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
"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
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
"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.
to The American Conservative
(because I don't post my magazine reviews online until long after
the films have come and gone)