Something that has always fascinated me is the dichotomy present in the myth of the genius vs. the myth of the idiot. When prompted to compose a final research paper on the subject of stereotype and popular culture, I couldn’t help but notice how the genius myth and, more specifically, the idiot myth relates to the stereotype of class in a film which is completely centered around such topics. Not only does the film stereotype the genius/idiot myths, but it additionally projects a sense of fear of what the future will become if the world continues to be tranquilized by mindless entertainment and overly-useful technology. This film is called Idiocracy and it is shaped from the mind of Mike Judge (of King of the Hill and Office Space).
The idea of class being associated with intelligence is one that the world (and more specific to the film, The United States of America) has been conditioned to identify with a specific correlation, that being that the more intelligent you are, the higher social status and more wealth you will accumulate. Though we have been taught to think this way, the idea that this is a universal law is completely false. Times change, society changes and with it so do standards for what constitutes success. In the world of Idiocracy, an alternate, futuristic universe is created where the idiots hold the seat of power and the immensely few intelligent people are socially at the bottom of the hierarchy. For example, the President of the United States in the film is additionally a wrestler and “Playboy Superstar” who additionally radiates the stereotype of the gangsta; meanwhile (towards the beginning of the film), the smartest man in the world is a fugitive on the run. This, and the above mentioned fear that this is our future is what I endeavor to write about in my research paper.
In my paper, I endeavor to discuss the two main character types (idiot and genius) through only the most essential characters to the plot of Idiocracy. Before I begin my initial analysis I introduce the piece by discussing the social condition of current modern society and then elaborate further on the ways in which this applies to the characters of Idiocracy. With the characters, I first discuss Joe Buars (our “genius”) and his social status relevant to said intelligence. Secondly, I discuss Frito (an “idiot” and Joe’s lawyer), President Camacho (the head idiot in charge) and members of the presidential cabinet (a teenager, a bimbo, an “advertiser”, a retarded man and an obese fool) along with their social statuses. Finally, after these characterizations, I make a last analysis on the message of fear that these characters represent and weave in other aspects of the film including set, costuming, scriptwriting and plot.
This clip from the movie serves as an example into certain aspects that I wish to talk about within the film. In it, Joe and the presidential cabinet are discussing how to rectify the current famine problem; there has been a famine for some time in Idiocracy’s version of The United States, and the people are too stupid to see that the cause of the famine is the fact that they have been watering their crops with an energy drink. Such an example sheds light on how the idiot and being low-class is only relative to the perspective of the people during a given time in history. After all, these idiots are helping to run the American government.
The first source that I found to compliment my writings comes from the University of Cambridge and is entitled “Knowledge, Wisdom, and the Philosopher” by Daniel A. Kaufman. While it does not involve the film Idiocracy, specifically, nor does it mainly involve the myth of the genius vs. the idiot in popular culture, it does consider and deeply contemplate what constitutes someone as “intelligent”— does it simply involve knowledge or must there be other factors combined with knowledge such as wisdom? Indeed, is it possible for someone to be a genius yet at the same time a complete fool? These questions arise many times with the film Idiocracy and such a publication, while distantly related to the source at hand, is a useful component that can be applied to the central argument of my research paper.
My second source comes from the journal Psychology Today and is entitled “Idiocracy: Can We Reverse It?” This source is directly applicable to the article that I have chosen to analyze for my final research paper (i.e. the film, Idiocracy) and is written by Professor of Psychology at the University of Guelph, Hank Davis. While the first source correlates with the class stereotypes component of my paper, this article serves to illustrate the concepts of fear that Idiocracy presents. Not only does it exemplify points which have been made in the film, but it applies them to real-life situations occurring in present-day. The article talks about how we are slowly becoming true representations of the very thing Idiocracy mocks and provides examples from the movie, correlating them to things he has observed in our own world.
Our perception of intelligence and how it constitutes class is a myth, a story that has and will change as history continues on. Labels are simply words as are classifications and as they start to change they become stereotypes. The myth of the idiot and the genius and their subsequent associations with class is one such example of this and one I wish to explore in my final research paper.