Mike Judge’s Idiocracy has been in the news a lot lately and not just because of its 10th anniversary. Clearly, his satire of a fucked-up, corporate-controlled America set 500 years in the future where everybody is as dumb as rocks somewhat mirrors our current real-life social and political landscape. We’re just a month away from possibly voting into power an egotistical, racially-divisive, misogynist, two-faced businessman and reality TV host who lost almost $1 billion in a year but is “smarter” than you, everyday citizen, for not paying taxes. Give us Terry Crews’ five-time Ultimate Smackdown champion, porn superstar, and President of Uhh-merica Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho any day.
The initial idea for Idiocracy came to Judge while writing Beavis and Butt-Head Do America in 1995. Then, five years later, after watching Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), he thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that movie was just giant Walmarts and The Jerry Springer Show instead of this clean, high-tech future that everybody envisions? Because it doesn’t seem to be going that way.”
“[But] I kind of thought nobody would make it,” Judge said in 2013. “I just thought it would be fun to write.” A first draft was completed with Etan Cohen (King of the Hill), but it wasn’t until actor Luke Wilson (who plays super average Pvt. Joe Bauers) came on board that 20th Century Fox greenlit the modestly-budgeted movie.
Shot in 2004 in Austin, Texas, Idiocracy was plagued with problems.
“I felt like it was cursed from the beginning,” Judge told Marc Maron last year on the WTF Podcast. “It was supposed to take place during a drought and we shot during one of the wettest summers ever.” He added: “I was a little afraid to make it just because it was very daunting. At some point, I realized we had 65 speaking parts, which is not a good idea, because to find that many people that can play convincing dumbasses [is hard]. [But] I felt like I did as good as I could have done.”
Things only got more difficult after the shoot. According to Judge, Fox wanted Dax Shepard, who played simpleton lawyer Frito—his hilarious line, “Go away! ’Batin’!” will live forever in the annals of comedy lore—to loop the entire movie in a different voice. Plus, the movie required numerous special effects, but after a test screening in which an audience was shown an incomplete version of the film with drawings as placeholders for missing effects, the studio began chopping the budget. Judge credits his friend, director Robert Rodriguez and his Troublemaker Digital Studios, for doing some effects work for free.
If that weren’t enough, jokes like the future Starbucks offering hand jobs with lattes, could have possibly rubbed bigwig shoulders the wrong way.
“I think there [were] issues with all the corporate attacks and Rupert [Murdoch] being a very immersed guy in the corporate world, globally,” Shepard told the website CHUD in 2006.
The movie sat on the shelf for almost a year before it was finally released in about a dozen theaters. The only publicity it received were various newspaper and online articles wondering why the movie was being buried. (It was infamously listed as the Untitled Mike Judge Project on Moviefone.)
“I can’t begin to tell you how crushed I was when it did nothing,” said Crews, who still longs for a sequel, at a recent screening with co-star Maya Rudolph and Mike Judge in Santa Monica, Calif. “It was released and it went away in the same day.”
Like Judge’s Office Space (1999), Idiocracy found a larger audience years after its release.
“I don’t know why I can’t make a movie that’s a hit when it comes out,” said Judge, who also shared some of what was left on the cutting room floor:
“We actually shot a church scene. We had two real pro wrestlers, one dressed as Jesus and one as Satan. Jesus’ manager breaks a chair on Satan’s head. There were [also] more TV shows. [One was called] Single Entendre. There was [also] another episode of Ow My Balls! It begins with him running around with his crotch on fire and they take a giant fire hose and try to put it out and he lands on a cactus.”
The screening audience laughed along with Judge, who said, “I’m not above any of the future stupid people, really.”
And that’s the thing. We can laugh at the dummies in Idiocracy and act like we’re better than them, but we all like, say, or do dumb shit from time to time. We can be otherwise reasonable people but still arrogantly refuse to believe in vaccinations or global warming or some other serious thing that affects us all. We can think everybody else is an idiot and not realize that we’re the idiot and the next thing you know, we’ve voted an idiot into the White House…again. (Y’all remember George W. Bush, right?)
Of course, some things in Idiocracy have already started happening. Just like in the movie, Carl’s Jr. wants to use automated kiosks that’ll replace humans, and the line between legit and adult businesses gets blurrier.
“Now there’s Fellatio Cafe in Europe somewhere,” Judge said. “You get sexual favors with coffee. It’s flat-out come true.”
So, as we here in America, inch forward to the future depicted in Idiocracy, we’ll have dreams of blow jobs and coffee to take our mind off of getting screwed at the polls this November.