Visuals in “Idiocracy”

When I was watching “Idiocracy” for our upcoming presentation, I noticed many different things that were interesting about the movie and the messages it portrayed. In the film, Joe Bauers, an average American, participates in a hibernation project. As the result of an error, he wakes up 500 years later. He becomes the smartest person in the world, as the members society has been drastically dumbed down.

One element of the movie that I could write pages on alone—the UPC tattoos on every person in 2505—stood out strongly to me immediately. When Joe is singled out at the hospital for not having a UPC tattoo on his forearm as everyone else had, he was immediately arrested, sent to prison, and tattooed. When he escaped (which, understandably, was not difficult), he is considered a “dangerous criminal.” These tattoos exemplify the essence of 2505—blind consumerism. Once I started thinking about how this symbol functions in the movie, I could not help but be shocked with disbelief. To me, the act of permanently marking human skin as though the person it contains is merely an object is an extreme infringement of an individual’s liberty of thought and actions. This visual, though no more than 2 inches, represents one predominant idea of the film—the tragedy of the individual’s loss of intelligence and extreme susceptibility to outside influences (specifically, advertising and mass media).

Throughout the film, I noticed more visual aspects that further develop the bleak picture of this future society. For example, every individual wears shorts and shirts made of synthetic material that display an uncountable number of advertisements for large companies. I noticed that many of these advertisements are for fast food. Even more surprisingly, much of the food that the people eat come from vending machines—not just normal vending machines—but giant structures with booming voices commanding that passersby purchase food. (By food, I mean french fries and hamburgers). Ironically, to complete this process (and perpetuate a cycle), the food is purchased by swiping one’s forearm under a UPC scanner.

One especially interesting advertisement is for Brawndo: “THE THIRST MUTILATOR.” In this society, Brawndo, an artificially sweetened, Gatorade-like substance, has completely replaced water—it is even in the water fountains. To the people of this society, water is only used in toilets. This beverage, like the UPC tattoos, symbolizes the dehumanization of the individual. Water, one of the essential components of all life and the human body, has been completely removed from all aspects of society; it now belongs only in a toilet. When Joe asks if he can have some water, he is hysterically ridiculed: “Why would anyone want to drink water? That comes from a toilet!” Even water, a natural substance, has been replaced with an artificial liquid.

These are just a few of the things I noticed—and I could keep going on and on. Though I do not like the film as a whole, I appreciate the fact that it utilizes visuals effectively. In doing so, it clearly portrays a future society and forewarns people of potential consequences of passivity and carelessness.

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