I saw Idiocracy a few years after its 2006 release when a friend convinced me that its slapstick premise belied a genuinely funny film. The movie came out during the George W. Bush era, when Hollywood probably thought the height of political thickheadedness had been reached. Enter the year 2016, which resembles Idiocracy even more than years past.
The film was funny, even if the ridiculous factor felt excessive (viewer warning: the film is also wildly offensive at times). Average Joe protagonist Jack Bowers is put to sleep in a military experiment and wakes up 500 years later, to a preposterously stupid country. Bowers is discovered to be the smartest person in the nation, and is tasked with figuring out why all the crops are dying (spoiler alert: They're not being water with, well, water).
As if it needs to be said, the rise of Donald Trump has had its own ridiculous moments. It befuddled everyone, this writer included. How could a reality television star who presented himself as a proud outsider ascend to the most important office in the world? The answer remains elusive to some, but one clue lies in the premise itself. The fact of Trump's reality TV stardom did not hinder his political ambition; it's part of what made him so attractive to voters. Lo and behold, a celebrity president is also a feature of Idiocracy.
Recent news that Trump will stay an executive producer on The Celebrity Apprentice, even while he's serving as president, for example, is appalling. But it's just one more way that Idiocracy, by all appearances unintentionally, managed to portend the future. Here are just a few ways the life of 'Merica is imitating the "art" of Idiocracy.
1. Trump Enters Convention In Blast Of Lights And Music, Exactly How Idiocracy President Comacho Enters The House Of Representin'
I'm not the first to note the conflation of entertainment value with quality governance, and I won't be the last. Trump brought his knowledge of WWE TV to the Republican National Convention in a variety of ways, but none more ridiculous than his "surprise" stage appearance, wherein he entered through a blinding box of stage lights to the track "We Are the Champions." Can you make this stuff up? You can if your name is Mike Judge and you directed Idiocracy.
2. Trump And Comacho Both Have "Plans" That Are Going To "Fix Everything"
Later in his speech, after the theatrical entrance, Comacho lays out his plan for solving the crop desolation. “I got a three point plan to fix everything. Number one, we got this guy Not Sure [Bowers]. Number two, he’s got a higher IQ than anyone alive. Number three, he’s gonna fix everything. I give you my word, as a president. He’s gonna fix the problems with all the dead crops. He’s gonna make ‘em grow again.” Could it be that Trump stole Comacho's slogan? Either way, here's Trump "explaining" his health care plan.
3. The Environment Is Just Too Confusing
The residents in Idiocracy are suffering because of widespread crop failure. This is due to the practice of watering plants with the electrolyte-infused energy drink Brawndo, rather than regular water. Bowers figures this out. His fellow Cabinet members have trouble following.
Trump claimed climate change was a "Chinese hoax" to bilk the West out of its economic power position. Then, he insisted that he was actually joking when he tweeted that. Now his cabinet is filled with climate change deniers, including Rick Perry.
4. Civil Rhetoric Takes A Nose Dive
Bowers is taken to court for his lack of a tattoo, something everyone must have in the future. Because he doesn't have one, Bowers has to argue in court as to why he's not a criminal. He does, and makes a logical, reasonable case for himself, given the pesky 500 years spent in an experimental machine and whatnot. The judge, lawyers, and court audience ignore his points, and instead mock him for being "girly." Bowers loses his case. Sound familiar?
5. Corporate Interests Are Priority Number One
Brawndo executives are not happy when Bowers makes the change to water. Half the country works for the Brawndo corporation — a perfect example of "too big to fail."
So if you haven't seen the film, and are looking for some cathartic therapy during holiday time off, consider watching Idiocracy. Marvel at its uncanny satire of our current moment, and take at least a bit of comfort in the knowledge that however bad things feel now, they could definitely be worse. We could all be forced to drink nothing but Brawndo.
Image: Idiocracy (1)