Friday, June 06, 2008

Idiocracy - The Joke is On Us

Last night I finally got a chance to view the movie Idiocracy. The basic plot is that an average guy is frozen in cryogenic sleep for 500 years and wakes up to a world that is much dumber than the one he left, courtesy of the fact that dumb people have far more children then those who are intelligent.

But the plot isn't as important as the satire. Although it's a comedy on the face of it, I think that the biting social commentary is aimed at us, not at the fictitious "dumb people" in the movie. My guess is that it's precisely in our inability to get that the joke is on us that the movie makers get their ironic thrill.

The fact that the movie is aimed at us is made obvious when the main characters have a simultaneous epiphany - they realize that despite the stupidity and depravity of the people in 2505, their lives are pretty much analogous those the chracters were living back in 2007. That is to say, they are obsessed with money, sex and thrill-seeking; in short they are consumers, albeit ones who have lost the ability to couch their consumerism in gilded euphemisms.

The movie presents a hyperbole of how we already are, and asks us, via bathroom humor and crude sex jokes, to review the purpose of our own lives AND the integrity of our culture. In this latter point the movie is at its most subtle. In the idiotic future people still watch movies - they're just mindless (/plotless, literally), and they still have relationships - they're just shallow, and they still read - it's just trash, and they're still economically capitalist - they just have no ability to resist the punchlines of marketing.

Finally the movie is also a challenge to those few who DO understand that the joke is on them. It's a challenge to ask whether we're part of the problem or the solution. The main characters' little motto, borrowed from Thomas Paine - "Lead follow, or get out of the way" - turns out to be surprisingly prophetic in this slapstick distopian comedy.

Perhaps the entire movie can best be summed up when one distopian says to another "Wow you like sex and money too? No way! That's so cool. We should hang out."


Anonymous brooke said...

I remember feeling much the same way about this movie. The future may have been a fun house mirror, but it was a mirror nonetheless. Still, what's wrong with liking thrills, sex and money? I kid. Sometimes. Ok, ok. I kid. I kid. I'll just get out of my own way now.

8:00 AM  

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