Idiocracy

1 07 2007


Synopsis: The story is told from the perspective of Joe, an army librarian who, along with prostitute Rita, becomes a guinea-pig in a top-secret military hibernation experiment. After a prostitution scandal forces the closure of the army base on which the experiments are being conducted, the sarcophagi containing the hibernating Joe and Rita are forgotten. They emerge 500 years later in an America that has become, as a result of low fertility among intelligent people, overrun by idiots. The most popular TV show features a man who is repeatedly kicked in the testicles. The most acclaimed movie features 90 minutes of someone’s bare buttocks, punctuated by the occasional fart. The nation faces widescale famine because the crops have dried up, a result of years of being irrigated by a sports drink full of electrolytes.

Joe, a man of painfully average intelligence in his own time, suddenly finds himself the smartest man in the world. After several brushes with the law (and jailtime owing to the incompetence of his lawyer), he is recruited by the President to solve the impending food crisis, and is given a week to do so. When his ingenious plan–to irrigate the crops with water rather than a sports drink–fails to produce immediate results, Joe is sentenced to gladiatorial combat with monster trucks in a demolition derby arena. When the crops start growing, Joe is saved from certain death and eventually becomes President, signalling the dawn of a new era. As he declares in his address to Congress,

There was a time when reading wasn’t just for fags. And neither was writing. People wrote books and movies. Movies with stories, that made you care about whose ass it was and why it was farting. And I believe that time can come again!

This is a film that you can’t really take at face value. At face value, it comes across as just another lame, low-budget gross-out comedy replete with toilet humour and terrible acting. But then you realise that’s the whole point: the very species of teenage knuckledragger who would be attracted to Idiocracy based on its face-value qualities is the very target of the film’s satire. Actually, there are other targets, too: anti-intellectualism, corporatism, materialism, and the dumbing-down of education (Joe’s “lawyer” received his degree from a city-sized warehouse retail store). And guess which news channel the idiots are watching in this dystopian future? In 1997, director Mike Judge gave us the brilliant Beavis and Butthead Do America; Idiocracy shows us what happens when Beavis and Butthead run America.

Wikipedia notes some of the difficulties the film faced upon its 2005 release. It was only released to a handful of screens across the U.S., and “20th Century Fox, the film’s distributor, did nothing to promote the movie.” Nor was it screened for critics. It is speculated that Fox, unhappy with the unflattering portrayal of its news channel as well as the film’s anti-corporate message, deliberately sabotaged the film’s chances of garnering a wide audience. The closing sequence of the film features a theme-park tour of world history in which Charlie Chaplin leads the Nazi Party and dinosaurs are featured as World War Two combatants; perhaps, in a country which recently saw the opening of a multi-million-dollar Creation Museum where humans are shown walking with dinosaurs, the satire hit too close to the mark for comfort. In any case, you can get it on DVD now.

See also: “The Movie Hollywood Doesn’t Want You To See” (Slate)

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