Films that told the future 001: Idiocracy

Mike Judge’s dystopian comedy that follows the story of Corporal Joe Bauers who wakes up in a future where everything’s gone to shit.

It’s under­stand­able if you’re unfa­mil­iar with Mike Judge’s 2005 dystopi­an com­e­dy Idioc­ra­cy, 20th Cen­tu­ry Fox didn’t both­er pro­mot­ing it. How­ev­er, if you were raised on Judge sta­ples such as Beav­is and Butt-Head, and con­sid­er Office Space to be more of a doc­u­men­tary than a film, Idioc­ra­cy is a cult classic.

Idioc­ra­cy fol­lows the sto­ry of Cor­po­ral Joe Bauers (Luke Wil­son), an aver­age Joe who’s cho­sen to take part in a mil­i­tary exper­i­ment where he’ll be frozen for a year. How­ev­er, after the tri­al begins the offi­cer over­see­ing it is arrest­ed, Joe’s for­got­ten about and remains frozen for 500 years until a garbage avalanche brings him out of stasis.

Joe wakes up in a future where everything’s gone to shit. In 2005 Judge’s fore­cast of what pol­i­tics would look like was based on the Bush admin­is­tra­tion, before mili­tia cra­zies like Sarah Palin had crawled out of their nuclear bunkers. Now Idiocracy’s Uzi-wield­ing for­mer wrestler Pres­i­dent Dwayne Eli­zon­do Moun­tain Dew Her­bert Cama­cho (Ter­ry Crews) seems…sort of nor­mal. Idiocracy’s POTUS receiv­ing a harangu­ing from one of his rep­re­sen­ta­tives (“I got a solu­tion, you’re a dick!”) doesn’t seem that far removed from the polit­i­cal slag­ging match­es Trump engages in. In fact Judge even told The Dai­ly Beast, that dur­ing Trump’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, every oth­er Twit­ter com­ment I [got was] about Idioc­ra­cy, and how it’s a doc­u­men­tary now.” 

Beyond pol­i­tics, the biggest prob­lem fac­ing Judge’s fic­tion­al soci­ety is that everyone’s stu­pid because intel­li­gent peo­ple have been too busy/​terrified to have kids, where­as idiots have been breed­ing like rab­bits. Yeah, it all seems a bit pro-eugen­ics, although Judge has been eager to dis­miss this accu­sa­tion. Nev­er­the­less, it’s one of the main points that view­ers come away with, and an idea that news­pa­pers have been hap­py to per­pet­u­ate for a few years now.

Despite the eth­i­cal­ly dif­fi­cult key theme, there’s a ton of oth­er sur­pris­ing­ly pre­scient (and dumb) world­build­ing in Idioc­ra­cy. Crops are fail­ing, not because of glob­al warm­ing but because they’re being irri­gat­ed with a sports drink called Brawn­do, Star­bucks offer hand-jobs with every cof­fee (what­ev­er hap­pened to that Padding­ton robot fel­la­tio cafe?), and the num­ber one movie is called Ass, which I believe was the work­ing title for the lat­est Fast & Furi­ous movie.

Idiocracy’s pre­dic­tions seemed absurd at the time, with adver­tis­ers resort­ing to slo­gans such as If you don’t smoke Tarrlytons…fuck you!’ and Cost­co guests being greet­ed with Wel­come to Cost­co. I love you’. And yet here we are in 2019 with lap­top man­u­fac­tur­er Raz­er encour­ag­ing its fans to S my D’, and Sun­ny D admit­ting that they ‘…can’t do this any­more’ on their Twit­ter feeds.

The film con­cludes with Joe solv­ing the veg­e­ta­tion prob­lem and being elect­ed Pres­i­dent. It’s way too sim­plis­tic an end­ing from which to draw solu­tions to any of today’s prob­lems. That said, we’d take Pres­i­dent Dwayne Eli­zon­do Moun­tain Dew Her­bert Cama­cho over Trump any day.


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