21 June 2007 | subcreature
It's amazing how many people miss the point... oh wait. No it isn't.
You can read all kinds of references into the world of Idiocracy. A futuristic world populated by pampered, self-indulgent morons spoon-fed by the technology of a bygone era: this idea has its precedent in H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" amongst other satires.
Early in the film, a narrator explains the quick degradation of humanity over five hundred years, but does not fill in the gaps of where all the futuristic technology came from in the meanwhile. Most of the criticism of this very fun (and funny) film seems to surround this omission, and the resulting complaint that the world isn't "realistic". As if "realism" has ever been a necessary quality of satire. Is "Brazil" realistic? How about "Futurama" or "Transmetropolitan"? Hell, how about "Gulliver's Travels"? I thought not. "Idiocracy", while maybe not as pointed as the best of the genre, hits the same notes and generally does so successfully.
Besides, I didn't find the futuristic technology to be a problem. It is pretty easy to figure out that Mike Judge is satirizing the current trend toward automation and simple product interfaces, so that even total idiots can use them. As in "Brave New World", the society in the film seems to have reached a point of automated self-sufficiency at some point in the past (apparently created by the now-extinct 'smart people' in order to placate an increasingly stupid populace), leaving the remainder of humanity free to indulge all the worst, most selfish impulses they can come up with, and grow even stupider. The film just happens to take place during the last gasp of humanity, as everything begins to fall apart for good. It may still be "unrealistic", but if so, it's a remarkably well-presented brand of unrealism.
The stupid people take up most of the screen time, of course, but they're just the victims -- they don't know any better. Mike Judge saves his real hate for the intelligent people in power who are dead by the time the film begins, but who are very much alive right now, in the 21st century. People like scientists who chase "hair growth and prolonged erections" for no other reason than the possibility that they'll turn a profit on their snake-oil treatments. People like politicians who let corporations simply purchase the FDA and FCC. People like media executives and their yuppie stooges who promote stupidity -- who enable the destruction of all culture, morality and health to make a quick buck.
After all, who is really to blame, the Morlocks or the Eloi? The Paris Hiltons of the world, or the brilliant executives and advertisers that put her on TV and lowered our cultural standards enough to leave her there? This is all implicit in "Idiocracy", though. A line here, a hint there (witness the hilarious auto-doctor which literally does all the work in the health care system). It's one of the few aspects of the movie that's NOT pounded into the ground by the unnecessary narrator. It's just there for the viewer to pick up, or not, but it is one of the most interesting themes in a movie that's much smarter than any other comedy of the year.
Pity that so many people will leave the film thinking it's just an excuse to show rear ends farting and people being hit in the groin. Not that that stuff isn't funny too, and maybe it IS a little pandering. But in "Idiocracy", it's just not as simple as it seems.