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Frederica Mathewes-Green


How far are we from Idiocracy

How to describe Idiocracy? It is the most thought-provoking bad movie I've ever seen. But, stand warned, it really is bad. The plot is flimsy, the characters are flat, and the minutes fly like hours. You'll be desperate for it to end, long before the 87 minutes run their course.

And yet it lingers in the mind. The day after you see it, you'll see it everywhere. As the months go by, you'll be more and more impressed by its accuracy. In the last century, World's Fairs often set aside space to show what life would be like in the future, displays with names like "Temple of Progress." You could say that Idiocracy renders an unnerving Temple of Regress. But if you did, they'd call you a fag.

That's one of the running jokes in the movie. Time-traveler Joe Bauers (played by Luke Wilson) awakens 500 years in the future, and discovers that he is now the smartest person in the world. When he politely asks help or directions from the obese and stupid folks around him, they guffaw and ask why he's talking "like a fag." The idea that today's common speech might one day sound pompously contrived is startling—until, on reflection, it begins to seem dismayingly plausible.

Here's a quick run-through of the plot, such as it is (spoilers ahead). Joe is an Army librarian, thoroughly mediocre. When told he's being given a new assignment, he protests, "But every time Sarge says 'Lead, follow, or get out of the way,' I get out of the way!" It's explained that this is supposed to embarrass him into leading, or at least following. "That doesn't embarrass me," says Joe.

Joe has been chosen as a guinea pig for a program to flash-freeze soldiers during peacetime and thaw them out when needed. (Rita, played by Maya Rudolph, is selected as his female counterpart, but she's inconsequential as far as the plot's concerned.) The program is forgotten, and when Joe's capsule breaks open in 2505 he is bewildered by the lumbering stupidity and crudity all around. He goes for help to a hospital, where Dr. ...

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