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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Presidential Idiocracy

There are those who say art imitates life. And there are those who insist that life imitates art. Over the years, I've found that the truth lies somewhere in between: What may start out as art actually can integrate into reality. People see things in art that they only previously imagined. But seeing them in art, particularly in pictures that move and talk, adds a dimension that bridges fiction into the possibility of becoming non-fiction. This is, according to industry pundits, the force behind "product placement" in the movies.

Whether it's James Bond drinking Smirnoff vodka or E.T. scarfing down Reese's Pieces, there's no question that most people fall into the "monkey see, monkey do" syndrome. If a product is perceived properly, it's amazing how it will affect people perceive it. Stranger still is the phenomenon where people will alter their behavior once they've watched how other people behave onscreen.

Such is the case with a film entitled Idiocracy. If you haven't seen it, it's worth a rental or, at the very least, an illegal download. The first three minutes alone (below) tells you everything you need to know, but if it's raining and there are no more errands to run, it's worth the extra 90 minutes to chuckle over the future de-evolution of mankind:



Essentially, the film concerns itself with a man of average intelligence who is frozen in an experiment that goes terrifically wrong. Instead of hibernating only one year, he wakes up after five hundred years, to discover a world dumbed down to its lowest possible depths -- and vaulting him to prominence as the smartest man in the land.

The strange thing about Idiocracy is that while billed as a comedy, its implications are staggeringly horrifying. The smart people, having limited their numbers to control population, have been bred out of existence, largely outnumbered by trailer trash bumpkins who multiply like rabbits, completely unconcerned about their environments or their futures.

When you watch the movie, you find yourself both disturbed and amused, recognizing that, in fact, art does imitate life -- and sometimes that reflection is sobering. Of course, the film takes its notion to the extreme, but the extreme, in this case, isn't so far off. A world in which nobody questions anything, accepts everything they're told, and is motivated only by its most primal, prurient needs. It's a hell, damned to eternal mediocrity.

In fact, very similar to the world in which we live today.

Think about it. Just about every TV show, music track and product pitch revolves around some kind of sexual message. Our drugs, clothes and health are designed, manufactured and marketed in a fashion that appeals only to man's most basic urges. Nothing is immune from the Dumbing Down or America. Including our presidential elections.

Mike Huckabee plunks his bass guitar. Bill Clinton blows his saxophone. Hillary Clinton stumbles through Soprano parodies. Barack Obama hosts Saturdary Night Live and bump butts with -- of all people -- Ellen DeGeneres, the mentally unbalanced comic whose idea of national tragedy is her inept breach of contract over an adopted dog.

In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn't promote his candidacy for the presidency of the United States by mistaking the electoral process with a talent show. In the 1980's, Ronald Reagan didn't dismantle the threat of communism by chatting up Jon Stewart. These were the last leaders of a thinking generation, whose candidates were more concerned about policy than popularity. And yet, here we are, faced with presidential hopefuls who hope to lead the most powerful nation in history by pandering to the lowest levels they can.

While America's brand value hasn't plummeted this low since the dark days of Jimmy Carter, this year's crop of presidential candidates doesn't bode for better times. Instead of a strong hand delivering us from governmental confusion, we sit and endure a bunch of third rate showmen bent on getting a great big hand from an audience.

The movie is called Idiocracy. Look for it in the non-fiction section.

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