Idiocracy

(Judge, 2006)

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Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
––Albert Einstein

Stupid people have, on average, more children than smart ones do. This isn't an unfounded stereotype: multiple studies confirm this, and other, depressing facts (less intelligent people are more likely to have kids out of wedlock, for example). Combine this trend with anti-intellectualism, overpopulation, economic rewards for illegitimacy, and the pressures of advertising and commercialism, and what happens?

It might be better to just summon the four horsemen and call it a day. Idiocracy extrapolates 500 years into the future, when all the smart people have been weeded out of the gene pool by dysgenic breeding. The results are not pretty: starvation, dust storms, burned-out buildings, streets littered with garbage, a doctor who uses "like" ten times per sentence, and a president who's a pro wrestler and a porn star. Anyone who tries to read or write is seen as a "fag." In one scene, five police officers fire into an empty car; they're soon joined by cheering crowds, who join in firing at the car, and then into the air.

Enter Private Jack Bowers (Luke Wilson), the most average man by today's standards. No, really, he's average: he's exactly at the mean in height, weight, intellect, health, blood pressure and so on. He, and Rita, a street prostitute "on loan" from her pimp, were selected as guinea pigs for a human hibernation experiment, which should have lasted a year. But something goes wrong, and they wake up in 2505, 500 years after they were originally sedated. They find out they, the average Joe and Jane, are now the smartest people in the world––and the public alternately begs them to save them and hates them for their intelligence.

Inexplicably, this movie is not classified as a horror film.

Hey, at least it's not set 1,000 years in the future, right? That would really be terrible!

Note: The following analysis assumes that the reader has already seen the movie. It discusses plot points and may “spoil” the experience for some readers. I therefore advise you to watch the movie before reading this; you can always bookmark this page, watch the movie, and come back.

If, however, you want to decide whether this movie is or is not worth watching, everything above the black line is spoiler-free.


Fox Newscaster: He tried taking water from toilets, but it is Secretary Not Sure who finds himself in the toilet now. And as history pulls down its pants and prepares to lower ITS ASS on Not Sure's head, it will be Daddy Justice crapping on him this time.

The movie opens with a comparison between Clevon, a trailer-park resident with an IQ in the mid-80s, and a yuppie couple with Mensa-level IQs. As Clevon impregnates multiple women ("I thought you was on the pill!") the yuppies endlessly dither about whether or not to get pregnant "with the market the way it is." Predictably, Clevon reproduces himself many times over, while the yuppies end up with no kids at all.

Clevon from Idiocracy

Trevor and Carol

Carol and Trevor, the yuppies, wear button-up shirts, business jackets, cable-knit sweaters, dress slacks in gray and black, and other upscale, professional-class outfits. They wear cool colors, like light purple, blue, black and light gray; a metaphor for their "cool-headedness," perhaps? Carol and Trevor look like they're sitting in a different therapist's office in each shot; the cool, blue-gray light in their scenes adds to this effect and highlights their barren neuroticism.

In contrast, Clevon's scenes are shot in warm, desaturated colors. He wears short-sleeved t-shirts; his hair is unkempt and unwashed; his girlfriends (wives?) wear ill-fitting t-shirts and tank tops and shorts. Everyone in these scenes wears clothes too big or too small, while the Carol and Trevor's clothes fit them perfectly. This disparity exaggerates Clevon (and his girlfriends's) dysfunctionality.

Dax Shepard as Frito in Idiocracy.

Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph.

Dax Shepard and Maya Rudolph.

Flash forward 500 years, and everyone's wearing ugly, brightly colored clothing, all of it covered in brand logos. Most t-shirts are a repeating pattern of small, brand-name squares, kind of like the million-dollar webpage but more seizure inducing. Everyone wears baggy sweatpants––I mean everyone. Most of these pants are shiny. The movie must have had a fairly limited budget, since you see the same sort of shirts over and over again.

Joe Bowers (Luke Wilson) and Rita (Maya Rudolph) both wear what look like army-green pyjamas, until they find more appropriate clothing (emblazoned with logos of Carl's Jr., prescription drugs, etc.).

In Idiocracy, powerful people wear a very special uniform: a long-sleeve t-shirt with their job description ("Attornee at Law") printed along the sleeve in an embossed, faux-digital font, along with a shiny vest and sweatpants. Some people in the White House have metals the size of wall clocks hanging around their necks. Members of the "House of Representin'" wear some kind of colarless, zip- or velcro-up white shirt under a dark blue vest.

President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, rather than wearing this uniform, favors vests and pants with garish prints of the American flag. The fabric print looks like it was made for JoAnne Fabrics, to be sold next to the "scary pumpkin" and "jolly Santa" theme fabrics. President Camacho also had his hair relaxed, so it falls about his face and shoulders, an unsettling look on a guy of his build and size.

President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho.

Note the Pepsi and "Uhhmerican Exxxpress" ads in the background. Brand logos are everywhere in this film, and they're presumably effective at making money.

"Beef Supreme," some kind of mass murderer sanctioned by crowd bloodlust, looks like a freaky Charles Manson clone, with a beard, long scraggly hair, and crazy eyes.

Beef Supreme. From the film

As you can see from that screenshot, Mr. Supreme is wearing a gold and leopard-print tracksuit, as well as a backpack (fuel for his flamethrower?). He's some kind of idol for sending criminals to their death in a large arena, where the odds are squarely in his favor.

All of these clothes are hideously ugly, and intentionally so. Idiocracy is partly a cautionary science fiction tale, partly a mockery of the human race, and partly a commentary on today. In America at least, you can often see similarly-clad people at big-box stores, theme parks, shopping malls and "the wrong side of the tracks." These outfits are cultural shorthand for stupidity and the underclass.

Whether you agree or disagree with Idiocracy's thesis, it's clear that they've done their homework. Style not only reflects personality; it can reflect intelligence as well.

Related Reading:

Citizen Ruth (Payne, 1996)

Style and Evolution

Style and Class

Style and Conformism

Heathers (Lehmann, 1988)


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