September 07, 2009

Avoiding Idiocracy

As one last salvo against the UAW and the Car Czars, I decided to work on Labor Day?take that you lazy bailout bastards! Seriously, I did take time to celebrate industry today by going to see Mike Judge?s latest film, Extract. I don?t want to say too much about it, because I imagine Steve might want to review it on Wednesday, being that?s he?s a known Judgeophile. So briefly, Extract doesn?t reach the heights of Idiocracy, Judge?s depiction of Charles Murray?s worst nightmare in which by 2500 the dumbasses have inherited the earth. Extract is simply not as well conceived, nor does it include as many instant classic one-liners. (Whenever I ask someone ?what are you objectifying on?? or reminisce, ?There was a time when reading wasn’t just for fags?and neither was writing,? I elicit either hysteric laughter from those who?ve seen the film or else appalled befuddlement from the uninitiated.)

Extract is, however, worth the 10 bucks, particularly in that the film acts as a kind of prequel to Idiocracy?or rather a fable about how America might avoid Idiocracy (though I doubt we?ll heed Judge?s counsel.) It?s also a highly relevant film for Labor Day. 

As with Idiocracy, Extract?s protagonist is an Everyman, ?Joel,? played by Jason Bateman. Joel is subject to all the vulgarities, base impulses, and anxieties that flesh is heir to, but at the end of the day, he?s a good guy. But unlike ?Joe Bauers? of Idiocracy, Joel isn?t just of average intelligence; indeed, he?s quite smart and industrious, having developed a superior flavored-extract product and started up his own company. He?s been rewarded for his labors with a house in the suburbs, a nice wife, and a 7 Series BMW. All of his employees are lovable morons, including some funny Southern caricatures (King of the Hill voices appear) and a tattooed rocker who refused to take a job at Wal-Mart, lest he become ?the laughingstock of the Death Metal community.?

Conflict enters this charming world when one of Joel?s employees loses a testicle in a bizarre workplace mishap and, goaded on by a sexy lady con artist and one of those horrible lawyers who advertise on television, decides to sue Joel?s extract plant into the ground. But the villain of Extract isn?t the gonad-less worker, who?s a decent, though misguided, Southern workingman, but the evil lawyer, ?Joe Adler,? appropriately played by the former blood-spitting lead singer of Kiss, Gene Simmons. Adler is more than willing to bankrupt Joel?s company?and put all of Joe?s employees out of work?just to get his own massive payoff and perhaps upgrade his Porsche 911.

Extract, as you?d expect, has a happy ending, though the film?s parable is clear as day: America has way too many Joe Adlers and not enough Joels.

Joel is hardly a perfect husband, nor the Capitalist ?bermensch of Ayn Rand?s imaginings, but he is a producer and entrepreneur, and due to his success and smarts has been able to offer work to good-hearted people who, shall we say, make up the left tail of the Bell Curve. Even a studly, brainless young gigolo is inspired to give up the life of bedding desperate housewives to do an honest day?s work at Joel?s factory. Joel?s employees aren?t quite Idiocracy-grade ?tards, but they certainly wouldn?t be able to organize an enterprise on their own.

Joe Adler, on the other hand, is nothing but a pure force of destruction and resentment. Before I go on, I guess I should make some obligatory stipulations like, ?many lawyers do valuable services? and ?many of my friends are lawyers? (which is true.) But the fact is, production (Joel) necessarily precedes lawyering (Joe). Joel must create wealth before Joe Adler can seize it and redistribute it. In this regard, there?s no coincidence that the majority of politicians are drawn from the legal community; put simply, the occupation is parasitic in nature. 

Putting aside the genetic components of ?idiocracy? for the moment, the wise Mr. Judge is telling us, if we?re willing to listen, that the best way to avoid this sad state of affairs is to encourage the Joels of the world to produce stuff and employ all the idiots; in turn, the power government grants the Joe Adlers of the world must be limited, perhaps eliminated altogether.

Needless to say, on both counts, America is moving in the wrong directions. At the moment, our Joe Adlers?our Timmy Geithners, Steven Rattners, and Van Jones?rule the roost. And if we keep burdening our Joels, there will come a time?probably sooner than 2500?when technocrat lawyers will be swept aside, and political evolution will begin to favor other traits

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