A few days ago, actor Terry Crews popped up in a new series of videos on Funny or Die in character as President Camacho. Not President Barack Obama, but Camacho, a role Crews had played in Mike Judge’s 2006 film, Idiocracy.
Why Idiocracy? And why now?
Judge’s directorial big-screen follow-up to critical and cult favorite Office Space, Idiocracy grossed less than $500,000 when 20th Century Fox essentially hid it from American audiences in September 2006, releasing it in only a handful of cities, not screening it for critics and spending close to zero on marketing the movie. In 2007, it’d begin finding audiences on DVD, pulling in close to $10 million in its first six weeks on video. Judge guessed later that the studio — looking at the focus-group testing of Idiocracy and mindful of Office Space‘s box-office run, or lack thereof — decided not to repeat that “mistake.” “‘Well, we spent money on advertising, that’s what we did wrong,'” Judge imagined the studio executives thinking, as he recalled a few years later to reporters. “Why don’t we just put this out there and people will discover it on their own? That’s what I’m thinking.”
Speculation back in 2006, however, figured that 20th Century Fox also was uneasy about how the film portrayed large corporations — Starbucks, Fuddruckers and Carl’s Jr., among them — for playing down to the lowest common denominators of humanity.
But look at the very real path society has taken in the meantime, and compare it to the film’s satirical plotline.
I often tell people who haven’t seen the film that Idiocracy is based on a true story.
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and the role of natural selection is turned on its head. “Evolution,” as the movie’s narrator reminds us in the opening minute, “does not necessarily reward intelligence.” In fact, survival of the fittest could just as easily equal survival of the fattest and dumbest. The opening montage shows a so-called intelligent couple overthinking the very idea of bringing children into the world, while morons merely keep reproducing. Repeat this cycle across the globe, and the smart humans make themselves scarcer and scarcer.
Fast-forward 500 years.
Army librarian Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson has chosen to get out of the way of life when asked to pick from “lead, follow or get out of the way.” He finds himself, along with a prostitute named Rita (Maya Rudolph), waking up from a secret military hibernation experiment in the year 2505. While they were sleeping, the world had slipped farther and father into idiocy. “Humanity was incapable of solving even its most basic problems.” In the film, that extends to garbage. It could just as easily have been, oh, I don’t know, say, paying off debtors. The popular TV show consists of a guy getting hit and bit in his balls. Comedy Central’s highest-rated show in 2012? Tosh.0. Conversational language has degenerated into slang and abbreviations (OMG! LOL!), leaving people who speak in complete sentences to be denigrated and called names such as “fag” or “retard” for sounding pompous. Water is looked at as something that exists only for your toilet, while the liquid you drink and obtain from a vending machine is full of color and sugar and other chemicals. Gatorade, er, I mean Brawndo — “it’s got electrolytes!” Science? Who needs science?! A society of idiots can overlook all of its problems until those problems overwhelm society to the point where even common sense no longer can be ignored. Spoiler alert?
In 2505, President Camacho eventually takes advice from an ordinary, otherwise mediocre man from 2005, because that advice will save them all.
So what’s Camacho doing in a Funny or Die video in 2012, talking to us from the future?
Elections are our national wake-up calls.
You may not have to listen to an actor portraying a fictional future character from a dystopian society brought about by dysfunctional people. But you need to heed the call.
Remember when we looked to the smartest among us to not only fix things when they broke, but also to make life better, to solve problems we didn’t even know existed?
Idiocracy may be based on a true story that’s happening right now in front of our eyes.
But it doesn’t have to be.
We don’t have to wait until 2505 to wake up. We don’t need to be kicked in the balls. Or do we?