Movies that Predicted Trump: Idiocracy (2006)

Welcome to the first in a series of reviews we’re calling Movies that Predicted Trump, where we discuss the films that foretold (in ways both large and small) the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States.

I guess it’s finally time for me to admit it: The world is turning into Idiocracy.

Believe me, a year and a half ago, no one was more exhausted than I was of internet commenters constantly referencing Idiocracy every time a new low-brow reality TV show debuted, or whenever someone with the last name Kardashian and/or Jenner did something dumb, or when yet another celebrity mom announced she wouldn’t be vaccinating her kids. I can assure you, 18 months ago, no one rolled their eyes harder than I did at the oft-repeated joke of “Idiocracy is now a documentary.”

And then, a month ago, over 62 million Americans listened intently to the free-form gibberish spewed by an incompetent, bigoted, misogynist, adulterous conspiracy theorist/bullshit artist surrounded by the looniest of the right-wing lunatic fringe and decided he was absolutely the guy who should be entrusted to lead the most powerful nation on the planet. And so I guess it’s time for me to join the dark side and be your average unoriginal internet commenter and finally say it.

Idiocracy is now a documentary.

The article continues after this advertisement...

I’m telling you, you should have seen the original version of this review, which I almost posted a year ago. It was meant as a response to an article on io9 titled “Idiocracy Is a Cruel Movie And You Should Be Ashamed For Liking It”.

For those who haven’t seen the film, or have somehow spent any length of time on the internet without gleaning its basic plot, it’s a sci-fi comedy that posits a future where the intelligence of the average human being has declined drastically and the world is run by idiots. To set up its premise, the movie includes a prelude in which we’re introduced to an affluent, educated couple who put off having children until it’s too late, which is contrasted with “Clevon”, a trailer park redneck with an IQ of 84 who has lots of babies with multiple women (and Clevon Jr grows up to do the same), and within centuries, the swelling population of total morons has overtaken the world.

001-00000355

The io9 article argues that, with its underlying message of poor, uneducated people breeding at a faster rate than the intelligent and wealthy and ultimately bringing about the downfall of society, Idiocracy basically advocates for the school of thought known as eugenics. Of course, the author of that article was subjected to a stream of invective and ad-hominem attacks, mostly from people who know absolutely nothing about eugenics, because the thesis of Idiocracy’s intro is pretty much the textbook definition.

Idiocracy was written and directed by Mike Judge (creator of Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill) as his follow-up to the cult workplace comedy Office Space. The film stars Luke Wilson as Joe Bowers, an underachieving Army librarian who becomes a guinea pig for a suspended animation experiment. He and a prostitute named Rita (Maya Rudolph) are locked in cryo-pods and set to be revived in a year, but due to bureaucratic ineptitude, they’re completely forgotten about for centuries.

By the time Joe wakes up, it’s the year 2505, and the intelligence of the human race has diminished to the point where a completely average joe like… Joe is now the smartest man in the world. He finds a civilization in total disrepair, where everyone and everything is branded with corporate logos, where people eat tubs of butter, sit in La-Z-Boys with built-in toilets, and watch movies like Ass (a 90-minute close-up of an ass) and TV shows like Ow, My Balls! (nothing but nut shots).

001-00002035

Joe’s high IQ soon attracts the attention of the President of the United States, Dwayne Elizondo Camacho (Terry Crews), a former wrestler/porn star who addresses Congress and the nation while firing off guns, singing, and chugging six packs of beer.

Joe is named Secretary of the Interior and tasked with finding out why food doesn’t grow anymore. Eventually, he discovers that all crops are now being watered with a sports drink called Brawndo (with the meaningless slogan of “it’s got electrolytes”). We learn that years ago, the Brawndo Corporation bought out the FDA and the FCC, allowing them to both sell any product they wanted and make as many outrageous claims about those same products as they wanted, and now the average American views plain water as not fit for human consumption and only meant for toilets.

001-00001621

Joe convinces the populace to start watering plants with actual water, which causes Brawndo stock to tank and puts much of the country out of work. Joe is then arrested and subjected to “rehabilitation”, whereupon the film completely runs out of steam and we get a mind-numbing finale where he faces off against monster trucks. But with Rita’s help, he proves that water makes plants grow, and Joe eventually gets elected president, with Rita as his first lady.

Idiocracy has a lot of on-target barbs, but it’s weighed down by too much repetitive dumb humor where supposedly respectable members of society talk like they have palsy and call each other “faggy”. Also, the movie suffers from far too many voiceover intrusions from an omniscient narrator, which were likely attempts to paper over the gaps in the story created by the low budget. The film is less than 90 minutes long (including credits), and one could argue that at least the last 15 of those are padding. A sketch comedy skit or short-film version of Idiocracy probably would have been brilliant, but as it stands, it’s one of those movies that seems way funnier in retrospect, particularly when you can isolate the good bits into social media image macros.

house-of-representin

But back then, in those innocent, naively optimistic days of 2015, the main point of this review would have been to say that Idiocracy doesn’t actually promote eugenics, because it’s a comedy. Saying that Idiocracy seriously argues for eugenics is like saying that Back to the Future Part II was a sincere attempt to predict what life would be like in 2015 (though, judging by all the clickbait-y “What Back to the Future II got right” articles that went up on January 1, 2015, it would seem plenty of people missed the joke on that one, too).

But I would have gone even further than that, with an extended line of argument that the world is actually not turning into Idiocracy, and in fact, the opposite is true. Oh, you should have seen it, my friends. I was going to pull out charts and graphs. I was going to present the incontrovertible fact that the world is actually getting smarter and more educated. I was going to reference something called the Flynn effect, a substantial increase in global IQ scores seen starting in the 1930s. I was going to point out that basically every generation thinks the one that comes after is slower, dumber, shallower, and more self-absorbed. I was even going to point out that Andy Warhol already made the movie Ass fifty years ago, and somehow, humanity survived.

But then the 2016 presidential election happened, and you know what? All bets are off. Come January of next year, the world of Idiocracy might actually seem preferable to the one we’re living in. I mean, at the very least, President Camacho is never shown insulting journalists, expressing deep admiration for brutal dictators, amassing a large deportation force, or directing government agencies to investigate his political foes as payback.

Since this series is called Movies that Predicted Trump, let’s take a closer look at how well the film does in predicting the rise of our Glorious Orange Leader.

In Idiocracy, the US president is Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (his full name), a former TV star who was once involved in pro wrestling. He constantly talks about kicking ass, makes WWE-style entrances, surrounds himself with beautiful models, and makes borderline incoherent speeches about fixing all of the country’s problems within a week. Does any of this sound familiar?

camacho-v-trump-2

No, seriously. Does any of this seem familiar?

I mean, just a little bit?

No, really. Any of it?

However, in contrast to the current President-elect, Camacho never promises that he’s the only one who can fix everything; he actually promises Joe Bowers will be the one to solve all of the country’s problems (so Joe is Idiocracy‘s Mike Pence?). Joe becomes Secretary of the Interior, whereupon he meets the rest of the cabinet, each member more dense than the last: The Secretary of Energy is a teenager who “won a contest”. The Secretary of State (David Herman, Office Space’s Michael Bolton) is a guy who takes every opportunity to shill for Carl’s Jr. The Secretary of Education is someone who is clearly mentally disabled.

This all seems rather amusing, until you realize that we’re about to get a cabinet featuring the proprietor of a white nationalist news site, an anti-Islamic religious fanatic or two, a guy who once said that the KKK is okay with him, a man who openly brags about almost bludgeoning his mother, and many more.

Tell me you wouldn’t rather have the Secretary of Education seen on the left than the Secretary of HUD we're actually getting.

Admit it: You’d much rather have the Secretary of Education seen on the left than the HUD Secretary we’re actually getting.

Worst of all, there’s at least some small chance that the actual Secretary of the Interior will not be Joe Bowers, but rather former governor Sarah Palin, which is a bit like nominating a meth addict to be the country’s drug czar. Though, I would imagine President-elect Trump is currently mulling over that possibility, too.

So did Idiocracy predict Trump? It appears so. But I think most of us suspected the era of the celebrity/entertainer president was inevitable, particularly with the election of a former Hollywood actor to the office over 30 years ago. (Boy, remember back in 1980 when liberals were horrified that an intellectual lightweight had just been elected president? Ronald Reagan might as well have been William F. Buckley compared to what we’re about to get.) And while Idiocracy may have predicted the eventual election of a clueless TV star president, it missed a lot of other things, like the virulent hatred for minorities that would accompany it. In fact, the world of this movie seems rather idyllically racially harmonious, in that everyone appears to be just one race: dumb. (Perhaps four years from now, Idiocracy will look less like a documentary, and more like a utopian, escapist fantasy.)

But despite everything I said above, I still believe in what I planned to say in the original version of this review, which is that the world, on average, is getting smarter. I still believe the rise in global IQ rates is a real thing. But here’s the rub: Clearly, intelligence is only a small part of the story. Simply having a high IQ is no guarantee that a person will have empathy for others, or make choices that are better for society as a whole. Smart people are still perfectly capable of being impetuous, vindictive, selfish, and shortsighted. And intelligence, it would seem, has little bearing on whether a person actually takes the time to understand the full implications of who and what they’re voting for. So even if Idiocracy really were advocating for eugenics, castrating Clevon isn’t going to solve anything.

In the end, Joe Bowers’ near-undoing happens when he can’t fix all of the country’s problems within a week like President Camacho promised. Maybe a similar thing will happen in four years when all of those laid-off coal miners and factory workers also realize that (despite a few token PR moves) their jobs are never coming back. A night of “rehabilitation” facing off against monster trucks and flame throwers would be a fitting end for a Trump presidency. And maybe what even the Donald himself would want.

Next up in the Movies that Predicted Trump: Warren Beatty plays a candidate who begins behaving erratically, and offending the entire nation with racially-tinged comments and random acts of buffoonery (truly, a wild premise) in 1998’s Bulworth.

Tag: Movies that Predicted Trump

You may also like...

  • roseohseven

    I’ve always loved your long-form writing, and this promises to be a great series.

    • Winston O’Boogie

      Thanks! But I’m not the only one working on this. Thomas R will be contributing several reviews (including Bulworth), and maybe I can convince some other people to join in too.

      • MichaelANovelli

        I’m working on one right now! ^_^

  • Greenhornet

    This movie apparently preached in favor of eugenics.
    I’d like to remind the makers of this movie that the “intellectuals” that they seemed to adore are in charge of the American education system that is turning out morons.

    • mamba

      That’s right, because the education system trains obedient workers, and THAT’S the end goal. This is set up by design…not to have a highly educated population, but to have a highly EFFICIENT WORKER DRONE population, and the balance point is smart…but not TOO smart. Critical thinking is not promoted in regular school unless what you’re being asked to think about is either inconsequential or clearly in their favour.

      As George Carlin (r.i.p.) said best, the TRUE leaders of the country don’t want people who are intelligent, they want people just smart enough to operate the machinery and do the calculations for their jobs but NOT smart enough to question them in any meaningful fashion and see just how badly the system is screwing them over. To never question WHY, just HOW.

    • Mortimer Brewster

      Not entirely sure that the educational system is turning out morons.

      I have kids, and many of the concepts, skills, and facts they’re learning in elementary school are things I learned in Junior High or High School (if at all), and they are expected to think critically and creatively and are taught to do so – something that wasn’t really expected of me until college. They’re encouraged to question things and even to disagree with the teacher when it comes to things that are open to interpretation. Their school experience is much more rigorous than mine was at the same age.

      And it’s not like I’m shipping them off to some fancy private school. They’re in public school… in Texas at that.

      Sure, there are bad schools and bad districts and even good schools and good districts are going to have their share of morons, but based on my experience, the ‘fair share’ of morons per school is getting smaller, not larger.

  • Rocketboy1313

    The opening is less about Eugenics and more about societal factors. If those dumb people had access to proper education, healthcare, and birth control their ability to raise well balanced and educated children would have risen. The smart people at the beginning chose not to have kids numerous times for things that the low IQ people see as so out of reach they don’t bother to consider them.

    “Smart people are still perfectly capable of being impetuous, vindictive, selfish, and shortsighted.”

    • Greenhornet

      That still smacks of eugenics AND socialism.
      The last part I agree with.

    • Winston O’Boogie

      Well, I suppose you could interpret it that way if you really want, but I think it’s pretty clear what the intro is about, if you pay attention to the accompanying voiceover:

      “Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most, and left the intelligent to become an endangered species.”

      Not sure how anyone would get “poor people need better schools” from that.

      • Rocketboy1313

        That is what is literally said. But when I look at that chart I am also seeing two groups stratified more by income and priorities than the very nebulous concept of “intelligence”.

        One is poor and does not have any aspirations and there are few systems in place to help them manage things. The other is elite and without systems that ensure that they won’t lose what they have by having a child they chose not to have kids.

        The poor group was probably given the abstinence only education and doesn’t have access to birth control. The other was probably taught how to balance a check book in the 9th grade. I am sorry but the idea that the “dumb” breed faster is a result of social factors, not some sort of genetic predisposition.

        • Winston O’Boogie

          The movie isn’t saying dumb people are genetically predisposed to having a lot of kids. It’s saying they’re genetically predisposed to being dumb, which causes them to make dumb decisions, like having too many kids. There’s also the suggestion that dumb people do dumb things that in the past would have removed them from the gene pool (Clevon has a jet ski accident) but now medical science lets them keep reproducing. It’s probably worth watching the intro to the movie if you haven’t, it’s right there on YouTube.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzbWXgM0ygU

          • Rocketboy1313

            I know what the movie literally said. What I am saying is that the stated explanation is a farce. IQ is not genetic, you know how I know this? Because you are not born understanding the English language or math, you have to be taught them. And as you pointed out in the article IQ has gone up

            The reason these people are dumb and having lots of kids is because they are being kept alive, sure, but they are not being cultivated properly. You are free to take the movie’s word for it, but I would say that the opening is also just a joke.

            Let me quote something I just read about this movie from someone’s whose stuff I read kind of often:
            “…Idiocracy doesn’t actually promote eugenics, because it’s a comedy. Saying that Idiocracy seriously argues for eugenics is like saying that Back to the Future Part II was a sincere attempt to predict what life would be like in 2015…”

            I am agreeing with you! But, pointing out that the movie is not wrong that people at the low end of the economic totem pole with low IQ’s do have a higher breeding rate.

          • Winston O’Boogie

            Ah okay, I guess I’m confused then. I thought you were specifically talking about the message of the movie, because your first comment was “The opening is less about Eugenics and more about societal factors”, which sounded like you thought the film was arguing for more social services or something. But yeah, if we’re talking about the real world, I agree that IQ is not strictly genetic. Smart parents can have dumb kids, and vice versa.

          • Münchner Kindl

            Because the voice-over narration – which yes, does give textbook eugenics, and sounds similar to what worried people believed in at the start of the 20th century, but has since been disproven through reality -is completly at odds with the action of the movie.

            What the movie shows is: if parents don’t care for their children, and there’s no community around them to step in and help out (teachers, social workers etc.) and society despises intelligence, talent etc., then you end up with a lot of dumb people – regardless of genetics. At the very end, Joe and Rita marry and have children, and we see side by side how they take care of their child while the president lets his multiple children run around without helping them learn anything. Joe is obviously not genetically superior – he was chosen for being average, yet his personal commitment sets his child apart.

  • Chris Palmer

    Will this series involve Super Mario Bros?

    • Michael Bagamery

      I hope not. That movie is most appropriate as recap material.

      • Chris Palmer

        (Sorry for the late reply)

        Here I thought that a movie with a humanoid reptile with a weird hairdo being called “president” would be perfect fodder for this series.

        • Michael Bagamery

          I would have hoped the series would focus on movies that have actual filmmaking merit.

  • mamba

    “…the movie got a lot right but missed the hatred of minorities…”

    Not true exactly…What’s the clear minority in this world? Intelligent people. Articulate people.

    What happens whenever Luke tries to talk intelligently? He’s called Dumbass and Fag, schoolyard taunts by dumb people, fitting for the movie. As soon as he opens his mouth at his trial, he’s seen as smarter and subsequently shouted down and insulted.

    Throughout the movie the people clearly have a disdain for anyone intelligent. Even before they know HOW intelligent he is (relatively) they are constantly calling down the smart ones. (jealousy?). Even when the President announces him as literally the smartest person in the world, he’s all but whipped into doing what the president wants even though he knows it’s absurd. They STILL hate him, but he’s useful. The MOMENT he stops being useful (brawno stocks drop), he’s shut up, ignored as he tried to tell them to just wait longer than a week, and persecuted again.

    They may accept blacks and other CURRENT minorities equally, but they just focused their hatred to those who are smarter than them.

  • Capt. Harlock

    And I thought the ILDS around here couldn’t get any higher than 2009. Hah!

  • Olaf_the_Lofty

    Sadly, the idea that thinking is BAD for voters has spread. Italy’s populist Five Star Movement urged people voting in the recent referendum NOT to think: ‘“Don’t vote with your head. Vote with your gut,” said Beppe Grillo,
    founder of the 5 Star Movement during the campaign against the reform.’ Leaving aside the question of whether the reform in question was good or bad, I would argue that when taking an important decision – such as how to vote – you should always think first.
    Reference: the Wall Street Journal.
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/italy-votes-in-landmark-referendum-1480831913

  • Tyler Peterson

    With our Department of Education run by a shady billionaire in the bag for privatization, the idea of Costco opening up its own law school is less ridiculous than ever.