So this week I’m reading a book called Hal Spacejock, by Simon Haynes. (This is after polishing off the very short post-apocalyptic SF book H2O, by Irving Belateche, which while not making it to Teaser Tuesday, is notable because a central plot point is the remnant of the Internet that still exists in its devastated world. The Internet scrap is called the Line, capitalized, which caused me to draw constant comparisons between it and the Line from The Half-Made World. Needless to say, H2O did not benefit from the comparison. But I digress.)
So last week I finally got around to watching “Thank You For Smoking“, the satirical 2005 film about the tobacco industry and its efforts to lobby Congress and the public about its products. Not being familiar with the source material, I at first didn’t realize that it was set before the massive settlements between cigarette companies and the government; once that became apparent, I kept waiting for Russell Crowe to appear in the background to leak secret industry documents to intrepid reporters. Instead Aaron Eckhart (in a great performance that manages to make his smooth lobbyist character, Nick Naylor, not come across as smarmy) sleeps with an intrepid reporter, but that’s okay, too.
Before I came to realize that my style and subject matter were both completely unsuited for The New Yorker, I actually tried getting published there once or twice. No surprise: Rejected.
So the other day we watched Idiocracy, which tells the story of a man who is put into cryogenic sleep and awakes centuries later to become an interplanetary delivery boy in a world populated by aliens, robots, and talking severed heads. Oh, no, sorry, that’s Futurama. Actually, Idiocracy is the story of Joe, who (along with a woman named Rita) is part of an army cryogenics experiment that goes awry. When Joe and Rita awaken 500 years after being frozen, they discover that the world is populated by rejects from the early elimination phase of shows like American Idol, Survivor, and The Real World, as well as the sort of people who try to emulate the things they see on shows like Jackass. (Somehow, despite being complete morons, they manage to keep all their high-tech equipment more or less functional. We can probably assume this equipment is serviced by robots like Bender [Futurama again, sorry].)
The conceit behind this dystopian future is that all the smart people dithered too much over having kids until it was too late, or only had one or two, while the nitwits from Jerry Springer were popping out offspring by the dozen, until eventually they more or less took over the world. This conceit is so plausible that it’s actually frightening. (I don’t see any kids running around the house here. Sorry, Mike. Do dogs count?)
Anyway, when our hero, average Joe (his name is, literally, Joe), awakens to this new reality, writer/director Mike Judge has plenty of satirical ammunition, which he expends cheerfully obliterating everything from ubiquitous product placement and corporate sponsorship to “reality” shows like Ow My Balls to mass-market consumerism to monster truck rallies. He even gets in a few digs at Child Protective Services that are only marginally less realistic than what we saw earlier in August Rush. While not quite up to the level of his earlier Office Space, there are a number of giggles to be had in Idiocracy. The relentless stupidity of the future population does eventually get a little wearing, but if nothing else, the President and his cabinet members have plenty of flair.
Idiocracy put my wife to sleep in about 45 minutes, which is pretty good for satire. I definitely heard her laughing once or twice, too.