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Monday, January 15, 2007

Go Rent Idiocracy

Looking back on 2006, I consider myself lucky in at least one respect, and that is that I lived in the same town as Mike Judge when his latest film Idiocracy was released last summer. Austin, TX was one of only six cities in the United States in which the film was shown. But the DVD is finally out and I can’t recommend it enough.

It’s well documented that Idiocracy is a film Fox didn’t want Judge, the creator of Office Space and Beavis and Butthead, to release. It didn’t even get a web site. It seems that corporate and stoner culture is in-bounds for parody (and profit). Apparently, our larger culture is not. Why?

In Idiocracy, Judge extrapolates our media, politics and collective apathy 400 years into the future. His premise is that it’s all junk food. His conclusion is that a steady diet of products and media marketed to the lowest common denominator yields a populace of weak, soft, stupid consumers/Neanderthals.

I’ll leave the full review to others (read Slate's), but suffice it to say that the movie is hilarious, strange and a little cheap-looking. But there’s more to it than that.

I don’t think Fox balked at distribution simply because a dozen brands are skewered in a number of delightful ways. For example, the Fuddruckers identity finally gets the overhaul undoubtedly suggested by countless potty-mouthed adolescents. And after seeing the movie, walking into Starbucks makes me feel...dirty. And much shame.

While this comedy has an ostensibly happy ending, it leaves the aftertaste of a serious downer. Driving home through the Austin landscape overtaken by suburban sprawl, the innocuous stream of billboards, signs and bumperstickers didn’t quite seem so unobjectionable. I went home, turned on CNN, watched a reporter say nothing for two minutes and shut it off. Idiocracy haunts you not because of what the future might be, but because of what it already is.

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