Saturday, October 18, 2008

A not-so-bright future

I love a good satire, and "Idiocracy" is about as good as it gets, with writer/director Mike Judge jabbing a finger right in the eye of American society.

The premise of the movie is that two average humans from 2005, played by Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph, are chosen by the Army for a hibernation experiment. The test is supposed to take one year, but by some mishap they wake up in the year 2505. OK, so that part of the movie is not explained too well, but anyway, the two wake up and find that society has evolved (devolved?) to be so stupid that they are now the smartest people in America.

Judge (who also created "Beavis and Butthead" and "Office Space") creates an amazingly detailed world of stupidity. In his vision of the future, people are not just too lazy to think but literally incapable of logical thought. Decisions are based on their most primitive desires, and people have the attention span of fruit flies. Judge even has the morons of the future speak in a sometimes incoherent idio-speak, a "hybrid of hillbilly, Valley girl, inner-city slang and various grunts."

The city that Wilson's and Rudolph's characters encounter in 2505 is a futuristic ghetto, covered with slick ads but overall dirty and violent. Everest-sized mounds of trash lie outside the city. Corporations rule the future world, down to the very basics -- all food comes from fast food kiosks, and even water has been replaced in the taps by Brawndo, a Gatorade-like sports drink. Forget coffee, the Starbucks of the future are in the business of prostitution. The president is a rock star, and justice is meted out ancient Roman style, in a Colosseum-type venue.

"Idiocracy" is laugh-out-loud hilarious, but it also really made my skin crawl, which I suppose is the mark of a great satire. The movie gets scarily close to the situation in the U.S. today, after eight years of the Bush administration. Go down the checklist, it's all there -- the rampant reign of corporations, the dumbing down of the culture, the instant gratification mentality, the mindless reliance on technology, the moral decay, etc., etc.

Judge doesn't have many answers on how to avoid this fate, other than having Wilson's character tell people to "go to school and read books" and at least try to make a difference. Maybe it's beyond the job of a comedy writer to provide those kinds of answers. But at least Judge has done his part by giving us a very palatable but serious prophecy of a dim future.

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