The Morons Shall Inherit the Earth

Idiocracy

reviewed by Steve Sailer

The American Conservative, October 6, 2006

 

Perhaps the most gifted populist conservative in the entertainment industry is Mike Judge, creator of the TV animated comedies Beavis & Butt-Head and King of the Hill (now scheduled for an 11th season on Fox in 2007), as well as the 1999 cult classic film "Office Space."
 
Despite Judge's commercial consistency, his clever and frequently hilarious new satire "Idiocracy" has been deep-sixed by his own studio, Rupert Murdoch's 20th Century Fox, with the most hostile passive-aggressive release of any film in memory. Over the Labor Day Weekend "Idiocracy" materialized in 130 theatres in seven cities (but not in New York, so national media coverage was nonexistent) bereft of even a trailer or the smallest newspaper ad. Fox couldn't even be bothered to tell Moviefone the name of the film -- you had to search for it under "New Mike Judge Comedy."
 
Judge, who worked for years as an engineer at the kind of manhood-crushing cubicle jobs parodied in "Office Space," is an intensely intelligent paleoconservative observer of Red State life and its degradation by liberal social mores and commercial vulgarization.
 
His recurrent themes are masculinity, class, IQ, and character. His hero Hank Hill of King of the Hill is the most admirable sit-com father since The Cosby Show, and likely the white TV dad most worthy of respect since the 1950s. Although a man of no more than average intelligence, Hank diligently embodies the traditional American manly virtues.
 
"Idiocracy" is an updating of C.M. Kornbluth's famous 1951 science fiction story about dysgenic breeding, "The Marching Morons." It opens with a yuppie husband and wife on the left half of the screen (IQs of 138 and 141, respectively) endlessly debating the perfect moment to conceive their one child: "We just can't have a child in this market." Meanwhile, on the right side, Clevon is impregnating every woman in the trailer park.
 
Unambitious Private Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson of "Old School") is another of Judge's average man heroes. Because he scored at the median of every bell curve from IQ to blood pressure, Bauers is drafted for a military "human hibernation" experiment, an idea presumably lifted from Robert Heinlein's The Door into Summer, in which the Army keeps a few divisions on ice in case of war. Due to a scandal, the private is forgotten and awakes in 500 years. To his horror, he discovers that after 20 generations everyone is a Clevon, and he's now the smartest man in America.
 
As he showed in Beavis & Butt-Head, Judge has a genius for stupidity. The visual details of a Washington D.C. populated solely by morons are memorable: a collapsing skyscraper is held together by wrapping it with oversized twine; the White House has broken cars up on blocks on the dying lawn and the "President of America" is a professional wrestler; and at "St. God's Hospital" the illiterate admitting nurse is equipped with a fast food-style touch-screen menu with diagrams of ailments common in 2505 (such as a stick-figure man with a knife stuck in his head). All clothing is plastered with corporate logos and the Secretary of State is paid to insert the phrase "brought to you by Carl's Jr." into everything he says.
 
Although we like to think of the unintelligent as sweet Forrest Gumps, in Judge's dystopia everyone is a surly jerk to Pvt. Bauers because he speaks in complete sentences, which the denizens of the 26th century find "faggy."
 
"Idiocracy" isn't perfect. At only 84 minutes, it looks like it was hacked up in editing. A narrator very slowly explains natural selection and too many of the jokes.
 
Did Fox murder this film's release as part of a complex metamarketing plot to turn it into a DVD hit? Did the corporations satirized in it threaten to pull advertising from the Fox Network? Or did Fox executives not realize until after Judge had delivered his movie in 2004 that he'd lifted his basic idea from The Bell Curve, and that You Just Can't Say That anymore?
 
That the poor have more children than the rich has been observed at least since Adam Smith in 1776. The long-term effect is much less clear. Yet, can't an artist be allowed to explore the comic possibilities of a logic we've all privately thought about? Isn't this the land of the free and the home of the brave? I guess not.
 
Rated R for language and sex-related humor.

 

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