds,” as Emily Yoshida put it. One wonders whether Hi-5 — as the character voiced by James Corden is stylized — would be a Trump voter, sympathizing with an oppressive class losing its privileges.

At one point, the characters all get stuck in a game of Candy Crush, while the movie plays the sound effects from Candy Crush and everyone says “Candy Crush” dozens of times.
Creativity is dead. All we have are brands.

Hi-5 claims to have a sugar addiction, which we discover when the emoji arrive in the Candy Crush app — but what is his source of sugar in his home app?
Food emoji abound in the emoji home app of Textopolis — so do other emoji eat them? Are emoji cannibals? At one point, Gene, the meh emoji who is our hero, says hello to a doughnut emoji and her cute little doughnut children. Would Hi-5 eat the babies? Won’t somebody think of the children???

Hi-5 consumes a large amount of candy through his mouth — some of which he later vomits up, then eats again — but does not appear to have other orifices.
Do emoji have mouths that double as anuses, like starfish? Do they even need food? Or does the fact that they’re used by humans force them to emulate our own base desire to consume, consume, consume, consume?

As part of his “malfunction,” Gene can make a whole variety of emoji faces, but never does a girl face.

After escaping their home app, Gene and Hi-5 meet a hacker named Jailbreaker in the hacking app that their user, Alex, has installed.
(A) This app is disguised as a dictionary, and I’m very worried about this boy’s language skills (The Emoji Movie, as a whole, tends to disrespect the old-fashioned, “uncool” idea of words). (B) The app is full of trolls, which makes you wonder where this kid has been spending his time on the internet. To be fair, the internet habits of any 14-year-old are probably pretty horrifying in general — best not to think too hard about this.

The emoji journey to a Just Dance app — apparently something that exists? — which is run by a spunky character named Akiko Glitter, voiced by Christina Aguilera.
When the Just Dance app gets deleted, Akiko’s sent to the trash, alongside a few trolls and a spam email (voiced by Rachael Ray, who, like Xtina, deserves better). There, with dead eyes, Akiko continues to run through the motions of her dance, the one thing she knows how to do, even though she now has no purpose and will soon disappear from existence.

Gene’s parents, two meh emoji, rebuild their marriage while on a trip through Alex’s family’s Instagram photos from a past trip to Paris.
There’s a scene where Mary Meh (Jennifer Coolidge) wanders through a frozen Parisian landscape, tinted with the oppressive sunset-shades of some Instagram filter, and sits by a fountain, reflecting on how the world has passed her by. Maybe I was trying desperately to latch onto anything resembling human emotion in this movie, but I noticed shades of the Paris Je T’aime segment with Margo Martindale in this scene — except here, a branded phone extension is reflecting on her life via someone else’s emotions via a tech brand. But isn’t that we’re all doing, anyway? Aren’t all of our most precious moments seen as through an Instagram filter darkly? Anyway, I feel for Mary Meh, as I feel for us all.

The emoji learn Alex’s Dropbox password by reading an email he drafted to his crush that quotes Rihanna’s “Diamonds.”
14-year-olds are real pieces of work.

Jailbreak, the cool-girl hacker, is actually a princess who escaped in order to try to find a new life on the cloud.
At one point, in order to save Gene, she has to use her “princess powers,” which means that she sings in order to get a bird (literally the Twitter logo) to carry her back to him. Can we never escape gender norms? Or Twitter?

The “cloud,” as depicted in The Emoji Movie, is a remarkably calm and peaceful futuristic metropolis.
This is demonstrably incorrect. The internet is a mess. Do not mislead children, Emoji Movie!

As Alex’s phone malfunctions throughout the movie, he never once thinks of turning it off and turning it on again to see if that fixes anything.
Instead, he schedules an appointment at “the phone store” (unbranded) to wipe the phone. Kids these days — no sense of proportion!

The villainous Smiler emoji, voiced by an excellent Maya Rudolph, cleans her unbroken bands of teeth with a dental pick.
An image that made me shiver with fear.

As the person at the tech store wipes Alex’s phone, everything inside it starts to disappear — permanently, it’s implied.
Will all the emoji die the next time Alex upgrades his phone? What if he drops it and it dies? Does every smartphone contain a universe like Alex’s — each full of thousands of lives, striving and dying and searching for meaning? Does each new Android or iOS upgrade mean the mass death and birth of millions?

The girl Alex has a crush on thinks the animated emoji he sends her (a photocopy of Gene, in all of his emotive glory) at the end of the movie is “cute and cool.” It is definitely not.
Alex, you have terrible taste.

17 of the Most Disturbing Moments in The Emoji Movie