"As Joe and Rita lay dormant, the years passed and mankind became stupider at a frightening rate. Some had high hopes that genetic engineering would correct this trend in evolution, but sadly the greatest minds and resources were focused on conquering hair loss and prolonging erections."
A comedy by Mike Judge
, starring Luke Wilson as Joe Bowers, a totally average
soldier who is volunteered for a suspended animation experiment, along with a hooker named Rita (played by Maya Rudolph
), who refers to herself as a painter and refers to her pimp, Upgrayedd, as her “boyfriend/manager”. The experiment is supposed to run for only a year, but they wind up forgotten for five hundred years. When they finally emerge, they discover that due to 500 years of the dumb outbreeding the intelligent and world culture gradually dumbing down to the Lowest Common Denominator
, society has become very crude and very dumb. Joe and Rita are now by far the smartest people around, and the world’s looking at them to solve some very serious problems.
The film wasn’t granted a wide theatrical release, and as such did not do well in theaters. Since its DVD release, however, the film has become a Cult Classic
Idiocracy provides examples of the following EXTRA BIG ASS TROPES:
- Accidental Misnaming: Joe says "I’m not sure if..." to a machine, which proceeds to assume his name is literally ‘Not Sure’ and tattoo this name on his arm. Everyone calls him ‘Not Sure’ for the rest of the movie.
- Advert Overloaded Future: See Product Placement.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: Ass, a film which was nothing but a close-up of someone’s ass? That sounds too ridiculous to be true—oh, wait... By Andy Warhol, no less.
- The real ridiculous part is that it was a big commercial hit and that, "It won eight Oscars that year, including Best Screenplay."
- There wouldn't actually be a former pro-Wrestling superstar elected President of the United States now, would there? Turns out there was, and he's exactly who you'd probably guess it would be.
- Anti-Intellectualism: Permeates the culture of the 2500s. Anyone who shows any kind of intelligence is derided as a "fag".
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "The economy was in a state of deep neglect. A great dust bowl had ravaged food supplies. And the number-one movie in the country was called Ass."
- Artistic License – Biology: In-universe: Plants do not crave Brawndo. See Salt the Earth below for why.
- Artistic License – Gun Safety: See Juggling Loaded Guns entry.
- Artistic License – History/Future Imperfect: Played for Laughs, with the time tunnel showing the Nazis had dinosaurs and were led by Charlie Chaplin.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, porn superstar and five-time Ultimate Smackdown wrestling champion!
- Autodoc: There are semiautomatic medical stations; the probes have to be inserted by person. Brain Bleach happens when that person gets confused on which probes should be used on which hole …
- Bad Future: And how.
- Berserk Button: Do NOT interrupt Frito while he’s watching Ow My Balls! That is NOT OK!
- Big "OMG!": Joe’s reaction when he finally realizes how long he has been hibernated.
- Bilingual Bonus:
- Frito Pendejo. In Spanish, Frito means fried, and ‘Pendejo’ is roughly the equivalent to ‘dumbass’ in English.
- The main character's name is Joe Bauers, who is made the Secretary of the Interior, charged with trying to solve the issue of crops not growing in the future. "Bauer" is the German word for "farmer".
- Starbucks is advertising erotic Latte. "Latte" in German means "erection".
- Bittersweet Ending: It turns out that the ‘Time Masheen’ was merely a theme park ride and therefore Joe and Rita are stuck in the year 2505. However, Joe climbs the ranks in politics, eventually becoming the President of the United States, and marrying Rita, with whom he has three children. In the “House of Representin’”, Joe makes a passionate plea for people to stop viewing being stupid as the norm and as cool, and it appears the society is on its way to betterment, even though stupid people are still having too many children.
- Black Comedy Rape: The Cabinet is not-at-all subtle about how they will treat Rita if Joe stops vouching for her.
- Blood Sport: “Rehabilitation.”
- Boxed Crook: Convicts are given an IQ test and put to work, which is how Joe, with his whopping 100 IQ points, becomes Secretary of the Interior.
- 100 is the most common IQ point score and the exact halfway point between the most and least inteligent.
- Brick Joke: After Joe spends the whole movie calming Rita down and finally convinces her that she is safe from Upgrayedd, he appears in a third pod at the end.
- Butt Monkey: Not Sure.
- The Chew Toy: The Ow My Balls! guy.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: The Secretary of Energy looked like about thirteen, drinks heavily, and had gotten the job by winning an unspecified contest. Not that he seemed any less capable than any other Cabinet member …
- Cold Sleep, Cold Future
- Compensating for Something: The monster trucks in Monday Night Rehabilitation—the Dildozer and the Ass-Blaster.
- Crapsack World: Idiocracy depicts the future America as a horrifically dirty and overcrowded wasteland where humanity is crude, impossibly dumb, and hostile. In addition, America is suffering from dustbowls and starvation (due to crops being irrigated by a sports drink brand, killing them off and salting the earth), and the economy is in a terrible state, with Ridiculous Future Inflation being displayed in full effect.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Devolved into the word “batin’” and given its own channel on television. It doesn’t seem to carry quite the same connotations, though.
- Delusions of Eloquence: Everyone except Joe and Rita. Especially the police—the only long words they don’t mangle is “particular individual,” and only then because they use that phrase every time they refer to any person.
- Design Student's Orgasm: Everything in the future has a very bright and overproduced ‘food court aesthetic.’
- The Ditz: A whole society comprised of these.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Frito and the cameraman forget to film the plants because a nearby Starbucks is having a handjob sale.
- Divided States of America: The American flag has only twenty-five stars on it, so it’s possible half the states have seceded. On the other hand, there are only eleven stripes, so it’s possible it has simply been forgotten what the stars and stripes are supposed to represent. Or that nobody can count that high anymore.
- Duct Tape for Everything: Rather than actually repair dilapidated buildings, people simply use tons and tons of duct tape to hold them together.
- Entendre Failure: See This and That below.
- The Everyman: Invoked; Joe and Rita are specifically chosen for the experiment because they're completely average in every regard...but are nonetheless considered geniuses by the standards of the future.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The Time Masheen ride features an interpretation of the events of WWII and the years following. It involves model dinosaurs wearing swastikas.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: A hilarious Show Within a Show example. The narrator mentions that the year’s biggest blockbuster movie was Ass. “… and that’s all it was, for ninety minutes.” Yeah, what he said. “It won eight Oscars that year, including one for ‘Best Screenplay’.”
- Expecting Someone Taller: The first thing the President says to the ‘smartest man in the world’ is “I thought your head would be bigger.”
- Exty Years from Now: Joe and Rita are frozen in 2005 and thawed in 2505.
- Fallen States of America: Played for laughs. Then again, the rest of the world is implied to be just as bad.
- Fanservice with a Smile: Everywhere in the future, even the news anchors are barely dressed and highly attractive.
- Fish out of Temporal Water
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: The very small Surgeon General’s warning seen on the Tarrylton’s Cigarettes billboard reads: “Warning: The Surgeon General has one lung and a voicebox but he could still kick your sorry ass”, Comically Missing the Point on what constitutes a warning in that context.
- When Joe is being apprehended by the police in Costco, the background screens display why he is wanted: “For being a dick,” “For excaping from jail” and “For fucking up lots of shit.”
- Freud Was Right: In the Blood Sport example above, all the monster trucks are equipped with huge weapons that are obviously phallic in design and name. Joe’s little car has a rubber, flaccid penis on the hood.
- Future Imperfect: The Time Masheen.
- Gigantic Gulp: All drink cups in the future are super-sized mugs with bendy straws.
- Groin Attack: The Show Within a Show Ow, My Balls! is one Groin Attack after another. The unfortunate star of the show suffers such ‘tributes’ from his fans at public appearances as well.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: Joe gets sent to prison, but immediately talks his way out by convincing them he should be in the line to be released. Justified because, well, they’re all idiots. (They wise up the second time he’s incarcerated and chain him to a boulder.)
- Hellhole Prison: The House of Particular Individuals. Though we don’t get to see much of it, it appears to be a disgusting and overcrowded facility where the average inmates are starving and are abused by the fatter inmates, who sit on them.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Joe, until Rita and Frito prove that his idea of putting water on crops does in fact work.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Rita.
- Hot Scoop: A bit of Truth in Television there. Ever see what the female anchors on Fox News and CNN look like? Although in Idiocracy, the male anchor is naked at least to the waist. This is also Truth in Television with Canada’s Naked News. If you’re not at work, do a search for it. (Though not the field reporter, interestingly. And she’s actually competent, for that matter. How did that get through?) Also, the news anchors and the field reporter demonstrate a considerably better command of the English language than most of the population.
- Human Popsicle: Joe and Rita and Upgrayedd.
- Humans Are Morons
- I Choose to Stay: Rita. Subverted (and mandated) when it turns out the ‘Time Masheen’ they were looking for is just a cheesy theme-park ride.
- In the Future, We Still Have Roombas: A floor cleaning robot is shown repeatedly banging into a wall announcing "Your floor is now clean!" over and over. Given the putrid condition of the floor everywhere but where the robot is, it had been at this for a long time.
- Institutional Apparel: The orange prison suit.
- Ironic Echo: ”Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way.”note
- I Will Show You X:
Joe: Your Honor, I call for a mistrial.
Joe’s Lawyer: I’m gonna mistrial my foot up your ass, (if) you don’t shut up.
- Juggling Loaded Guns: A bunch of cops are firing on the car Not Sure had just exited. One of them has a rocket launcher—which he proceeds to fire backwards. A few seconds later, a 747 enters the shot going down in flames. Later in the film, the U.S. President quiets down a rowdy crowd in the House of Representin’ by firing a light support weapon into the air. This is perfectly justified considering the movie is literally an Idiot Plot. Also, our introduction to the Secretary of Education has him absentmindedly resting a shotgun against his face.
- Kangaroo Court: The defense objects to things his own client did that are unrelated to the case. The jury and judge consider it damning evidence of Joe’s guilt.
- Kavorka Man: Clevon and his son in the prologue: two fat rednecks who nonetheless manage to father plenty of illegitimate children, contributing to humanity’s devolution.
- The Last Straw: A truck adds to a massive pile of garbage. It gets compressed, but stays intact; then a single can falls out of the truck, triggering an avalanche dozens of meters high.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: The smart couple who keep putting off getting pregnant (eventually thwarted by Husband Existence Failure) vs. the idiot who doesn’t care and winds up with about three dozen offspring by five to eight different women (and even more after a Groin Attack) in the prologue. This continues after a fashion with Joe and Rita: They have three children of average intelligence—the three smartest kids on earth—while Frito has thirty of the dumbest kids on earth.
- MacGuffin: The Time Masheen.
- Meaningful Name: The average protagonist is named Joe.
- Also, Joe’s new name that he’s given in 2505, “Not Sure”. He is the smartest man in the world by default because everyone else is so stupid, and humanity rests their hopes on him, even though he himself is ‘not sure’ of what exactly to do.
- Fridge Brilliance if you consider the Bertrand Russell quote: "The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt."
- Monumental Damage Resistance: Despite being implied that the rest of the world in 2505 is just as dumbed down and environmentally wrecked as United States, the Eiffel Tower (intact and in relatively perfect condition) is briefly shown in Ow! My Balls!
- To the credit of the film, much of the backgrounds in the show (besides the constant testicular assault) could be faked for presentation sake.
- Mundane Made Awesome: The commercials for Brawndo.
- Narrator: If you’ve ever seen a Coors Light beer commercial or NFL Films vignette in your life, the narrator might sound a little familiar …
- Newspaper Dating: Joe finds out what year he’s in this way, though he doesn’t believe it at first.
- Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: The film’s premise.
- The Not So Harmless Punishment: Joe is sentenced to one night of rehabilitation when his decision to irrigate crops with water caused population riots after the price of the Brawndo Corporation’s stock plummeted. It turns out that ‘rehabilitation’ is a type of public execution modelled as a Squash Match with Homicide Machines.
- Odd Friendship: Collins and Upgrayedd.
- One Nation Under Copyright: It’s mentioned Brawndo purchased the FDA and the FCC, and used their position to replace water with their product. If you look closely at the American flag, each of the stars is actually the logo of Carl’s Jr. Also, the red stripes are actually red text reading, “The following companies are proud sponsors of the United States of Uhmerica. Carl’s Jr., Costco, Cavalcade, Flaturin, Tarrlyton, Ronaise, Buttfuckers, Nastea, Bonerax, Brawndo, Acne Insurance.” Possibly, these companies own parts of the U.S. government in the same way that Brawndo owns the FDA and FCC.
- Only Sane Man: Not Sure, and by extension Rita and Upgrayedd.
- Our Presidents Are Different: Oh, how very different indeed. President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho is the five-time Ultimate Smackdown Wrestling champion, a porn superstar, speaks with as much profanity and insults as the average American, and is only slightly smarter than everybody else. This makes for an especially hilarious teleprompter crawl.
- Ow, My Body Part!: Ow, My Balls!
- Parody of Evolution: Box art.
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Collins.
- Product Placement: Unique in that it absolutely savages the brands that get placed.
- Carl’s Jr. (the most common or popular portion size is ‘Extra Big-Ass’, such as their fries, and whose motto has devolved into “Fuck you, I'm eating!”);
- Fuddruckers (shown devolving into … well, use your imagination, but is actually one of the few businesses to keep their function as a burger place);
- Costco (grown to the size of a small city, with its own subway system and law school). “Welcome to Costco. I love you”;
- Crocs shoes (for prisoners);
- Fox News Channel (which is still a news network, but having devolved into pure entertainment, with its newscasters dressed like porn stars);
- Starbucks, H&R Block, and several other places have become brothels.
- In fact, it seems that in the future, parents will name their kids after food companies: Joe’s lawyer is Frito, the president’s middle name is Mountain Dew, and there’s even a reporter named Velveeta. And one named Formica. Essentially every named character from the future has some kind of Product Placement in their name.
- One Cabinet member constantly drops ad slogans into his normal conversation, because they pay him each time he says it.
- Brought to you by Carl’s Jr.
- Additionally, all clothes consist entirely of logos (usually foods).
- Then there are misspellings, that seem to accumulate over time due to mankind getting stupider. To list them, they are Buttfuckers, Nas-Tea, Uhmerican Exxxpress and St<A>r8ucks, along with some others.
- Reactive Continuous Scream: When Dr. Lexus realizes that Joe is an “unscannable”, while Joe is freaking out about realizing how long he’s been frozen.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Relative to the typical citizen of 2505, President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho is intelligent, eloquent, and unselfish. He sentences Joe to “rehabilitation” because he needs to quell the riots, but quickly pulls Joe out once it’s revealed that the plan to restore the crops is succeeding.
- Ridiculous Future Inflation: Fridge Brilliance that this probably happened, not as a side effect of poor economic management, but as an intentional choice so that everybody can be amazed at how they have millions of dollars.
- Plus the inflation is actually kind of reasonable. If the ten million dollar bills we see are the equivalent of single dollar bills at the time the movie came out, it comes down to about 3% inflation per year. Not bad for the world depicted in the movie. In the real world, somebody would probably at some point have introduced a new basic unit of currency worth x times the old one, but I doubt these people would ever get an idea like that.
- Ridiculously Average Guy: Joe was chosen for the Human Hibernation Project specifically because he is exactly this. Heavily lampshaded, as Collins describes this fact as “remarkable,” and proceeds to show a series of graphs, with Joe exactly at the midpoint in every one.
- Rule of Funny: It is just not scientifically accurate (and if it were it would be advocating eugenics). It does not have to be. It is a comedy, and it is funny.
- Running Gag: “It’s what plants crave!”
- Salt the Earth: Not the result of malice, but stupidity. A Gatorade Captain Ersatz got a law passed at some point to make the farmers spray their crops with their sports drink, because it has “electrolytes,” which is “what plants crave.” For those not quite scientifically savvy enough to see the mistake, the electrolytes in sports drinks are salts dissolved in water. No-one in the movie, including Joe, knows what electrolytes are.
- Scannable Man: Joe is involuntarily tattooed with a bar code on his wrist.
- Scenery Gorn: Played for laughs here.
- Share the Male Pain: A rare aversion, as the most popular TV show in the future involves a man being slammed in the crotch over and over.
- Show Within a Show: The aforementioned Ow, My Balls and Monday Night Rehabilitation, and the multiple-Academy Award-winning film (including Best Screenplay) Ass.
- Shout-Out: The female Cabinet member’s outfit looks suspiciously like Cutey Honey’s.
- Shown Their Work: Surprisingly for a film like this one, the Presidential RV has the number “28000”, which is the real-life tail registration number of Air Force One.
- Side Effects Include...: Everyone claims “plants crave” the electrolytes in Brawndo, but they don’t know what electrolytes actually are. It’s salt, which, as it turns out, is definitely not what plants crave.
- The Silent Bob: Beef Supreme, one of the "corrections personnel" on Monday Night Rehabilitation.
- The Stinger: After the credits there is a scene in which Upgrayedd arrives into the future to look for Rita.
- Sure, Let's Go with That: Rita’s response when Joe takes her professional euphemism at face value.
- Surrounded by Idiots: There’s only one (intelligently) normal guy here. Care to find him?
- Take That, Audience!: The DVD menu gives the audience the same point of view as Frito, with the screen replaying Ow, My Balls! surrounded by tacky advertisements and options.
- Testosterone Poisoning: Brawndo, the Thirst Mutilator!
It’s like a MONSTER TRUCK you can POUR into your FACE!
- There Is Only One Bed: Joe plans to sleep on the ground, until Rita offers to share the bed.
- This and That: A running gag is that Joe never catches on to Rita’s inference when she uses this phrase.
- Too Dumb to Live: Pretty much everyone, to the extent that Fridge Logic has you asking how they do. Several scenes imply that the culture has been coasting on everyone’s lifestyle being heavily automated.
- At the same time, several scenes also imply that they were about to starve to death (and maybe be buried in their own garbage) before Joe rescued them.
- Or maybe because humans are such Explosive Breeders that the birth rate surpasses the ‘death-by-stupidity’ rate.
- Trash of the Titans: The Great Garbage Avalanche of 2505.
- Used Future: Since people are too stupid to maintain the buildings, they are all dirty and disheveled, and many are nearing collapse.
- Unusual Euphemism: Nearly every business will somehow become a brothel and use whatever product it was once known for as euphemisms. For example, Starbucks has ‘lattes,’ which are now handjobs.
- "Latte" is also German for "erection", making this Bilingual Bonus.
- “Hey! Wanna go ‘Family-Style’?”
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Rita’s pimp, Upgrayedd. A post-credits stinger shows that Upgrayedd was put in stasis as well, and awakes to go and find Rita.
- What Year Is This?
- You Have to Believe Me: The newscast describes Joe as saying this, presumably trying to tell the court that he’s woken up from a centuries-long cryogenic sleep, but they just mock him.
Violence Channel correspondent Formica Davis:
Well it started off boring and slow, with Not Sure trying to bullshit everyone with a bunch of smart-talk! “Blah blah blah, you gotta belieeeve me!” That part of the trial sucked