Reviews Comments: Absolutely awful

Absolutely awful
Works of satire often live or die on their ideology. While it's possible to enjoy such a piece on the strength of its wit or the way it communicates its points, odds are that, say, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy isn't gonna do much for you if you think technology enriches our lives, or that an optimist likely won't enjoy Candide.

So the first real metric we have is the ideas Idiocracy is setting out to promote. It picks a lot of different targets, but mostly seems to be a scathing attack on "low" culture—juvenile humor, junk food, Southern accents (I guess), wrestling, monster cars. All of these things, Mike Judge argues, are conspiring to turn our brains to mush and cause the downfall of society as we know it. Bit of an odd argument for a guy who created a classic example of juvenile humor and then got miffed when parents groups told him that the show was turning children into...well, into Idiocracy characters, but whatever.

Now, I don't really agree with any of these arguments, but I didn't agree with Hitchhiker's or Candide either and I enjoyed those just fine—both demonstrate a sharp wit and way with words, as well as create memorable characters and interesting worlds for them to inhabit. Idiocracy fails to do any of these things: in fact, the gags the film offers are just as brain-dead as the ones it's attacking, the leads are incredibly light on characterization, and the desolate cityscape society has become is almost indistinguishable from any other dystopia. In short, for a film arguing for the death of originality and culture, it really doesn't seem to be bringing anything new to the table.

Oh, and also it endorses eugenics inside of the first five minutes. It basically tells you that if we didn't let fat Southern people breed, this dystopia would never come to pass. Bit of an odd message from the guy who created a down-to-Earth and sympathetic show about fat Southern people to be making, but whatever.

Comments

I didn't see it as these things turn you stupid, but that with a decresing interest in intelligence (look at the lasts elections), that humanity would eventually be so stupid they would fall prey to advertisement. Juvenile humor was not in itself bad, but that was the only kind of humor humans would be able to handle. I also didn't thought of it as southern accents, but butchering of the language in general.
comment #23699 marcellx 5th Apr 14
"Decreasing interest in intelligence." On the part of who, exactly? Where are the statistics for this? And why exactly does that make advocating eugenics to keep stupid people from breeding okay?

"humanity would eventually be so stupid they would fall prey to advertisement." I fail to see how this is a meaningful distinction from "humanity would eventually be so stupid they would fall prey to juvenile humor." The basic thrust of the argument is still the same "TV is killing our brain cells" bullshit we've been hearing since the 50s.

"Butchering the language." Yeah, sure. I mean, y'know, it's not like English hasn't been getting simpler and simpler for centuries now. No, clearly this is a recent development. One that's clearly going to end with us all speaking in Southern dialects, which is awful for some reason.

Y'know, some of this is stuff I maybe should've addressed in the review: Judge argues all these things cause stupidity, but doesn't make a firm argument for causation or correlation. We have no reason to believe culture is making us dumber or that people and culture are getting dumber to begin with.
comment #23700 Wackd 5th Apr 14
I take exception to the idea that English is "simpler", given that our rules for word order are - by necessity - much more strict than how they were 1,500 years ago. That's not getting into the sheer amount of words you need to learn to be considered proficient. But this is all just pedantry.

If anyone thinks that previous generations didn't enjoy lowbrow humor, I will tell them about Shakespeare. If that doesn't convince them, I will point them in the direction of Lysistrata, a fart gag in Dante's Inferno, certain Japanese myths, the Three Stooges, and some other things I can't think of right now.

The idea of Southerners "butchering the language" is ridiculous, seeing as how language changes the quickest in urban centers, which rural dialects are very conservative with language changes. If you think Southerners are stupid for using the word "reckon", you must think the same thing about people from London, England. Besides, the use of the word "butchering" implies that any change, including ones that make it easier to refer to modern concepts, are somehow negative.
comment #23702 doctrainAUM 5th Apr 14
First of all, dude chill, you seem to have taken this as some sort of personal thing. To quote Linna "Fair point. Good of you to consider my opinion as my opinion. (As opposed to a personal attack on you, which assumption people make quite often on the internet.)"

I fail to see how this is a meaningful distinction from "humanity would eventually be so stupid they would fall prey to juvenile humor." The basic thrust of the argument is still the same "TV is killing our brain cells" bullshit we've been hearing since the 50s.

You're focusing too much on concerned parent logic of the new age technology and culture will make younger generations stupid, instead of humanity overall throught time going on this way at a stedy pase. A Stanford scientific study talks about how overall, intelligence has been on the decline, with the peak of human intelligence being stimated to have been 2 to 6 thousand years ago.

Yeah, sure. I mean, y'know, it's not like English hasn't been getting simpler and simpler for centuries now. No, clearly this is a recent development. One that's clearly going to end with us all speaking in Southern dialects, which is awful for some reason.

Are you Southern? because, as I sad, it seems to me you're taking this awfully personal. Like I said, I didn't found the languague "Southern", just generally lacking. You're confusing accent with dialect, someone can have a Southern accent and speak correctly (as in the correct lexicon and grammar). Pronouncing the H in words like what, where and why, just like Britain and Ireland more heavy silencing of said letter, is an accent. Things like, replacing "are" or "am" with "is" (example: I is, they is), etc. but of course without falling into pedantic territory.

And in the end, even with all that, dude, it's a comedy humor that relies of dumb humor, take it easy. That goes for you too, doctrainAUM.

Me: I also didn't thought of it as southern accents, but butchering of the language in general. You: The idea of Southerners "butchering the language" is ridiculous,
comment #23707 marcellx 5th Apr 14
Sorry, forgot to link.
comment #23708 marcellx 5th Apr 14
There are also plenty of studies "showing" that people's IQ is either slowly growing, or peaked just a few years ago. Bringing up one study, without even saying why you find it more believable than other studies, doesn't mean much.

Also, I got confused because the term "in general" - in this context - very heavily implies you consider Southern accents/dialects to be one form of butchering English. I'm sorry for assuming the worst.
comment #23709 doctrainAUM 5th Apr 14
There are also plenty of studies "showing" that people's IQ is either slowly growing, or peaked just a few years ago. Bringing up one study, without even saying why you find it more believable than other studies, doesn't mean much.

Yeah which is why I didn't use it as a fact, to be honest, personally, is not so much that I agree or disagree with one or the other so much as I don't care that much. The point was telling Wackd that there is more to it (as this is the "latest" study to have this theory) than TV will make you stupid. Statistically, people with less education have more children, this of course is not ironclad proof that there's a correlation between intelligence and reproduction, but again, this is a movie about juvenile humor, it just created a story using some scientific "theories" as a basis.
comment #23710 marcellx 5th Apr 14
Whether society is in fact in decline is irrelevant. Hell, whether society is in decline because of television or whatever is irrelevant. What's relevant is that the film absolutely refuses to make the case. It paints the rise of "Ow My Balls" and sports drinks causing humanity's downfall as the common-sense conclusion.

I am, naturally, ignoring the eugenics argument at the beginning, because its argument hinges on genetics and upbringing, whereas the rest of the film's argument hinges on juvenile humor and junk food. Not really the same thing.
comment #23711 Wackd 5th Apr 14
Hence, again, you're taking the film more seriously that it takes itself. Why does it do that? because it just wanted a framing device to tell the story.
comment #23712 marcellx 5th Apr 14
I don't fully agree with this maxim, but it makes it easier to understand why people are arguing so passionately about this comedy film.
comment #23713 doctrainAUM 5th Apr 14
If it wanted a framing device to tell a "story" that's primarily lowbrow gags, maybe it shouldn't have made that framing device an argument against lowbrow gags.

Besides, having seen a not-insignificant sampling of Mike Judge's other work, I have a hard time believing he didn't think he was making some good points.
comment #23716 Wackd 6th Apr 14
This review is god - tier material, my friend. Thanks for tearing apart this trainwreck of a movie.

As a proud viewer of King of the Hill - one of few sliceoflife comedies about the South I will ever have respect for, the creator of said show had no business making this insult to my intelligence.
comment #23806 TheShopSoldier 12th Apr 14
I think some people are misunderstanding cause and effect. The movie never said lowbrow humor or energy drinks or anything else in its fictional 2505 setting made people stupid. It was just saying that that kind of humor was the only kind that the stupid people of that era could understand and that they didn't understand why you couldn't use an energy drink to water crops and so forth. The movie also showed the idiots of the future going to restaurants and driving cars and using the toilet, was it claiming those things made you stupid too? Of course not. As far as the southern thing goes. I myself am from Georgia and despise the depiction of all southern people as stupid. However, I know that there are stupid people in the South just as there are stupid people everywhere. I did not find the depiction of stupid southern people in the move offensive because only a few of the idiots in the movie were obviously southern. There were all kinds of idiots in the movie. Camacho, Frito, Beef Supreme, the guy trying to obtain Rita's services as a prostitute... none of these characters seemed like they were supposed to be southern, yet all of them were undeniably stupid.

Also, come on, Mike Judge doesn't have to prove a valid scientific argument in order to have a premise for a movie. It's a comedy, not a doctoral thesis. If you don't believe society is getting more stupid, fine. I personally find the movie to be hilarious and scary at the same time.
comment #23851 FennShysa 15th Apr 14
If you find that scary that means you're on board with the idea at least potentially having some merit right? Otherwise it wouldn't be any more scary than Wall-E is. So you don't feel like it needs to justify it's premise because you're open to it.

I think there is an extent to which a film does have to justify it's premise. It wants us to draw emotion from our empathy between the fictional events and real events and if it's concept is entirely fantastical and impossible the film needs to be aware of that and make the viewer aware that it's aware of it. On the other hand, if the film doesn't treat the concept as entirely out there then it does need to justify that idea to some extent for us to go along with it.

Hitchhikers Guide was both very aware of the ridiculousness and actually justified it's concepts by tying them closely to some very accurate observations of human behaviour. Robocop went to lengths to make us feel like it's impossible in terms of behaviour etc

What's more, I don't buy that we should dismiss the film trying to make a point just because it's a comedy. I think it would be hard on the directors and writers parts to create a comedy like this without sharing at least some real reflection of the ideas it contains. The people who wrote In the Loop don't believe the government is a perfectly functioning efficient body and the people who wrote The Office must have had a few sneers towards corporate culture
comment #23852 TomWithNoNumbers 15th Apr 14
I know this is a wee bit later than most of the other responses but reading this review and some of the thoughtful responses and debate I felt compelled to chip in my two cents. First off, this is not an intellectually constructed film and second off, it's not picking on the South so settle down, southerner. The film mostly presents the decline of society into stupidity via causality with the dumb-down effect being the effect. The "smart" couple plan, plan, plan to have children but never get around to it. They're always searching for that milestone to start producing children and never find it. The stupid people on the other hand just produce children impulsively without any regard for planning. Essentially the film is being elitist but it's skewering both sides- the "smart" couple after all die off without producing which is an odd rumination on fitness and evolution or devolution by stating the less evolved are more capable of surviving as they inherit the Earth. The culture is a mash of stupidity that seems mostly to draw from combining reality TV, hip-hop culture, country music, wrestling and general macho behavior with an emphasis on looking "hard" rather than being educated.

The film doesn't really set a single target which is good- it makes fun of the stupidity of increasingly giant corporations and the increasing emphasis on product placement which are good targets for satire. It makes fun of the increasing disinterest in governance amongst elected officials, over-sexualization of culture and the general incompetence of institutions. Again, I don't see where any of these targets are picking on the South per se aside from the integration of the idiocy of redneck culture into the cultural stew of stupid. But again, it's not the only ingredient present so it's actually pretty interesting that the review is so sensitive that it picks out any criticism of rednecks as being criticism of the entire South.

As for the rural/urban argument: rural areas are less educated, more economically vulnerable and have become characterized as a dumping ground for the poor/ignorant. Judge makes the mistake of judging book smart as being great evidence of intellectualism when in reality it's mostly evidence of elitism and in my opinion exposes further problems in the American education system. Judge doesn't make that connection, instead he insists smart people are well read and stupid people are not which is not true. He also emphasizes IQ which given the increasing irrelevance and lack of viability for IQ tests due to a number of factors such as cultural bias is ironically stupid. His perspective is elitist but is not an argument for eugenics because he's not interested in making a serious point. Instead he just reflexively relies on causality with the cause being decreasing intelligence and the effect being an ever coarser, dumber culture.

Judge ignores a lot of effectual ignorance so as not to be seen picking on one single group or another. He picks on hip-hop culture but ignores the reactionary ignorance of creationism and other anti-science or pseudoscience such as global warming denialism, anti-stem cell research arguments, anti-GMO paranoia and of course anti-vaxxers. He doesn't mock conspiracy theorists such as NWO crazies, the Illuminati/masonic conspiracy, or the growth of the most couched in ignorance form of any religion: fundamentalism. So he ignores a lot of fertile ground of stupidity creating the conditions for hilariously creative explanations to justify ignorance which is unfortunate. Oh the whole the movie is really quite funny the first time around if you aren't overly sensitive or note that this came out years before Obama became president and yet makes the black president lord of the idiots. It's not a brilliant skewering of culture and its orientation is definitely elitist but the funniest part of the show is it essentially offers a "what if?" the people who used to appear on the Jerry Springer show took over the Earth.
comment #26603 brokenantenna 11th Oct 14

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