Monday, March 09, 2009

President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho

Sunday I watched about twenty minutes of the 2006 movie "Idiocracy". The movie wasn't terribly popular, but:

(a) the more times I stumble across it, the funnier I find it
(b) it's kind of stunning how swiftly we're all moving towards the world Mike Judge predicted. Gleefully so. Which is most likely why we didn't find it funny.

The problem, I think, with the poor showing "Idiocracy" had at the box office is only partially that its not a bad-ass dystpoian future of motorcycle gangs and gun fights or robots to fight against. It wasn't one single-source who doomed us who is looking for a savior. It was us who defeated us by acting pretty much how us acts. There's nobody to blame in Judge's future but ourselves, and his predictions aren't wild speculation, but the logical extension (although satirical) of how we deal with politics, shopping, entertainment, healthcare, mega-corporations, etc...

Welcome to CostCo. I love you.

The twenty minutes I watched included the part of the movie where President Camacho has appointed Luke Wilson's literal everyman Joe as Secretary of Agriculture or something so he can figure out why the crops aren't growing. Joe learns that its because they're spraying fields with a Power-Ade-like energy drink rather than water.

The people give Joe's solution of using water instead of Power-Ade on their plants about two days (at which point, the Power-Ade company goes bankrupt, because farmers were spraying large quantities of it on their plants, assuring the profitability of the energy drink company), and begin to riot outside the White House, which leads to Joe's trial and attempted execution by Monster Truck.

And as I watch CNN's headlines tick by, I can't help but note... We are Idiocracy.

Obama has been in office for about 6 weeks. We've had about 9 years or more of absolutely horrendous lending and financial practices which Obama is now being asked, both explicitly and implicitly, to fix. And watching the headlines, it all seems inevitable that he will be blamed if things don't begin a turn-around by 2011.

I sort of predicted that when Obama took office, people were going to be shocked that he couldn't magically fix everything by smiling at it and giving us a confident nod.

What's eye-rollingly irritating is that the press seems to kind of assume there's some obvious, single solution to our current dire financial straits, and that while THEY might not know what the solution is, and despite what every financial analyst they stick a micropphone in front of says its going to be years, there's an implicit suggestion in the headlines that its the job of the president to flip a switch and make it okay again. We're not to learn lessons, look within ourselves as a nation to see how we got here. We're to start buying houses we can't afford again and to make everything just how it was if you rolled the clock back to 2007 (when signs were beginning to show trouble, anyway).

We're seeing stories about how gray Obama has already become, how he's been working late, and that his budget isn't some miracle cure-all.

I guess my question is, sure, the former Pro-Wrestler, machine gun toting Camacho is a satirical stereotype... But you can't help but think "hey, the press and certain parties would be touting how Camacho was taking action and making decisions that were popular in the polls", so how far are we from "Ow, My Balls" and a push-button healthcare system where self-examination has been bred out of us all together?


JAL said...

This is a gem of a film.

I recall walking out of the theater thinking it was funny, but it kept growing on me in a sort of way much the same as most Mike Judge material. It's better written and more thoughtful than it ever needs to be.

"I thought there was two of you?!" is just a brilliant line.


Simon MacDonald said...

I really wanted to see Idiocracy but I never could find it in theaters or at the movie store. I will have to re-double my efforts to locate it.

On the subject of people being shocked that Obama can't magically fix everything. Well he set himself up for that by being more popular than The Beatles. People expect messiah type miracles when you reach that level of popularity.

mcsteans said...

You couldn't find it because it was only released in 7 theaters.

I remember watching it even the first time and thinking it was hilarious, but in the back of my head thinking, you know, i can REALLY see this happening, and that scares the s@#% out of me.

Samax said...

I agree that Idiocracy touches on what America is becoming in a lotta ways. I didn't think it was very well made, though. I enjoyed parts of it, but felt it was all-around pretty crappy. He should have just made it a cartoon for Adult Swim or something.

The League said...

Its a legitimate question as to whether or not Obama set himself up as the messiah or whether we're so pre-programmed to look for one (rather than bothering to fix things for ourselves) that we set anyone who might genuinely eventually be successful up for failure because of grossly unrealistic expectations. Here in the states, the GOP is certainly banging the drum (and the press is taking the bait) that Obama is maybe a fraud as he hasn't been able to magically reverse the downward trending of the economy, ignoring the decade of horrendous economic policy, both governmental and otherwise, in the U.S. It's a joke, but its also becoming a very real sentiment.

I invite folks to find the two "This American Life" podcasts in which they discuss our current economic situation in terms that completely make sense. It should be required listening.

And, no, its not some crazy, liberal spin.

As per samax's note: I felt the same way about Idiocracy initially. Its been more in the instances where I stumble upon the movie on cable, etc... that its grown on me like a fungus. However, I do think your suggestion for an Adult Swim cartoon is pretty spot on.

Anonymous said...

I thought the movie had promise, but it was somewhat condescending actually. Like the part where the smart yuppies don't want to have babies so we're just left with the dumb fat people that really don't want to work populating the earth. I have a feeling that's part of the reason why people didn't like it. Not just because it was a scary vision of the future. WALL-E's vision was a little more sympathetic, and had a little less of what I perceived to be class warfare going on.

The League said...

Well, this is probably me going to hell, but I thought the reasoning behind how the birthrates wound up affecting the future was actually the funniest part of the movie, class warfare or not. Sure, it's a dick move, but nobody batted an eye at the yuppie working himself to death and his wife carrying on childless, so there you go.

I don't think the movie was intended to say anything particularly nice about either side of that outcome, but I also don't really care that Judge set up yuppies as life-planning themselves out of existence or that a complete lack of planning isn't necessarily a brilliant plan of attack. It may be an unpleasant thing to say, but, whatever... Of course, I am also a Childfree American, so I find that kind of stuff High-larious.

It doesn't mean I think anyone with kids, even lots of kids is a moron. But it doesn't mean I should have to pretend that the scenario as depicted didn't feel a little close to home. If it wasn't, it would probably confuse people more than make them angry.


Anonymous said...


Yeah, I don't doubt that stat at all. But, that's not to say that you can't be intelligent in a real world sense without all that education. Or, that yuppies with a lot of education don't get a kick out of crappy reality TV and buy into the "corporate model" in general. I just think, under the hood, Idiocracy is a bit jaded in a more simplistic way. At least WALL-E kind of seems to put the blame on everyone a bit more, and doesn't really take the moron angle as much.

The League said...

Oh, I think Idiocracy puts the blame on everyone, too. (Again, the supposedly smart ones didn't have enough kids thanks to their brilliant planning). Otherwise, the mountains of trash, the wasteland of a used-up planet and an audience looking for a good televised spectacle is all pretty similar.

You're 100% correct that Idiocracy feels far more jaded. It's crasser and far more judgmental and doesn't offer up much hope for the future by film's end. But I also don't feel that a happy ending would have served the movie terribly well (And Joe did ask them to return to a cultured world where they made movies where you knew whose ass it was and cared why it farting).

I also want it very clear that I understand people come from all walks of life and there are many kinds of intelligence and useful knowledge. Or that you can't find yourself watching a "Rock of Love" marathon some Sunday evening with a few years of college under your belt.

To the point of the post: I don't think we're really all that far from Idiocracy now, be it with TV, politics, etc... So I guess I just don't get all that offended when someone points out that a whole lot of what we do is fairly stupid, and that if we continue down that path (state school degree or not), we're not exactly headed for the stars.

J.S. said...

Is Idiocracy jaded and cynical, or are its critics just naive? I actually think the movie didn't have widespread popularity because the studios just didn't distribute or market it well- I predict that this movie will become a cult classic with a long lifespan, though, as more and more people find it on video and cable (although, to your points, I think the studios were afraid that this movie might hit a little too close to home for large sections of the American viewing audience. The fact that this fear kept the movie from being widely released, however, only makes the movie more hilarious, in my opinion).
Wall-E was a decent movie but had almost too soft a touch to really drive home any sort of message. Should we really think it's cute when we see humans evolving into fat, purposeless blobs who can't manage to use their own limbs or do anything productive with their lives? Their goodhearted take on that situation helped to keep the movie lighthearted, but really, I'm not sure that's not the sort of thing we shouldn't be ridiculing or becoming horrified by. Idiocracy may be a more honest assessment of the sort of dystopia brought on by human ignorance, gluttony, and overindulgence. We really shouldn't be comfortable with a world fashioned by succumbing to our weaknesses.

Anonymous said...

I don't really disagree with you guys about the movie, for the most part. I guess I just don't have as pessimistic an attitude about where our world is headed, and the movie seems pretty sincerely pessimistic. I think things are evolving in complicated ways, which will involve both good and bad outcomes. Not just "de-volving" as Judge is warning. And intelligence can be measured in many different ways. I'm sure I might have read more books when I was 18 than the current 18 year old, but that 18 year old may run rings around my "multi-tasking abilities" or my ability to sext many different pals while driving and tweeting at the same time. You know? There might be something actually useful in that talent someday.

J.S. said...

Dear god, please tell me that you don't really text while you're driving... That was just a joke, right?

Anonymous said...

I said "sext" not text. And.. no, I don't sext or tweet while driving. I'm not the millenial generation. I don't have those skills ;)

Michael Corley said...

I believe JAL described the movie to me and that alone was enough to make me laugh.

Wasn't it Pogo who said, "We have found the enemy and he are us?"


Fantomenos said...

Lil' off topic but I was totally intrigued by a recent quote from a college english prof of 20+ years who said the current crop of students are the best writers she'd seen in her career. Apparently, altho texting doesn't value grammar and what not, the mere fact that this generation communicates in a primarily textual manner has led to a wave of students who are incredibly practiced at succinct and powerful writing.

kthx bye

The League said...

Fantomenos, that's hugely interesting. Anecdotally, I'd heard the opposite, but that was a few years ago and I was working for the College of Engineering. Maybe the move from cell phone sto text has already caught up? Not to mention stress on social networking communication, blogging, etc...?

Dug said...

Jason says "the studios just didn't distribute or market it well". That's an understatement. They didn't market it at ALL. You couldn't get a press packet for it if you asked for one (literally).

While it's flawed, I love this movie, and I've shown it to many folks out here in the SF area, where it didn't make it to theaters.