Idiocracy Really Doesn’t Hold Up

It really doesn’t hold up, as comedy or sci fi. Like many people, I’ve been referencing it for years, and I finally showed it to my teenage son, and he was not impressed. The premise of “dumb ppl reproduce more, therefore everyone get real dumb” has a point of diminishing returns. You have to have a certain level of cognitive ability to have meaningful interactions with other people, especially if the meaningful interaction you’re trying to have is, y’know, having relations. So there’s that.

Also, it seemed to me that a lot of the “futuristic” advances didn’t make sense and were being used to make cheap jokes. The biggest culprit here is the Starbucks also being a rub’n’tug, for a variety of reasons, not least of which is brand identity; doesn’t seem very reflective of their current progressive values. You could say that, actually, the sex work is all sex positivity gone too far and whatnot. But look at how the services are framed. Stuff like, “Gentlemen’s latte,” meant to suggest old timey shoeshine booths. The image it conjures is a smartly dressed businessman, brusquely turning the pages of his WSJ as he gets toppy. Not at all sex positive.

Look at the way the film treats women in general. It’s pretty terrible; the women in President Camacho’s Cabinet seem to understand and acknowledge that they are only there for sex, and no one seems to have an issue about it. I get that “lol, ppl are dumb” but these kinds of transactional relationships are extremely complicated, and it doesn’t seem like Judge wanted to address them. There’s a lot of humor there too, and tons of potential. You could write a whole fictional future history for why things are the way they are with regard to sex politics in workspaces.

The societal conversation about how men and women get along, in workspaces, in public spaces, everywhere, is an extremely deep and nuanced conversation, one that the film’s premise doesn’t have an answer for. It’s like not only did everyone get dumber, they all forgot feminism was a thing, like, ever.

One thing that film absolutely nailed. The way cops talk, all “particular individual” and all that. It is a perfect rendition of a really really dumb guy that wants to sound smart, so he overuses the shit out of a handful of polysyllabic words. This behavior is prized in the military and police forces, because those organizations are rife with concerns about making the correct display; wear the right ribbons in the right order, call people by their proper rank, execute that salute properly! All these display elements, like the mating dances of birds, are symbolic and ultimately meaningless, but there are strong social and other consequences for those who do not play along. and those ppl become instructors and model this bullshit, obfuscating manner of speech to others, and on and on.

All the stuff about corporations owning everything, “brought to you by Carl’s Jr.” was pretty spot on, give it that.