While reviewing fascism in sci-fi, I was reminded of how much I love Mike Judge’s under-appreciated film Idiocracy. It’s hilarious, smart, and, admittedly, mean sci-fi. Since American politics are heading to some unholy Deep Dream merger of this film and The Handmaid’s Tale, I’m refining my broad dictum against sci-fi comedy and diving in.
Release Date: 25 January 2007 (USA)
Private Joe Bauers and jaded sex worker Rita are selected by a military program—for their being very, very average—to be frozen in capsules for a year.
A mistake shuts down the monitoring agency, and they wind up frozen for 500 years instead. Over that time, because dumb people keep having more kids than smart people, the average intelligence of the population drops and drops, so that when Joe and Rita wake from the stasis pods on 03 March 2505, they are the smartest people in the world. By a lot. Society is barely hanging on, lasting as long as it has owing to the designs of some long-dead smart people.
Woozy from his long sleep, Joe wanders into a hospital where the doctor goes into a panic for Joe’s not having an ID tattoo on his wrist. For this crime Joe is arrested, tried in a sham court, tattooed, and has his IQ tested before being bussed to prison. There Joe finally realizes how stupid everyone is when he talks his way to the exit and then just…runs away.
He finds his way back to the apartment of his court-appointed lawyer whose name is Frito. Joe asks if there are any time machines, and Frito says yes, there is one. But he’s hesitant. To motive him, Joe offers a compound interest time travel gambit payout of $80 billion and Frito—who says that he likes money—agrees. They find Rita (who, clearly used to dealing with morons, is faring pretty well) and head for the time machine, but Joe’s tattoo is remotely scanned and Frito’s car is shut down automatically for harboring fugitives. The three of them abandon the car to hike. They enter a truly massive CostCo to find the time machine, but Joe’s tattoo is again scanned and he is again arrested.
This time he’s taken to the White House, where he meets President King Camacho and named Secretary of the Interior for being the smartest man in the world, according to the IQ test he took earlier. In an impassioned speech to the House of Representin’ [sic], Camacho promises them that Joe will solve the problems of failing crops, the plague of dust storms, the failing “ecomony,” acne, and car sickness; and do it all within one week. If he does accomplish it, Camacho promises, Joe will get a presidential pardon for his crimes. If not, he’ll be thrown back in jail.
Joe heads to the countryside with the Cabinet and Frito, where he is reunited with Rita. There he learns that the crops are being fed not with water but with a sports drink called Brawndo, The Thirst Mutilator™. (Brawndo’s computers had long ago identified water as a threat to its profit margins, and during the budget crisis of 2330, purchased the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications Commission. This enabled them to say, do, and sell anything they wanted, including requiring all crops be fed with Brawndo.)
Joe recommends they switch from Brawndo to water for the crops, which grosses everyone out because they only associate water with the toilet. Unable to convince them with reason (in my favorite scene they parrot Brawndo advertising slogans as counter evidence, “It’s got what plants crave.” “It’s got electrolytes.”) he tells them he can talk to plants, and that the plants say they want water. This convinces the Cabinet, and the sprinklers are switched over.
This causes Brawndo’s stock price to crash, and the company’s computer “does that auto-layoff thing,” firing everyone at Brawndo and causing 50% unemployment across the country. Outside the White House, a jobless mob demands revenge. Joe is taken to court again and convicted. Joe is sentenced to one night of “rehabilitation,” which is a deadly, monster truck public execution.
As Rehab starts, Rita spots a flower growing outside the White House. She and Frito rush to Rehab to save him. On route, they see sprouts in fields. Camacho saves Joe from Rehabilitation just in time as Rita and Frito broadcast video of the sprouts, exonerating Joe to the world.
Pardoned, Joe and Rita have Frito take them to the time machine, which ends up being just a dumb theme ride in the CostCo. Joe and Rita resign themselves to their new life amongst the morons. They wed, and Joe is elected President of America with Rita as first lady and Frito as Vice President. The movie ends contrasting Rita and Joe’s three kids, “the three smartest kids in the world”, with Frito’s, who are “32 of the dumbest kids ever to walk the earth.”
It’s no accident that I’m writing about Idiocracy before the midterm elections in the U.S. The American Experiment seems to be on the verge, and close to some inescapable mistakes. So, at the end of each one of these posts, since this is my country, I’m going to go full USA-centric here and share something that USAmericans can do to vote, help others vote, and reverse our own continued freefall into Idiocracy. I know I have an international readership, but please bear with me.
Today, the bonus track is about registering to vote. If you’ve done it, awesome. Find someone in your life you can convince to register. If you haven’t, you need to. Either way, below is the info you need.
Voting is the most important tool we have, but in every state but North Dakota, to do that you have to be registered ahead of time. (Seriously. Good show, North Dakota.) These deadlines are all in October. You can see your state’s deadline (and for states that allow it, a link to register online) listed alphabetically at the New York Times link below.
You may be wondering it too late for you? Note that while most states have a single deadline for voter registration, many have separate deadlines for registering by mail, online, and in-person. Find the same information from the NYT site sorted by date below. If it is, damn, that sucks, but there is still more you can do. Stay tuned to this blog for more reviews, more bonus tracks, and more calls to action.
Registration by date
- 07 OCT Alaska, Montana (in person), Rhode Island
- 08 OCT Mississippi (in person), Washington (by mail and online)
- 09 OCT Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana (by mail and in person), Michigan, Mississippi (by mail), Nevada (by mail), New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah (by mail)
- 10 OCT Missouri, Montana (by mail)
- 12 OCT Idaho, New York (online and in person), North Carolina (by mail), Oklahoma
- 13 OCT Delaware
- 15 OCT Virginia
- 16 OCT District of Columbia, Kansas, Louisiana (online), Maine, Massachusetts (by mail), Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon (note when you renew your driver’s license your are automatically registered to vote), West Virginia
- 17 OCT Maryland, Massachusetts (online or in person), Nevada (by mail), New York (by mail), South Carolina, Wisconsin (by mail and online)
- 18 OCT Nevada (online)
- 19 OCT Nebraska (by mail and online)
- 22 OCT Alabama, California, Iowa (by mail), South Dakota, Wyoming (by mail)
- 26 OCT Nebraska (in person)
- 27 OCT Iowa (in person), New Hampshire (by mail)
- 29 OCT Colorado, Washington (in person)
- 30 OCT Connecticut, Utah (online and in person)
- 03 NOV North Carolina (in person)
- TUE 06 NOV 2018, ELECTION DAY: Florida (in person), Iowa (in person), Maine (in person), Minnesota (in person), New Hampshire (in person), Vermont, Wisconsin (in person), Wyoming (in person). In California you can show up the day of and cast a provisional ballot.