Something completely different for this week’s post-apocalyptic movie club selection, and I have a feeling this film will have passed most folks by…
IDIOCRACY is directed by MIKE JUDGE, who first came to prominence in the mid-nineties as the creator of BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD. This, his second live action feature which was released (barely… I’ll explain in a second) in 2006, is a science-fiction satire which, I don’t mind admitting, left me feeling genuinely uneasy. As usual, here’s the plot, followed by the trailer, followed by my thoughts:
“Private Joe Bauers, the definition of “average American”, is selected by the Pentagon to be the guinea pig for a top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, he awakes 500 years in the future. He discovers a society so incredibly dumbed-down that he’s easily the most intelligent person alive.”
IDIOCRACY suffered at the hands of the studio and distributor. Its release was delayed, then put on hold indefinitely, then drip-fed to a fraction of the usual number of screens when it was finally screened. According to Wikipedia, no trailers, no ads, and only two stills were distributed. We can only speculate about the reasons for such shoddy treatment, but I think it’s a crying shame, because this is a film which deserves to be seen by a wider audience. Not only is it genuinely funny, it’s also a cautionary tale.
The Internet is, without doubt, an incredible thing. It’s had a huge effect on most of our lives. If I hadn’t gone online back in 199-whenever, I doubt I’d have been able to write for a living today. I’d still be stuck working in a bank (shudder), and my books would most likely be stuck in my computer or in a slush pile on some editor’s desk somewhere. There’s no denying the positive effects of the net, particularly in terms of communication, making it possible to talk to just about anyone, just about anywhere, at just about any time.
But there’s a definite dark side…
By making things so very easy and convenient for us, our reliance on the Internet has, I think, also dumbed us down to an extent. We’re so used to clicking a button and getting the information we need, that we sometimes find it difficult to do things for ourselves. Here’s an example: I know someone (mentioning no names) who was several hours late for a meeting. I asked if they’d had trouble, and they explained that their satnav had lost its GPS connection. ‘Did you get hold of a map?’ I asked innocently, ‘Or follow the road signs?’ This person replied: ‘No, I just kept driving around until the satnav came back on’. See what I’m getting at? It’s like the person who flies into a blind panic because the battery’s dead and their fob won’t unlock their car, never stopping to think that it’s actually a key they’re holding which they could use in the door…
Idiocracy takes this kind of dumbing down of society, and amplifies it to a ridiculous extreme. It imagines a future America, five hundred years from now, where stupid people have procreated at a far faster rate than those with intelligence. As a result, lawyers now qualify at Costco, the most popular programme on TV is called “Ow! My balls!”, and the President of the USA is an ex-wrestler and porn star.
It’s the background details in Idiocracy which make it such a success for me, rather than the broad strokes of the relatively straightforward story. The future USA is brilliantly realised, and even if some of the effects don’t quite hit the mark, the visual gags come with such quick-fire speed that it doesn’t matter. Enormous garbage avalanches bury parts of Washington DC, people who use long words and speak well are dismissed as being ‘faggy’, Starbucks and Carl’s Jr. have become sex shops, water is consigned to be used in toilets only while everyone drinks Brawndo – the Thirst Mutilator – a bright green energy drink… I could go on and on.
But I’ll say again, I found IDIOCRACY genuinely frightening. Sure, it’s a parody and its characters are obvious caricatures, but a lot of what’s posited on screen doesn’t seem too far removed from reality. I highly recommend you track down a copy and watch it for yourselves. I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t leave you feeling more than a little bit uncomfortable…
UPDATE – ALMOST TEN YEARS LATER. FUCK.
Thanks for reading.
Over the years I’ve recommended many films, books, and podcasts. You can find a full list of them here.
A lot of folks find their way to this site from search engines and social media. If you’re new here, let me introduce myself – I’m DAVID MOODY, author of dystopian horror and science-fiction. I’m best known for the HATER and AUTUMN novels, but you can find all my books here.