These days Mike Judge is busy with his HBO show Silicon Valley, but back in 2006 he made a movie that would become an instant cult classic. Set in a dystopian future, Idiocracy is now a cultural touchstone for people who think the world just keeps getting dumber. And now Judge says it’s “scary” how quickly his movie became reality.
“Now every other Twitter comment I get is about Idiocracy, and how it’s a documentary now,” Judge told the Daily Beast. “At first, I was just thinking, yeah, that’s nice to hear, but then very specific things, like Carl’s Jr. announcing that they were going to have a completely robotic, non-employee store—and it’s Carl’s Jr. in the movie. Then there’s this thing called the Fellatio Café in Switzerland where you get blowjobs with coffee, and we had the Starbucks thing in there.”
Judge is referring to the fact that in the movie Idiocracy the Starbucks coffee chain had evolved into an establishment for sex work. A new coffee shop in Geneva, Switzerland (where sex work is legal) will soon offer blowjobs for $60. The Carl’s Jr. fast food chain in the film is also completely automated, to an incredibly frustrating degree. Fast food chains, of course, have become increasingly automated here in the second decade of the 21st century, with touchscreen ordering becoming more mainstream.
“And then Donald Trump being in the WWF before, and talking about his penis size,” Judge continued, referring to the Republican nominee for president and his past with the World Wrestling Federation, a nod to the fact that the president in the film is a wrestling star. “It’s just one specific thing after another!”
As I examined back in 2014, the “Idiocracy is a documentary” narrative is not new. And it speaks to a general sense that the United States is not only getting dumber, but that “dumber” people (which is to say, people you disagree with politically) are breeding more. The whole film ultimately advocates for a kind of soft eugenics to fix the entire mess.
“I didn’t want Idiocracy to get popular by the world getting stupider faster,” Mike Judge told the Daily Beast. “I guess I was 450 years off! But yeah, it’s a tad bit scary!”
There really does seem to be a particular frustration here in 2016 with America’s state of affairs. And it’s not a partisan issue. Conservatives are just as likely as liberals to use Idiocracy as their shorthand way to talk about how the United States has gotten dumber. When I wrote an article critical of Idiocracy’s opening scene back in 2014 Rush Limbaugh was quick to point out how wrong I was and that Idiocracy was indeed coming true.
Which is why the lead of the Daily Beast’s article should be taken with a grain of salt by liberals looking for some kind of validation that Mike Judge is speaking to them. Especially when it comes to specific mentions of Trump and how Judge might feel politically.
Back in June rumors started to swirl that the creators of the 2006 movie Idiocracy were going to produce fake ads about Donald Trump featuring President Camacho, the president in the film whose bravado and plain talking parallels Trump’s boisterous populism. By July we learned from Terry Crews, the actor who played Camacho, that the project was dead, and now director Mike Judge has explained why. The movie studio that owns the rights to Idiocracy allegedly wouldn’t give their blessing.
Judge told The Daily Beast that they needed 20th Century Fox to sign off on the rights for the “parody” ads, and the article strongly hints that the company was the main impediment to the project moving forward for some vague political reason. Readers are left to believe that maybe it would’ve been too hard on Trump and that there was a Murdoch-backed conspiracy to kill the project.
But Judge’s own words don’t really back up this theory at first. He needs the Daily Beast reporter to feed him this guess at why Fox wasn’t interested.
“It kind of fell apart,” Mike Judge told the Daily Beast. “It was announced that [the parody ads] were anti-Trump, and I would’ve preferred to make them and then have the people decide.”
So... right off the bat, Judge says that the ads weren’t going to be anti-Trump. And later, the person interviewing Judge (clearly desperate to inject a Murdoch storyline) inserts his own theory when the Idiocracy director trails off.
“I think also Fox… yeah, they… even though they’ve probably forgotten they still own it…” he continues, trailing off.
I don’t see Rupert Murdoch signing off on those, I tell him, since the Fox mogul is an avowed Trump supporter.
“Yeah. That’s the other thing. I think there was a roadblock there, too,” says Judge. “I just heard that they were put on the shelf, so it looks like they’re not going to happen.”
Idiocracy, like all great futurist art, is a rorschach test. And Idiocracy has been incredibly successful as a piece of futurism in this regard.
The number of references to the film you’ll no doubt see in the comments to this post without any reference to the cultural, political, or technological critiques made by Judge, the Daily Beast or myself will certainly attest to its resonance.