Why Idiocracy Is Terrifying A Decade Later

Photo: Photofest.
The year is 2505 and America is filled with idiots. The nation’s overall IQ has plummeted to the double digits. Only the world's most asinine humans are reproducing. Costco is the size of Rhode Island and sells everything from couches to law school degrees to shantytown accommodations. Plants are watered using sports drinks with “electrolytes.” And the president is an ex-porn star and five-time wrestling champion named Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho. Welcome to the fictional world of Idiocracy, dreamt up by filmmakers Mike Judge and Etan Coen. Except that — a decade after the fact — a lot of the movie's comedic punch lines have come home to roost. Think about it: a former WWE fighter with questionable hair as president, a fast-food company run by robots, and a coffee house that sells hand jobs. Notice how those plot points seem to closely resemble actual headlines that have cropped up in recent years? As it turns out, the writers' "far-fetched" version of America wasn't really that unthinkable—and that's scary as hell. Idiocracy debuted in theaters on September 1, 2006, featuring a hilarious cast that included Luke Wilson as leading man Joe Bauers. Joe is a totally "average" guy living in an average world with an average desk job in the military. He gets recruited by a secret task force to enter an incubator for a year as part of a program ultimately meant to preserve more extraordinary and intelligent members of the Army— like fighter pilots and medical personnel. Joe is obviously a test run, along with Maya Rudolph, who plays Rita, a prostitute who owes her pimp a favor and agrees to participate in the incubation trial to pay it off. After a series of misfortunate events, Rita and Joe find themselves incubated for 500 years. When they're released, it's a new, more ludicrous world. They enter a culture full of bumbling fools solely focused on money, sex, and watching TV from a couch with a built-in toilet. Joe, with help from Rita and Frito — a dunce played by Dax Shepard — tries to figure out how he can get back home, and what the hell happened to the entire country. Along the way, he discovers that in 2025 terms, he's actually the smartest person on the planet; he even winds up being added to the presidential cabinet. Idiocracy is stacked with all the usual cult status movie ingredients: antics, potty humor, and slapstick ensue, along with some memorable one-liners ("I like money," "Not Sure" and "It's got electrolytes," to name a few). But for a movie about what a super dumbed-down world would look like, it's prophetically smart; an overwhelming number of the exaggerations from this film are so jarringly realistic in 2016 that it could be a spot-on satire of our current moment. The movie has gone from dystopian comedy to borderline documentary. It also makes you wonder: When did we resign ourselves to the influence of idiocy? Also file under: What the hell happened? There's no easy answer to either of those questions. But it's impossible to ignore some of the major changes our world has undergone since Idiocracy hit theaters. The internet has given the most uneducated and toxic people (trolls, as we call them) a vehicle to talk to millions of people. The presidential election more closely resembles a Real Housewives of Orange County reunion than it does a thoughtful debate. A man obsessed with money was handed the biggest microphone in the country. Politicians share dick pics. Celebrities sue journalists and manage to shut down entire media outlets. Hell, KFC released a sunscreen that makes you smell like fried chicken.

Suffice to say the world can seem pretty fucked up. Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned from Idiocracy that could help change the tide? Then again, maybe not — and that's okay too, because in times of desperation sometimes the only helpful reprieve from the madness is laughter. The film's cast seems to have a unique appreciation for how comedy can help, not to mention a willingness to lend their talents to comment about our current election cycle. Dax Shepard even created a fake endorsement for Donald Trump as his character, Frito.
Terry Crews, who played President Camacho, recently announced that his character would be running against Trump.
Coen, who also co-wrote Tropic Thunder and Get Hard, preferred to just call it as he saw it.
Judge is fully aware of the irony of why his film is receiving renewed attention 10 years after its debut. He thinks it's great that people are digging the movie — but he wishes that it could have been for another reason. “I didn’t want Idiocracy to get popular by the world getting stupider faster. I guess I was 450 years off! " he told The Daily Beast in an interview earlier this year. Bottom line: Rewatch the movie. Laugh. Learn. Vote come November. We're too close to an actual idiocracy for comfort.

More from Movies

R29 Original Series