CULT CORNER: Idiocracy (2006)

What if the entire globe was dominated by stupid people? Jenny investigates that very real threat with Mike Judge’s cult gem.

Who made it?: Mike Judge (Director/Co-Producer/Co-Writer), Etan Cohen (Co-Writer), Elysa Koplovitz Dutton (Co-Producer), 20th Century Fox.

Who’s in it?: Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, Terry Crews, Anthony “Citric” Campos, David Herman, Justin Long.

Tagline: “In the future, intelligence is extinct.”

IMDb rating: 6.5/10.

If, like me, you’re an idiot, then you might find it pretty disturbing to wake up one morning and find that you’re suddenly the most intelligent person on Earth. This is the scenario that faces the protagonist in Mike Judge’s beautifully satirical 2006 film Idiocracy.

The movie follows the story of Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), an everyman of average intellect, who is picked for a top secret government hibernation experiment, intended to last one year. During Joe’s hibernation, the army base housing the experiment is raided and demolished and its controllers are arrested, leading to Joe remaining asleep in the rubble for the next 500 years. When Joe finally wakes up, the world has become a very different place. The average IQ has drastically lowered, due to mass reproduction on the part of society’s various rednecks and chavs. During these last 500 years, society has all but collapsed. Everything is automated, run by machines in various states of disrepair, which the newly-stupid people are unable to fix.

The President of the United States is an ex-wrestler, Starbucks now sells handjobs, and branches of Costco have grown so large that they require internal trains to get around. Food is scarce as no-one understands that crops need water to grow. Crops are now watered using an energy drink called Brawndo, whose advertising states that it “has electrolytes,” and that electrolytes are “what plants crave.” These statements are repeated several times by various characters, none of whom understand what they are saying.

In this brave and stupid new world, Joe ends up in prison, where he must take an IQ test. His score means he is now officially the smartest person on Earth, and the White House is alerted to this fact. The president summons Joe, offering him a pardon and a ministerial position if he can solve the world’s various problems, in particular the food shortage. Joe’s simple solutions to the problems lead the people to hail Joe as a hero, once he can get them to understand what he’s doing.

The people in Judge’s dystopian future aren’t just stupid. If they were, then perhaps they could be understood, even sympathised with, and the movie would lose a lot of its disturbing edge. Instead, they possess those traits that often stem from a refusal or inability to think – selfishness, laziness and ignorance. This is what makes Judge’s future humans truly frightening. They have no desire to try and understand anything outside the immediate bubble they have grown up in. Thoughts beyond what’s currently on TV and how much beer they have are beyond the scope of their understanding. Things not understood are viewed as a threat, and treated with hostility. Any words over one syllable are either “fag talk,” or are parroted verbatim from various commercials with little to no understanding of their meaning.

This film was hideously overlooked on its release, to the point where it should be illegal. I’d certainly put those responsible in prison for their failure to act in the best interests of the population who need to see this film. After a delay of a year, the film was given a limited release, being sent to only 130 theatres in the US. While posters were sent to the theatres, no trailers, adverts or press kits were originally released. Alongside this lack of promotion, the movie was also never shown to critics. This led to speculation over why 20th Century Fox appeared to do everything they could to kill the movie while still fulfilling their contractual obligations. Some cite Fox’s fear of inadvertently (and ironically) insulting its potential audience, while some claim the risk of offending potential advertisers was too high.

For those hoping to see Mike Judge’s trademark adolescent, sniggering toilet humour, you won’t be disappointed. Fuck you’s and knob gags abound, and there’s plenty of slapstick silliness to keep even the most immature, giggling child in a grown up’s body (me) entertained.

Alongside all the ass jokes and low brow giggles, the film carries a deeper message. After you watch this movie, something inside you changes. You begin to take notice of the world around you. With this new-found perspective, Judge’s film starts to look like a documentary, or at the very least a public information film intended to warn humanity away from this path. Every time you watch daytime TV, every time an X Factor winner or a pointless girl doing her hair on YouTube is hailed as an “inspiration,” your mind will bring you back to this film. Every time an obviously lying commercial hoodwinks people, every time you see someone too engrossed in an iPhone app to have any consideration for other people, you will think of this film. You will see the movie’s characters milling past you in real-life, and you will start to get the uneasy feeling that perhaps it’s too late to prevent Judge’s future vision becoming a reality.

Then again, maybe it isn’t too late. If enough people see this film, perhaps they’ll have their own eureka moments and start paying attention to the world around them. If you have a choice between watching this film and watching yet another reality winner on an “emotional journey,” or a “discussion” show featuring a load of shrieking women, choose this film.

On the other hand, you might not want to listen to me, because as I said earlier, I’m an idiot.

Best Scene

As ever in a movie this scattershot, there’s too many good bits to mention…

Useless Trivia

(Via IMDb)
  • The premise of this movie – someone waking up several hundred years in the future and finding that people have gotten much stupider due to an expanding population and a lack of evolutionary pressure – was previously used in The Marching Morons, a short story written in 1951 by Cyril M. Kornbluth.
  • The very small Surgeon General’s warning seen on the Tarrylton’s Cigarettes billboard reads: “Warning: The Surgeon General has one lung and a voicebox but he could still kick your sorry ass.”
  • All of the logos for actual modern day businesses are altered in the future. The exception is the logo for Fox News, which is the actual logo used by the network at the time of this film’s release.
  • Unsure of how to market the film after disastrous test screenings, Fox sat on the near-completed film for over a year, before finally giving it an unusually small release in only six markets (skipping over major markets such as New York City). The release was done with little to no marketing.

Jenny Morrill

Writer, Rod Jane and Freddy fan and all-round loser. I lower the tone on the Internet. I like cows.

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