Tuesday, November 04, 2008

THE POLITICS AND MOVIES BLOG-A-THON : IDIOCRACY (2006)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This entry belongs to The Politics & Movies Blog-A-Thon hosted by Jason over at The Cooler. Be sure to go over there and check out other entries and/or submit an entry of your own! DO IT! ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Right out of the gate, growing cult-comedy Idiocracy makes its bravest proclamation. Getting all Freakanomics on the viewer, writer/director Mike Judge threatens us with a frightening future if we don't get a grip on our reproductive ways. The under-educated lower-classes are breeding like rabbits, while educated upper-class sophisticates try to schedule conception dates in between second masters degrees and vacationing abroad.

The law of averages play out, and five hundred years later we have a populace captivated by an Academy Award winning movie called Ass, consisting of a single shot of a bare buttocks that farts. While that may seem avant-garde to fans of Andy Warhol's Blow Job (if so, get a vasectomy now!), it's just but one warning shot that Judge playfully levels at us over a brief eighty-four minutes.

Though it would be nice to say that most of the bad behavior on display in Idiocracy is at the result of a lowest common denominator future, some aspects of the year 2505 haven't changed at all. For instance, mankind's four favorite things to do are still eating, watching TV, pooping, and masturbating. When Judge makes all four of those pleasures cross-functional by creating a toilet recliner (mix this with George Clooney's awesome contraption in Burn After Reading and you've got the ultimate leisure item) it's an indirect jab at the unintended downside of invention... like calculators killing mental math and text messaging killing language.

But at the center of Idiocracy, and what I like to think ties it to Election Day '08, is Luke Wilson's character of Joe. Like Joe "Blow", Joe "Sixpack", or Average "Joe", Wilson's Joe implies a middle-of-the-road, independent, working-class man. But what Mike Judge adds to his "Joe" is a sense of apathy. He's a decent man, but Joe just wants to glide through life without leaving many bruises behind. Unfortunately that entails not leaving any fingerprints either. You could argue that Joe's unwillingness is more damaging that the out-of-control reproductively challenged lower and upper classes he resides between.

Like a lesson from a fable, Joe awakens from his disinterest by witnessing what happens when two stubborn extremes have their way for far too long. Like the loudmouths of the American political left and right that try to shame undecided or independent voters into picking their candidate (or hell on Earth will ensue), Joe has to go up against a culture so comfortable in its ways that any deviation from it will result in assassination by monster truck rally.

We may be far away from a time when a "Joe" can have real influence and break through the fingers-in-the-ears wall of the modern day left and right, but with the way both sides refuse to let new ideas into their head, the offspring of that lot may end up being the Hormel Chavez's and Beef Supreme's of the future. Then, Joe can be President.

So, today, it doesn't matter if you vote for that guy, the other guy, if you write-in a guy (or gal), or if you refuse to vote at all. What matters is that you came to that informed and personal decision with the knowledge that it could be that little butterfly flap of a wing that could stir something larger down the road, or, in Idiocracy terms, the piece of paper that started "The Great Garbage Avalanche of 2505".

19 comments:

bill r. said...

Leave me alone, I'm 'batin'!

It's a fine film, even though it runs out of steam when it starts to worry about the plot (I like plot, but in comedies, it's often death). And the film is also depressingly dead-on in its targets. Every day, I watch reality come closer and closer to mirroring Idiocracy, and it makes me want to hole up in my apartment with my books and DVDs and tell everyone else to screw off.

But I don't really think that was your point.

Fox said...

I totally agree on the "running out of steam". The film works best when Judge is just slinging gags. There is a definite lag and sag after the midway point, and the film feels incomplete... but it still saves itself, in my opinion.

I think my favorite part that never gets old is Justin Long's doctor character:

"Don't worry scrote. There are plenty of 'tards out there living really kick ass lives. My first wife was 'tarded. She's a pilot now."

Idiocracy's future is so bleak that two of the English language's greatest words - masterbating & retarded - are shortened!

bill r. said...

My first wife was 'tarded. She's a pilot now.

That made me laugh. I'd forgotten that one. I really need to see this again.

I also love Luke Wilson struggling with the time travel paradox.

PS - You misspelled "masturbating".

Fox said...

PS - You misspelled "masturbating".

Our sad future is already showing its early signs... (sigh).

J.D. said...

Good article! I really dig this film. Obviously it isn't as good as OFFICE SPACE it certainly has its merits and it is shameful how badly the studio screwed over Mike Judge. After his experiences with OS I am amazed that he made another film for them.

I'd love to see a director's cut of this film as I always get the feeling watching this film that the studio tinkered with it, big time.

Fox said...

Thanks J.D.-

I didn't know that Judge was wrangled in on Office Space. It's obvious in Idiocracy, but what happened during Office Space?

The man is such a unique talent, able to do smart, social comedy (not forgetting Beavis & Butt-Head or King of the Hill!), so I wonder why he has so much trouble behind the scenes.

J.D. said...

Fox:

The studio totally screwed Judge over on the marketing and release of the film.

Entertainment Weekly has a good retrospective article on the making of Judge's film, here:

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,452194,00.html

Reel Whore said...

Love that you tied Burn After Reading to Idiocracy. It was good but not as great as it could've been.

I appreciated that Maya Rudolph was involved.

Fox said...

Totally agree Reel Whore... you mean on Idiocracy, right? Love Burn After Reading. LOOOVED it. Guess it would fit in nice with this blog-a-thon as well!

Reel Whore said...

yep, Idiocracy was the good, not great of the two.

Jamie said...

I hate to get all "serious" in commenting on a comedy film...

The post and comments reminded me of people criticizing Barack Obama for being an elitist (I'm looking at you, Rush Limbaugh). Um...I'm sorry, but I want my President to be educated. I remember a Lewis Black commercial in which he comments that most Americans want a President they can have a beer with...to which Black responds (not an exact quote): "If you're in a bar right now, take a look around...see any Presidents?"

If I just went off on a totally unrelated tangent, accept my apology.

Reel Whore said...

I have much love for Lewis Black. I recall that and he makes a solid point. The President should be someone educated enough to know he must address the country's needs while adhering to the founding father's principles. Everyone knew Norm's name, but Norm only cared about beer.

Fox said...

Jamie-

No, you didn't go off on a tangent. Your comments are totally relatable to this blog-a-thon. And good too.

I see what you are saying, and I agree to your point that I want an educated President. What I was trying to get at - and it's likely I didn't do a sharp enough job of getting there - was that I want a voice for the people left out of the two-party system.

I hear from the media and talk radio that independents and "undecideds" are just afraid to take a dive and join one of the sides. Uh, wrong. We are that way b/c we don't like either candidate. Sure, I may (and do) agree with candidates on some issues, but not enough where I've wanted to back one of them.

I think there is a hunger out there for a third choice... a major third choice, not a Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader, but something fresh. But both Republicans and Democrats seem to do their damndest to keep it 2-way street.

Fox said...

Reel Whore-

I know you mean Norm from Cheers, but Norm McDonald for Pres? Now that would be fun!

Reel Whore said...

He'd definitely take the country in a different direction.

I wonder how many foreign countries would get his humor.

Fletch said...

"When Judge makes all four of those pleasures cross-functional by creating a toilet recliner (mix this with George Clooney's awesome contraption in Burn After Reading and you've got the ultimate leisure item)"

So wrong, yet so funny. The gleeful look on Clooney's face sold it so well...

I am a devout Idiocracy lover, and will shout about its brilliance off the rooftops for ever and ever...

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hemcoined said...

The film feels incomplete... but it still saves itself, in my opinion.
Gangway

Peter said...

I am very impressed with the article I have just read,so nice.......

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