Welcome to Costco, I love you
I watched IDIOCRACY again the other night, and it stayed where I had it the first time — uneven, repetitive, but often brilliant and laugh-out-loud funny. And one of the best “guy movies” of recent years — the perfect flick to watch with a fellow reactionary intellectual-wannabe over pizza and beer. (I an not unaware of the irony of consuming the film on those terms. Is there a text in this house, etc.?)
I repeated to this fellow-reactionary Sicinski’s comparison of the film to Allan Bloom and he agreed (Waz must love have so many starboarder fans). And then he made a slightly less highbrow comparison to National Review’s John Derbyshire, aka “The Derb,” a curmudgeonly natalist and pusher of “demographics as destiny.” (UPDATE: The Derb saw the film and didn’t think it did much with the premise, which he acknowledged thinking was great, but done better in a novel.)
One thing that struck me harder than it did before was the ending (SPOILER warning) … Private Joe and Rita marry and have “the three smartest children in the world” and he becomes president. The family is playing in the Oval Office. Then Judge pans the camera and the dumbass Frito has multiple wives and a gaggle of children.
In other words, nothing changes. The cinematic language on display is of the happy ending — swelling score, happy characters, plot threads all tied up to the main characters’ satisfaction, etc. But the actual content of the image is not. The scene specifically mirrors the intro segment about the two couples’ child-whelping practices, and it makes it clear as day that the dysgenic collapse of society will continue.
Nor is this an atypically grim ending for Judge, who may be one of the most astringent moralists making films. The ending of OFFICE SPACE follows the same template, a happy-looking ending that collapses the minute you think about it — Michael and Samir are back in the rat race. Peter is smiling, but only because he has radically lowered his expectations and is now in manual labor (always historically considered a stepdown from a white-collar job). The key speech is given to him late in the film by Joanna, about how people in general just try to carve out some space to be happy despite having jobs and lives that suck (sorry, can’t find the exact wording online).
BEAVIS & BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA ends with the boys sunk back into TV, having completed their quest for the only thing that matters to them as they walk off into the sunset. About half the episodes of the B&B series end with the boys happy or contended, but the viewer has one of several fundamentally different reactions, from pity to contempt, from bemusement to bewilderment. For example, when they’re caught out in the rain outside the movie theater after the two chicks (“I’m Lolita and this here’s Tanqueray”) con them of their money, they resolve to come back with twice as much money the next night — “then we’ll score” as the growling guitar riffs of the closing theme well up. The more Todd beats them up and treats them like shit, the more they admire how cool he is. They waste $499 to get a mower, so they can buy $1 of gasoline. They don’t realize how badly they lost their campaign for school treasurer (“is that like, the money dude?”). Whether it’s learning Women’s History, Positive Acting Teens or the Christian Businessman’s Group, it all flows over them. Beavis even learns he’s destined for hell, and all he and Butt-head are doing is laughing about St. “Peter.” Huh-huh … Peter.
Mike Judge’s theme: the world is incorrigible. Live with it.
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