Frozen in biological stasis for hundreds of years as part of a forgotten secret military experiment, a perfectly average army librarian and a hooker wake up on an Earth populated, after countless generations of the stupid outbreeding the smart, entirely by morons.
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Somewhere along the line, I went from viewing hand-wringing about how humanity's getting dumber and dumber as a grim, inarguable truth to viewing it as coastal Chicken Little nonsense. (And for the record, I've lived on the west coast my whole life.) The sheer mathematical implausibility that I was somehow the one who'd escaped a mass decent into idiocy became hard to ignore, and it only takes a little knowledge of history to realize that humanity is almost unquestionably getting smarter. Scientifically and technologically, we've achieved things that would look like magic to someone from thirty years ago. Culturally, even the average television program is orders of magnitude more complex than the stuff on the air half a century ago, which wouldn't even play in a remedial special ed class. It's easily to believe that previous eras were somehow more intelligent because it's only the most intelligent stuff that's endured through the centuries, but it's a false conclusion. You know what was a popular pastime in that shining intellectual capital, sixteenth-century Paris? Public cat burning. The intelligentsia's siege mentality is attractive, but it's wrong; if you want to see a real idiocracy, look to the past.
In any case, the global IQ decline in Idiocracy's world has ushered in a landscape covered in advertising. Hospital walls are plastered with it. Clothes are made out of it. People are paid to insert product plugs into everyday conversation. Commerce dominates every interaction: corporations sponsor even the most mundane services, and citizens are tattooed with bar codes to facilitate the constant transactions required of them. Water itself has been replaced by a Gatorade-like liquid called Brawndo, whose corporation owns the FDA and FCC. (Thomas Haden Church appears, all too briefly, as the CEO.) But there's an issue here: didn't trade and the eventual development of economies at any scale only come about with — you guessed it — intelligence? If anything, a stupider population would have far less commerce, and probably far more bartering, hoarding, and stealing. But the notion of a stupid person as one who buys a lot of stuff is, for whatever reason, now entrenched in our collective consciousness.
That sort of fits with the movie's idea of what stupidity is, though: the dumb characters are enslaved to their impulses, unable to look beyond the desires of the moment, whether they're for crappy food, sex — in the future, Starbucks has become a handjob outlet — or explosions. Being the very antithesis of a two-marshmallow kid seems like a necessary component of ultra-stupidity, but not a sufficient one. But Idiocracy isn't nuanced enough satire for that. Boy, is it ever not nuanced satire. And stop expecting subtlety while you're at it. I still had a few laughs, but clearly I'm no longer misanthropic enough.
I did like that the stupid future world's shoe of choice was the Croc, though. Down with Crocs.