Nietzsche and Idiocracy

Idiocracy is now

Idiocracy — about a dystopia 500 years in the future where braindead fools populate the planet and everything is run by corporations — was actually presaged by Friedrich Nietzsche in his philosophical masterpiece, Thus Spake Zarathustra. In it he heralds the dawn of a new philosophical era, the threat of nihilism, and the übermensch. The übermensch — or the man who seeks to surpass himself, to reach his potential — stands diametrically opposite to what Nietzsche calls The Last Man, who is perfectly content with stagnation, whose “herd mentality” makes him most comfortable among equally unambitious people, who is unable to criticize himself, and who therefore cannot grow.

The earth hath then become small, and on it there hoppeth the last man who maketh everything small. His species is ineradicable like that of the ground-flea; the last man liveth longest.

“We have discovered happiness”–say the last men, and blink thereby.

Thus Spake Zarathustra

Idiocracy is not a great movie, but it is a trenchant critique of our society (though about as subtle as using a sledgehammer to drive in a pin).The movie obviously is directed at the United States, where underrated director Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butthead and cult movie Office Space, hails from. But anyone traveling abroad, or surfing the internet, can easily surmise the same thing: that we are already living in a budding idiocracy everywhere on the planet.

Nietzsche — whose anti-Darwinian diatribes are well-known — warned against a future idiocracy, not just in Zarathustra, but throughout his oeuvre. More recently Tom Robbins saw the last battles on earth being fought out by cockroaches and the gonorrhea bacillus. In other words, evolution does not necessarily mean survival of the best. You can see Nietzsche’s point, and how he was right as opposed to Hegelian and Marxian notions of the dialectical third — wherein the thesis and antithesis of the historical process combine and re-formulate to produce something better.

Idiocracy is anti-Darwinian through and through. In it, army private Joe Bauer, chosen for his “perfect averageness”, and a woman trying to wave off a prostitution rap named Rita, enter into a top secret army hibernation experiment. Meanwhile, the top brass in charge of the experiment are jailed for corruption, and the location of the hibernation experiment is demolished with Joe and Rita still in their hibernation chambers. In its place a chain restaurant called Fuddrucker’s is built.

500 years in the future, their hibernation chambers are dislodged from a giant mountain of garbage in what’s called the “Great Garbage Avalanche”. They wake up in a society run by morons who are named after products (President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho , Dr. Lexus, Frito Pendejo, among others). Fuddruckers has changed into Buttfuckers, Starbucks now offers handjobs with every latte, and Carl’s Jr.’s motto is “Fuck you. I’m eating”. A narrator explains the best minds have disappeared because of under-procreation, and that the more promiscuous illiterate, alcoholic, under-achieving masses have come to dominate the planet.

In the future, anyone who doesn’t make constant fart jokes or who uses words other than “fuck” is considered a “fag” and a “tard”. Nevertheless, average Joe tests as having the highest IQ ever, and President Mountain Dew Camacho, hires him as Secretary of the Interior to solve the dustbowl crisis. Mysteriously, no crops are growing and the nation faces imminent starvation.

While inspecting the crops Joe realizes that they were being watered with Brawndo (an obvious allusion to Gatorade, a power drink with “lots of electrolytes”). Joe suggests they try water, and a few weeks later the first seedlings appear again. But in those interim weeks he faces near death at the hands of his impatient underlings, ultimate-fighting bouts against a futuristic fighter called Beef Supreme, and falls in love with Rita. Joe — most disappointingly — conforms to the idiocracy and decides to stay on with President Mountain Dew. Until here, the movie worked, even if it was about as subtle as soapbox preacher with a megaphone. But you shouldn’t watch this movie expecting Dionysian tragedy, or anything close to high art. Entertaining it is.

Idiocracy attempts high-brow low-brow, and mostly succeeds. It’s a low budget movie, not particularly notable for its directorial style, but it raises eyebrows with its brazen mocking of corporate culture. It’s not a surprise that its parent company Fox refused to advertise it anywhere, and only allowed a limited release (Fox News in the future is also ridiculed, in fact, with two newscaster that look like 80s era porn actors, half-dressed, and pretty much sputtering the same inanities as they do today).

Michael Moore famously cited the giant loophole that allowed him to create movies that sometimes undermined the very corporations that distributed them — the profit to be made will always trump whatever critiques are being made. Idiocracy is just as subjective as any Michael Moore movie, but probably not as effective (if it was at all intended as a wake-up call). You’ll either be laughing with it, or at it, but it won’t change your mind about anything if you haven’t already seen the idiocracy around you.

That’s just my elitist opinion.

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62 Responses to “Nietzsche and Idiocracy”

  1. 1 Tom

    Yeah Idiocracy isn’t perfect but it’s about as enjoyable as it could have been, for a low-budget movie that, as you point out, preaches to the converted.

    I think I first heard about it from you, actually. It meant that I couldn’t ever watch reality TV again (it was a sort of a guilty pleasure: I thought I was above it but secretly, I was just part of the problem). Might watch Idiocracy again this weekend, if I get bored of the multi-screen porn, wrestling and I’m A Celebrity… oh, and the cheese on tap.

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