Idiocracy (***½)

Posted on October 5th, 2008 in Movie Reviews,Politics by EngineerBoy
We Are Not Men

We Are Not Men

Idiocracy is the latest film by Mike Judge, who also created Office Space.  It was released in 2006, playing in only a handful of theaters with no advance publicity of any kind, and it quickly made the jump to DVD.  However, if there is any movie in recent memory that SHOULD have played endlessly at the multiplexes of America, it was Idiocracy.

As we here in the United States drown in a downward spiral of reality TV, processed foods, bombastic advertising, mindlessly large corporations, zombified workforces, and borderline retarded elected leaders, Idiocracy perfectly describes the water with devastatingly funny, sadly accurate satire and wit.

The story revolves around Joe (Luke Wilson), a current-day soldier who is selected, along with Rita (Maya Rudolph), to participate in a year-long human hibernation study.  However, while they are in stasis, the people in charge of the super-secret study are arrested for unrelated reasons, and Joe and Rita are forgotten about – for 500 years.

When they awaken they are greeted with a future where Joe, initially selected for his averageness, is now the smartest person in the world.  You see, as the movie explains, with no natural predators man has not evolved to favor the most intelligent problem solvers, man has instead evolved to favor promiscuity and dumbness, because that combination leads to the most babies, and the absence of poverty, disease, hunger, or hardship means that those offspring continue to survive and reproduce, causing human intelligence levels to decrease with each passing generation until mankind has reached the point where it can no longer maintain the technology of society, and the collapse of civilization is imminent.

One example of this devolution is that a huge company has signed an exclusive agreement to replace the water in the nation’s water supply with their sports-drink, called Brawndo.  So, everywhere you go the water fountains and faucets supply Brawndo instead of water.  Unfortunately, even the portions of the water supply used for agriculture are replaced with Brawndo, and nobody in the dumbass future understands that plants need water to grow, so there is a looming food crisis.  All this is fostered by ubiquitous advertising which claims that Brawndo’s got electrolytes, which is what plants crave.  Joe, of course, is confused by the ubiquity of Brawndo, and the future-doofuses simply mock him for wanting to drink “toilet water”, as apparently the only place water is still used is for flushing. 

It actually takes a while for Joe to figure out how long he’s been frozen.  When he first wakes up he’s confused and doesn’t feel well, so he stumbles into a hospital for help.  After a reasonably revolting medical test, he meets with a doctor who gives him his diagnosis that:  “…it says here on your chart that you’re all fucked up, you talk like a fag, and your shit’s all retarded.”  Indeed.

Also, in the future most people have at least one brand name as part of their full name – for example the diagnosis above is given by a Dr. Lexus, and Joe meets and befriends a “lawyer” named Frito Pendejo.  Also, current actual brand names are used throughout the movie, in some cases with surprisingly unexpected evolutions of their primary products and/or advertising.  For example, Carl’s Jr.’s slogan is “Fuck you, I’m eating”, an idiocratic evolution of their current slogan of “Don’t bother me, I’m eating”, Costco stores have grown to the size of cities and a greeter greets each customer by saying “Welcome to Costco, I love you”, and the Fuddruckers chain’s name has evolved from Fuddruckers to Futtbuckers to Buttruckers to, finally, Buttfuckers.

Joe’s relative hyper-intelligence is finally recognized, and he is tasked with “saving the world” by President Dwayne Elizando Mountain Dew Hector Camacho, who makes him Secretary of the Interior.  Joe is reluctant to take on the task, as in his own mind he’s no genius, so at the first opportunity he slips away to try and find the rumored “Time Masheen” that will let him go back to his original time and place, and back to his safe, ordinary, averageness.

In restrospect, it’s easy to see why the studio didn’t put much effort into promoting this film.  First of all, so many huge name-brands are skewered here that any revenues could have easily been lost to lawsuits (Starbucks giving handjobs?!).  Also, the target demographic for major Hollwood movies are the typical dumbasses in the typical multiplex, and this movie would have insulted them (if they could even have understood it) by pointing out to them that they are the seeds of the downfall of humanity, if for no other reason than the fact that their lack of discriminating taste put “300”, “Shrek the Third”, and “Alvin and the Chipmunks” in the top 10 highest grossing films for 2007 (really).

It’s also easy to see that this film was released by the wrong studio – Fox, to be exact.  If it weren’t for slack-jawed dumbasses who are slavishly influenced by advertising, who are hypnotized by slapstick violence, and who lack the ability to think critically, the Fox empire wouldn’t exist.  Even Fox is smart enough to know that you don’t make money by insulting your constituency.

And this brings us to the drivers that prompted this review, two years after the release of the film.  First and foremost, the film is incredibly well done and funny as hell.  But second, and more importantly, I think that this film has precisely described what is going on in America today, and shows us the logical (if exaggerated) conclusion if things keep going the way they are.  At the risk of sounding elitist, I have a reasonably high IQ and am reasonably well-read and knowledgable about the world, and while this movie made me laugh, it also, upon reflection, scared the hell out of me.

In my lifetime I’ve seen a lot of progress by mankind and I’ve always had an optimistic view of the future – not that I expected things to become perfect, just that overall, bottom-line, after factoring in all the successes and failures, we as a society would tend to make progress towards a more enlightened, safe, and enjoyable future. 

However, it’s beginning to feel that we’ve peaked, and are now starting a downward slide.  Superstition, dogma, and ignorance are not only supplanting logic and reason, but are being embraced and promoted as positive values.  Our political process has become such a farce that it feels more like a reality show competition than a quest to find the greatest possible leaders.  Seriously, I can’t think of a single political leader in my lifetime worthy of respect and awe.  In fact, I can’t think of one who wasn’t wildly deserving of scorn and derision.  Even the ones who come close to being true leaders are obscured by the fact that the political machine marginalizes them into impotence, and they wave their tiny fists in the air and squeak like caged mice, all with the best of intentions, but all for naught.

In the end, We the People are to blame for our situation.  We could, in one single election year, throw out each and every bum currently in office and replace them with true thinkers and leaders.  But we don’t.  We could, with only a little effort, choose to live within our means and spend our hard-earned money on quality products from ethical companies.  But we don’t.  We could, with just a little backbone, ensure that each and every child in this country gets a rich, full, well-rounded education.  But we don’t.  We could, with a little introspection, choose to idolize great thinkers, great artists, great writers, great inventors, and people of great character instead of the constant stream of vapid, artificial celebrities-du-jour.  But we don’t.

And we could choose to stave off the coming Idiocracy, by fighting against the encroachment of ignorance and complacency into the realm of reason and ambition.  I try to do that, each and every day, and although sometimes it feels like a lonely task, I know that there are others out there doing the same thing.  Know that you are not alone.

Oh, and watch Idiocracy, it’s fucking hilarious, scro!

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