Cinophile: IDIOCRACY

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In the future we will all be idiots. But don’t worry – if the military hold their end of the bargain, we’ll have Luke Wilson to save us!

Mike Judge has contributed some big milestones to our society’s culture. In the Nineties he helped embed mature animated television through Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill. Later he would give cubicle jockeys everywhere something to cheer with Office Space. But his greatest contribution is also his most overlooked.

Idiocracy didn’t arrive with much fanfare. In fact, it didn’t get any at all, with a studio running between the twin fears of a total bomb and a movie that might offend both audiences and advertisers. How it was greenlit at all is another question.

Yet Idiocarcy struck a chord – not enough to make it a hit. In fact, it bombed. But the movie’s snarling, no-holds-barred satire of our future nonetheless found a following quickly – even among normally snide critics. Why? Perhaps because it makes too much damn sense.

The film taps on a concept called Dysgenics, which covers the course of bad genetic traits being selected and kept by a species. In Idiocracy, the human race’s dumber people manage to outbreed the smart ones. By the time anyone notices, it’s too late. Humankind is f***ing dumb. Really, f***ing dumb.

Into this future arrives a man and woman who were stuck for five hundred years in a military cryogenics experiment. They are no rocket scientists, yet in this new world they may as well be. Still, it’s not easy when everyone around you is on the bad side of moronic.

Like Office Space this movie pulls no punches in taking apart its target. But whereas the corporate world still allows for some subtlety, when dealing with a world of idiots things can only be told in big dollops of stupid. This is the genius of Idiocracy – no stone is unturned and every absurdity is rolled out.

Company names devolve into crude parodies of the real thing. Entertainment is a mish-mash of the most common denominators – the most popular show in Idiocracy’s future is called ‘Ow! My Balls!”. Technology effectively runs itself and uses simple interfaces to get people to do stuff. The President is a highly decorated pro wrestler and porn star.

Idiocracy is a rarity – it revels almost completely in utterly childish humour, yet in doing so makes it impossible to avoid the subtext about how modern society may not be a good thing if left to its own devices. Even if you ignore that, this is one of the best comedies too few people have heard of. It is arguably the best work Mike Judge has ever created.

And it gave the world such classy lines as ‘I like money” and “Go away! Batin’!”.

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Idiocracy was a disaster at test screenings, prompting reshoots and pushing Fox to sit on the movie for over a year before giving it a limited release. It had no idea how to effectively market Idiocracy – but it did register the trademark for the movie’s fictitious energy drink Brawndo. Still, Fox didn’t distribute any trailers or posters, nor was there a screening for critics. In fact, during 2006 this alone made quite a few headlines.
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Several brands are parodied in Idiocracy, including an off-colour version of the retail food chain Fuddruckers. The movie also mentions hand jobs at Starbucks, shows dubious ad campaigns by another food retailer Carls Jr., and has a big poke at Fox News, featuring two models.
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Pixar’s hit Wall-E shares a few themes with Idiocracy, leading some to speculate if Pixar was influenced by the movie. Even Mike Judge has noted the similarities, but he doesn’t think Pixar ripped his creation off.
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Idiocarcy is also worth watching for a pre-fame Terry Crews. But the cameos are even more interesting, including Justin Long, Thomas Haden Church and Luke Wilson’s brother Andrew. The pimp Upgreyedd was portrayed by rapper Scarface, whose music features extensively in Mike Judge’s Office Space.

 Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: June 22, 2015

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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