Idiocracy (2006) is one the most offensive movies I have ever seen. There is a danger with superlatives. Giving something the highest level in anything only sets it up for something else to come along and top it. When you say a film is the “most offensive,” it could lead to a worse example. Actually, I am certain that can be easily arranged. I led with such a designation because today’s movie is a hard to describe without bold language. This is also without yet mentioning the questionable syntax contained therein. The entire premise revolves around making fun of people with low intelligence quotients (IQ). This is a sin of which we are all guilty, and believe me when I say that I include myself in that royal “we.” We typically think of others in this manner when we feel someone is not living up to a set of standards that, when we are honest with ourselves, is impossible for the faceless other to meet. In the film, the whole of society is comprised of people who speak to nearly every stereotype of which you can conceive regarding the dimwitted. Because stereotypes are unfair, this is why I say it is so offensive.
At first, Idiocracy aims for the middle with its main character, Corporal Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson). The army has developed a new system of hibernation, and owing to Joe’s intense averageness, he is chosen to be a test subject. The army officer, Collins (Michael McCafferty), who developed this program presents it as essential, owing to the dumbing down of society. As is related in an earlier montage, essentially dumb people are procreating too fast, while smart people cannot get childbearing right. This is worrying to the powers that be, so they want to find a way of making sure intelligent people survive into the future. Yet, they do not want to waste any of those brainy people should the experiment prove fatal, so they turn to Joe. Collins finds a female counterpart as well, but he does so by turning to a pimp named Upgrayedd (Brad “Scarface” Jordan). This brings them, Rita (Maya Rudolph), though as they are going into their individual hibernation chambers Joe is oblivious to the fact that she is a sex worker. Instead, she says she is a painter. They are supposed to be in hibernation for a day. Unfortunately, Collins got in too deep with Upgrayedd and is arrested for attempting to start a prostitution ring. For whatever reason, this means that the army forgets about the two people they put into hibernation, particularly when the base on which they are located is closed and replaced by a Fuddruckers. Five hundred years pass. In the intervening time, humanity has grown progressively more stupid. The physical manifestation of this is seen in the way garbage is handled. Instead of true disposal, it is piled up for centuries until there are mountain ranges of waste. When one gives way it creates a tidal wave that sends Joe’s pod through the window of one of the many representatives of the drooling masses, Frito Pendejo (Dax Sheperd). Incredibly, he is a lawyer, but at the moment he is watching what passes for entertainment in the twenty-sixth century: a show about a guy getting his balls repeatedly smashed. Hence, he cannot be bothered. Joe is having trouble accepting his current surroundings, and decides to go see a doctor to find out if something is wrong with him. His visit with Dr. Lexus (Justin Long) is a joke, and he ends up being arrested for not having a barcode on his wrist. This is how people are being identified in this day and age. On his way to being incarcerated, he has trouble with the machine giving him the tattoo, and his new identity becomes “Not Sure.” Yet, before he actually enters jail, he is able to convince the guards that he has already served his time, and he seizes his chance to escape. He is now a fugitive. As this unfolds, we see Rita emerge from her pod equally confused. She eventually encounters Joe on the run, who has also turned to Frito for help. Frito agrees to give Joe and Maya a ride to the “time machine” in exchange for Joe going back to his own time and starting a bank account that will be worth billions by the time Frito is born. The machine is inside a Costco the size of the metropolitan area of New York, which gives the authorities enough time to finally catch up with Joe. This time before sending him to prison, they subject him to an IQ test. Because everyone at this time has the brains of pea, Joe is immediately recognized as the smartest person in the world. He is then taken to see Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Terry Crews), the president of the United States. President Camacho wants Joe to solve the food and dust crisis that is plaguing the planet. Because Joe is aware of how ordinary he is, he does not feel up to the task, seeking only to make it to the time machine. Still, with Rita alongside, Joe realizes the big problem with how humanity is currently trying to grow food: they have replaced water with Gatorade. He is able to convince them to take the water out of the toilets, which is the only use for water in the future. Unfortunately, because everyone has the attention span of gnats, when plants do not begin growing immediately, they decide to execute Joe. Actually, it is called “Rehabilitation,” but it involves the person being crushed by monster trucks. Luckily, Rita is able to bring proof that greenery is sprouting and Joe is saved from certain death. Joe decides to stay, too, eventually replacing President Camacho. This is made certain when they finally get to the time machine and find it is a historical theme park ride that, among other things, claims that real dinosaurs fought in World War II.
As usual, I am sure I failed to relate the humor in Idiocracy, if you could call it humor. Still, there is one moment that almost made this Catholic reviewer fall out of his chair in disbelief. As Joe is being “Rehabilitated,” he manages to make it to a live microphone and attempts to reason with the unthinking crowd. He asks if they want to live in a world where they try to blow up the one person trying to help them. I may be crazy, but my mind went immediately to Jesus’ Crucifixion. Now, I hope I am not crossing into sacrilegious territory, but some of the comparisons are too tantalizing. God sent His only Son into the world to help us. One of the many metaphors used to describe this is Jesus being the Bread of Life. He came to feed a spiritually starved humanity. In our film, humanity is physically starving, though one can make a good case for them being spiritually deprived, too, though clearly not as we would think of it. There is also the fact that they each are being subjected to public executions. Granted, Jesus’ went to the grave, only to rise again, whereas Joe is spared that fate. There are arguments that Western culture is shaped by Christianity in clear, and subtle, ways. Our culture has been wanting to break free of such perceived constrictions for years, in a sense doing what they did to Jesus 2,000 years ago. I just did not expect a reminder of all this in this film. None of this is a reason to watch it, but it is still interesting.
My opening statement posited that Idiocracy is one of the most offensive movies I have ever seen. In reading my previous paragraph, though, I fear I did not entirely convey why this is the case. It is not simply the stereotypical way in which people of low intelligence are lampooned. That is bad enough. The problem is in how it sets up unfair comparisons. For example, the implication with the Rehabilitation scene is that people who like monster trucks are dumb. That is not fair, and one among several reasons for why I do not recommend this movie.