Idiocracy is one of those films that uses a lot of conventions seen in most speculative fiction films, but I wouldn’t necessarily give it a label of speculative fiction. Granted, it has special effects, takes place in the future, but it is a successful satire of where we could be headed.
I must say that I disagree with the basic premise of Idiocracy. At the beginning, there is some narration that explains that only the people of low intelligence were reproducing, and those with above-average intelligence were taking their sweet time to have children. This theory is based on a link between genetics and intelligence, which we have yet to find, honestly. After all, if dumb people leads to more dumb people, then why do we have smart people?
Still, I was willing to accept this premise because I honestly believe that we, as humans, have got dumber over the years. Look at the works of William Shakespeare and the Constitution. In spite of the fact that they are written in English, most average Americans can barely read them. There is a great book known as Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman that shows a link in declining intelligence with the rise of television. This is why I am in agreement with the setting of Idiocracy, which is a population of absolutely dumb people by the year 2505.
Idiocracy uses the old wake-up-after-years-of-suspended-animation plotline which was used by Woody Allen in Sleeper and still in use (for now) on Futurama. Luke Wilson plays a man who the army uses as a test subject for an experiment to see if the human body could be frozen for a year. Through stupid circumstances, he ends up being frozen for 500 years, and finds that he, in spite of being of average intelligence, is the smartest person on the planet.
What happens next is a serious of unlimited gags about how dumb the world is by 2505, and most of the humor is just spot-on. A lot of it is, of course, bawdy, but I would actually expect a society that is really dumb to be addicted to pornography, so I consider this an accurate portrayal. I won’t spoil the plot in saying what the Oscar-award winning film of 2505 is, but let’s just say that the world of the arts got dumber as well. The sad part is that it is not too far off from what we have now.
One of my favorite scenes is when Luke Wilson wakes up from his frozen sleep, and tries to check himself into a hospital. The receptionist is a woman who sits in front of a panel full of buttons that designate sicknesses and ailments in the form of pictures. Her job is to simply push a button to check patients in, and when she does, and automated voice does the rest. It’s as if a cashier from McDonalds was given a job of high responsibility. This is just one example of how the world has got so stupid, and there are thousands more.
Luke Wilson is then arrested because he doesn’t have a tattoo on his arm, which is apparently how people in the future are identified. I suppose we all suspected that would happen in our nightmare future world, and it is satirized here. He is about to be thrown in prison, but he tells the guard that he is in the wrong line and actually supposed to be in the line to get out of prison. The guard’s response is: “well, get in the right line”.
Somehow, Luke Wilson is made the Secretary of the Interior, and told to solve the world’s problems. One of these problems are crops that will not grow, and this is because people are watering them with an energy drink instead of water. It is hysterical to see Luke Wilson try and explain to the rest of the president’s cabinet why energy drinks don’t help plants grow, and their reasoning is so circular it is pitiful. It isn’t too far off from the circular reasoning that people use today, and this is why I like this film.
I would have to say that I was sort of upset at the payoff of this film, but I admired how the film tried to show that someone of average intelligence can change the world. Truly the world of 2505 is a land of the blind, and it stands to reason that the one-eyed Luke Wilson would be king. This is the same thing that I saw in The Hunger Games, about how someone with standards that seem low to us might be the most ideal human being in a completely debased society.