Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What-to-Watch Wednesday - Idiocracy (2006)

What does it mean when reality starts to reflect in alarmingly accurate detail a satirical film full of exaggeration and biting commentary on where civilization is headed? As the current presidential race has progressed and Donald Trump has emerged as the Republican candidate, Mike Judge's Idiocracy has sprung to mind more than once. But, elements of the film that were once amusing are now not so funny anymore as I see them being brought to life one by one by the current political climate.

The film is about soldier Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson) who is selected for a suspended animation experiment along with a prostitute named Rita (Maya Rudolph). Inevitably, something goes wrong with the experiment, and both Joe and Rita wake up 500 years later to a society that is run by corporations and a population that is laughably stupid.

This is a world where the president is a loud-mouthed, pro-wrestler type TV star named President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, who flaunts his ignorance like a badge of honor and openly mocks people for their intelligence and skill.

Making any connections yet?

In one scene after another, Joe is called "fag" and "queer" because he displays average intelligence and can speak in complete sentences. This is a society that disdains any hint of intellectualism. Of course, what makes this all the more humorous, at least at first, is that Joe shows no particular intellectual gifts outside of normal common sense and courtesy. It's only that he is surrounded by those so mentally stunted that these traits make him seem like an abnormality.

Of course, the plot involves Joe and Rita trying to get back to their right time and maybe prevent what has happened to society from occurring. The humor comes about in that Joe and Rita are able to use common sense and average reasoning skills as though they were Jedi mind tricks on the populace in order to escape capture and other dangers. There are also efforts to improve the state of things, including one funny sequence where Joe reveals that plants need water to grow, not energy sodas. In one scene after another, modern trends are taken to their extremes to highlight how ridiculous and harmful they are. The fact that the movie makes you laugh while doing it makes it all the more brilliant.

However, in considering the film and comparing it to today's world just ten years after it was released, I cringe more than I laugh because we are moving closer to the "idiocracy" featured in the movie. We are a nation in which a significant portion of the population are blinded by their emotions because they are too dumb and lazy to pick up a book and fill their minds with something other than their personal beliefs and prejudices. We are a nation that is coming alarmingly close to electing what is essentially our first pro-wrestler as president.

The only real flaw in Idiocracy, as far as I can see, is that Mike Judge sets it 500 years in the future and therefore did not realize just how close to the present the film actually is.

Note: I was inspired to write this W2WW when I read that Mike Judge was re-teaming with Terry Crews (who played President Camacho) to make a series of anti-Trump ads.  I assume that Crews will be in character as Camacho, and I eagerly anticipate what response these two have to Trump's inexplicable candidacy.

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