Director: Mike Judge
Stars: Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard
As a prelude I should note that what I had intended to be a standard review of Mike Judge’s dystopian film Idocracry ended up being a rather lengthy discussion of the current state of American culture. This is good, however, because it’s what movies are supposed to do – good art inspires passion.
I have a friend, Kevin who is married. He and his wife are both college educated people and have made the responsible decision to not have children at this point in their life. I applaud a decision like that because the most important aspect of good parenting is choosing not to care for a child until you are ready to. Now, the other day I saw a man standing in front of my work wearing no shirt and his pants were barely pulled up to his knees, his underwear there completely for the world to see. A girl walked past and he made a clumsy attempt at flirting with her, saying things like “Hey girl. Whatcha doin’? Ya got a job?” The worst thing of all was that this girl returned his affection and flirted as well – apparently the qualifications of what she seeks in a mate is a person that is incapable of dressing themselves and can barely sound out the simplest of human speech noises. Incidentally, this “average girl” already has multiple children previously. The point I am making here is that Mike Judge’s 2006 comedy Idiocracry is much more than just a fun film – it is eerily present as the dystopic future shown here is the most accurate representation of where our civilization is headed. Responsible people are not having children while some of society’s stupidest people continue to breed like rabbits and raise their children with an even lower standard than they were brought up with.
Luke Wilson stars as Luke Bauer, an army private who is the definition of an average American. He is chosen as the guinea pig in a hibernation project. Also participating in this top-secret project is a prostitute named Rita (Maya Rudolph) who’s agreed to take part in this in exchange for dropping some criminal charges. After they are frozen, however, both Luke and Rita are forgotten about and wake up by accident 500 years into the future where they are, by default, the smartest people in the world. Society has devolved back to an almost Neanderthal state-of-mind where stupidity and ignorance are not only accepted – they are the norm. While an accurate portrayal of our currect society’s downward spiral – 500 years seems a bit too far. They might as well have been woken up in 2012 and this would pretty much be the same movie.
How mankind devolved to this point over time is shown two ways. First we see the parallel lives of two separate couples. First we see a well-off and educated couple who have decided to wait until they are ready to have children and then, later, discover that the woman is barren. Their family tree ends with them. We are also shown a family of, well, idiots who continue to procreate en masse through drunken irresponsibility, unprotected sex and a lack of morality and any semblance of education. As a result the average intelligence of individuals steadily declined from one generation to the next. The other way this is shown is with the hamburger chain seen in many suburban communites: Fuddruckers. Over time, ignorance and mispronunciation of the name has changed simply to Buttfuckers. Yes I can conceivably see this as being our future. After all, look at how the English language has devolved over the past few years alone. People don’t even say complete words anymore, just things like “OMG LOL!” and people are ignorant to not understand that “lol” once upon a time was short-hand for “laughing out loud,” they simply think “oh it means that was funny.” I went through my entire childhood being told that “ain’t” is not a word. Now it is a word – accepted for use in the English language by the Oxford Dictionary of all places. So, yes, I think it quite possible that someday Fuddruckers will become Buttfuckers because people really are that stupid nowadays. I will still never accept “ain’t” as a word and more than for reasons of stubborn defiance but as one way to hold onto the threads of a dying English language before it erodes away into just a series of guttural sounds instead of what was once a diverse and historical language.
Before moving on I do want to point out that Idiocracy does a fantastic job with showing how the world has changed. Sure, the dialogue is great and the idiot characters populating the future of the United States are believable enough – the visuals really capture the essence of American stupidity. First, there’s this:
Setting aside the fact that this is called “St. God’s Memorial Hospital,” the way the sign is put together is enough to cause laughter. Though, if one thinks about it, this is more than possible. In fact, take a look at all the toy and food recalls that clutter the news each week – ten years ago a single case of salmonella from a fast food restaurant was breaking news and seldom heard – now every week a new food or restaurant chain is poison, every toy out there chokes babies. In the news last week a child found a severed finger in his Arby’s sandwich and the company was quickly forgiven and the incident forgotten. This is because the same level of craftmanship in this St. God’s sign is the level of acceptability companies hold themselves to today.
This is what the money of the future looks like in Idiocracry and I am inclined to believe that this is exactly what out money will look like in only a matter of years – the face may be different but everything else will be the same. First there is the look of the money itself. Take a look at how the appearance of US currency has changed in the past:
A few weeks ago I was at a convenience store buying some hot dogs and I handed the clerk the older $20 bill. She simply refused to accept the bill because she was convinced it was a counterfeit. She even got to the point of calling over a manager to try and have the police intervene and stop by, as she put it “counterfitin’ thieven’ ass.” Then there is also the fact that the Idocracry money says “Haulin’ Ass Gettin’ Paid,” like some sort of ad slogan. Advertising has proliferated every facet of media – I can conceivably see an AT&T ad printed on a $20 bill sometime in the future. Heck, people will advertise their websites by stamping it on a $20 bill, it’s not that hard to see ads just being a part of the money and nobody really noticing or caring about it. Also, did you happen to notice the denomination on this bill, $10,000,000. The rate the global economy is going and the way that inflation has really gotten out of control from how irresponsible national leaders have been with money. The US National debt is currently over $15 trillion dollars – a number a lot of people thought was only imaginary. A $10,000,000 bill seems absolutely conceivable. The highest denomination bill in U.S. circulation is a $100 bill which, once upon a time was a fine sum of money. Nowadays it’s worthless. One single $100 bill won’t pay a single one of my bills, will barely feed my family for a few days. Only 10 years ago I was able to comfortably live with a monthly income of $700 – something that is impossible these days.
There are several different things going on in this particular screenshot. First of all, the President of the United States is Dwayne Mountain Dew Comacho (Former NFL player Terry Crews in a rather enjoyable performance). The character is a celebrity and former wrestler, satirizing the fact that we give high ranking public offices to wrestlers like Jesse Ventura and celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger. The fact that his name is Mountain Dew is a nod to the fact that most people these days don’t care what they name their children. This satire is further exampled with Dax Shepherd’s character named Frito Lay and several other characters simply named after junk food products or even random letters. Rita tries to call her friend from the past, Upgrayedd (To quote the movie: “the two d’s are for a double dose of his pimpin'”) only to discover that in this future there are a thousand listings in the telephone directory for people named Upgrayedde (and various other spelling abominations of this word).
Then there are the several advertisements around him, which brings me back to the point of corporate sponsorships of everything. The government in this film is partly owned by a Gatorade parody called Brawndo (The Thirst Mutilator!). Then there’s Uhmerican Exxxpress – a company whose name has undergone the same Fudrackers to Buttfuckers metamorphosis. The XXX in Exxspress should be noted because a lot of these future versions of well known brands have that same change, FedExxx for example. This satirizes how obsessed our society’s become with all thing sexual – far beyond the door opened by the “free love” movement of the 1960s. In this dystopia Starbucks sells hand jobs and “full body” massages (What’s a latte? Must be a type of handjob). Also, like today, there is a Starbucks on every corner. The same goes for H&R Block which now offers sex for a society that’s confused the words rebate and masturbate in the form of a “Full Gentleman’s Refund”
Take a look at the fashion of this future as well:
The shirt Dax Shepherd wears here is just a giant mosaic of advertisements for many different companies. This is nothing new – human beings have long been walking ad space. What’s been one of the more popular fashion trends (for at least the past 15 years) – brand name shirts for everything from Lucky Charms cereal to Spam to Pirelli tires. While people today dress in branded clothes from head-to-toe they say they’re only doing it ironically proving that our culture as a whole has even lost sight of what the word “irony’ actually means.
On television in this dystopic future, Frito watches a popular television program called Ow! My Balls! which is nothing but a man constantly getting hit in the crotch. What’s sad is that this television show actually exists. First there was Jackass which was, essentially, people getting hit for three hours and somehow got 3 feature films including one in 3D. Now there is a show on MTV called Ridiculousness which is a solid half hour of, you guessed it, people getting hit in the crotch. The show, among one of the most watched on MTV (a channel that still calls itself “music” television but has ceased doing anything “music” related a decade ago) just entered its second “highly anticipated” season.
Most of the dialogue in Idiocracy is brain dead droning of lines like “I like money” it fully illustrates just how moronic society has become. Though this, again, is about the same as people talk today. For instance, Justin Long plays a doctor in this world and tells his patient: “Right, kick ass. Well, don’t want to sound like a dick or nothin’, but, ah… it says on your chart that you’re fucked up. Ah, you talk like a fag, and your shit’s all retarded. What I’d do, is just like… like… you know, like, you know what I mean, like…” This is EXACTLY how people speak in the world of online gaming, a world populated by students and adult professionals alike. Beyond online gaming this is how people talk in every part of the United States. Idiocracy does more than show a possible future – it shows what is our current state of affairs.
One interesting thing to point out in Idocracry is that there is never a depiction of an education system in this future – we never see a school or anything like that. I assume this is because schools simply do not exist anymore. Again, not too far from the truth. In the United States a high school diploma bears no more weight because of the sad state of our education system. Schools are more focused on getting money by scoring adequately on ever-decreasing standardized tests. It seems that a school is no longer a facility for education but rather a free babysitter for five days a week. Today, in the United States Today only 71 percent of American students graduate high school on time, a figure that drops to 55 percent for African-American students and 58 percent for Hispanic students (I don’t really know the cause of why there’s such a sharp difference between races only that it is a startling low statistic). People are able to simply test out and instead of getting a high school education settle for taking a simple test to obtain a GED (aptly referred to as a Good Enough Diploma). Standards in education decline with each passing year and Idocracy continues to become a more and more alarming picture of our own future.
As I’ve stated before the goal of most dystopian fiction is to act as a wake-up call for people to look at their leaders and the state that society is in else they find themselves in a dreary future. From the Orwellian world of 1984 to the corporate controlled societies of Robocop and the police state of V for Vendetta these are all dark stories of possible future civilization if we are not careful. While Idiocracry is a witty and enjoyable comedy (one of my all-time favorites) it is also a frighteningly accurate portrayal of where our civilization is headed. Every single generation has moaned that kids today have been getting stupider and stupider and they’ve always been right. As I’ve been writing this review/article a girl nearby has had a conversation of which I’ve overheard the following tidbits.
“I watched the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose which was all actual footage ’bout a girl posed [sic] by the ghosts of Jeffrey Dahmer. He was cool.”
“This guy told me his name was Bill but his real name was William. He’s a fucking liar.”
To conclude, here are a series of images/memes to fully illustrate why Idiocracy takes place in 2012 instead of “the future”