Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Idiocracy (2006) and VH1's The (White) Rapper Show and How One's Existence Validates the Other



The two scariest movies of 2006: In Children of Men people can't have babies. In Idiocracy, people won't friggin stop.

In Mike Judge's vicious satire Idiocracy, the greatest threat to the future of human society is not terrorists, or weapons, or disease, or aliens, or global warming, it's something far more insidious, and far more terrifying: it's stupid people breeding. When you hear Judge's cute premise — average joe wakes in a future where everyone is so stupid he is now the smartest man on the planet — you chuckle and then you think "Yeah, but it could never happen." Judge's ingenious prologue shows how this anti-Children of Men came to be, and it's utterly convincing and totally hilarious. In many ways its a high point of the entire movie.

It's always fun when you see two totally disparate things that so perfectly reflect on each other. The day I finally saw Idiocracy (on DVD, after New York was deemed unworthy of the film's teeny tiny theatrical release back in '06), I was flipped channels and came to the first episode of something called The (White) Rapper Show. This reality series, aired on VH1 (which, with shows like Celebrity Paranormal Project and, my personal favorite, Breaking Bonaduce, is due for a new slogan. I suggest: VH1: Where Scruples Don't Mean Jack Shit) follows a group of young unsigned rappers all battling (better yet, make that battle rapping) for half a million dollars. As far as I can tell there is no recording contract involved, or opportunity to actually make inroads into the recording industry as a white rapper, but for 500,000 bones you can probably buy some of those anyway.

Any reality show that gets a genuine cross-segment of the population will have at least one moderately stupid person in its cast. The (White) Rapper Show has like eight of them, and they're all stuck together in a grimy house in the Bronx where they all yell and scream (and, occassionally, rap) in ways that time and again prove that Judge's theory of human de-evolution is not only possible, it is far closer than we might first realize.

It's hard to pick a single favorite — I could easily write a post on three or four different white rappers in the group — but let me just pay homage to John Brown a.k.a. The King of the 'Burbs. Mr. Brown, who refers to himself often as The King of the 'Burbs, proclaims that he isn't just a rapper, he's an entity, and part of a huge movement called The Ghetto Revival. The other white rappers observe the oxymoronic nature of those two terms in a conversation that went something like this:

Q: How can you be the King of the 'Burbs and be part of the Ghetto Revival?
John Brown: Because I'm John Brown, King of the 'Burbs, part of the Ghetto Revival.
Q: How will you revive the ghetto?
John Brown: With the ghetto revival.

By the end of the episode, John Brown has been disrespected, called the N-word, and had a dildo shoved in his mouth. If you think I'm making this up, I appreciate your belief in my creativity, but point you to the man's MySpace page.

In other words, Mike Judge is Nostradamus. Idiocracy isn't as good as Office Space; it might not be half as good as Office Space. Then again, it might be better, or at least truer, but in its truthiness (Sorry heroes, I went to a Colbert Report taping yesterday) it's not as much fun to watch. In Judge's horrific future, where the most popular movie is Ass: The Movie, and the highest rated TV show is Ow! My Balls!, the people are so obnoxiously and accurately stupid that they're difficult to stomach for the full ninety minutes. Luke Wilson's timelost Joe Bauers is a far more patient sort than I; after about an hour of hanging out with Dax Shepard's Frito, a lawyer and all-around bozo, I would almost certainly had started looking for something sharp to stab myself with.

By presenting idiocy with an unflinching sense of authenticity, he's sacrificed some amount of entertainment value, because the people of the future are so stupid they're often less funny than tiresome. Still, Judge's overall message, particularly in the area of corporate branding and product placement, is chillingly funny — I firmly believe that someday the Secretary of Defense of this nation will constantly mention that his position is "brought to you by Carl's Junior." Or, if we're lucky, by the Ghetto Revival.

2 Comments:

Blogger poorpete said...

My third favorite film critic, behind Ebert and Singer, Dana Stevens wrote about the similiarities between Idiocracy and Children of Men last week. She called them the two most underappreciated films of last year.
http://www.slate.com/id/2157486/

4:33 PM  
Blogger Matt Singer said...

I don't think I've read Slate once since Edelstein left. Guess I better start, apparently great minds think alike.

10:17 PM  

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