Mike Judge, the creator of Beavis & Butt-head
, Office Space
, King of the Hill
, and Idiocracy
, has been interviewed a fair amount over the years, but mostly by media hive workers who haven’t noticed that he’s not a nice liberal like they and everybody they know are. He’s a moderately famous creative artist and social critic, so he has to hold the same views as us, right? (For example, here’s a substantial profile in the New York Times
from 2011 that’s completely clueless about his politics.)
The most obviously interesting question about Judge’s career is: what the heck happened to the “release” of Idiocracy in 2006? Since we all know that conspiracies, by definition, don’t exist, the decision by a shadowy group of Fox insiders to deepsix Idiocracy for unexplained reasons is just one of those things that happen. Why do you want to know more? What are you, some kind of conspiracy theorist?
So, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones turns out to be the first interviewer I’ve seen who exhibits much sustained curiosity about Idiocracy.
Judge treads carefully, but he’s a little more forthcoming than normal.
This is not to get expectations up too high if you haven’t seen Idiocracy. It’s kind of choppy and a little short, but comedies don’t have to be exquisitely made to be memorable [Caddyshack, anyone?]. Idiocracy compares quite well to the other interesting comedy that came out that fall of 2006, Sacha Baron-Cohen‘s Borat. In complete contrast to Idiocracy, Borat was marketed brilliantly and appealed to various deep-rooted prejudices of taste-makers, so it made a bundle at the box-office. In the long run, Idiocracy seems like the more profound portrait of the Bush Era (although Ramzan Kadyrov and the vibrant Chechen-American refugee immigrants are doing their best to revive the relevance of Borat — although Kadyrov is more inspired by Baron-Cohen’s underrated The Dictator. The Chechen proxy dictator is currently pranking his Instagram followers with the central plot element of Baron-Cohen’s 2012 film about a dictator and his double.)
I don’t like watching interview videos because they are a slow way to ingest information relative to reading. So, to save you the time, here are highlights from the video “Mike Judge: The Movie They Couldn’t Kill
,” Alex Jones’ 36 minute interview
with Mike Judge.
At about 7:00 in, Judge says that King of the Hill conspiracy theorist Dale Gribble is based in part on Alex Jones.
15:45 Other than The Simpsons, the animated comedies that have really taken off — South Park, Family Guy, Ren & Stimpy — are ones where voices are done by the writer-artists rather than by actors.
17:45 Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” persuaded him to get into the guns — especially Moore’s argument about how there is a lower crime rate in Canada with “the same people.” Judge leaves unstated why he found Moore’s argument about Canada having the “same people” so unconvincing, implying that you ought to be able to figure out Moore’s fallacy
yourself, but he returns to emphasizing that he’s thought a lot about the statistics of crime. “I took graduate probability and statistics courses.”
18:40: He got blamed for Beavis & Butt-head causing crime in youth, but, he half-jokes, homicide has been declining since Beavis & Butthead came on the air in 1993. He then presents his hand-drawn (but non-joking) table of crime rates in 1992 v. 2011 at 20:05.
21:15 Judge imitates Jones’ appearance on Piers Morgan’s show.
22:15 IRS targeting of conservatives “is going to make me listen to some more Alex Jones.”
The last eight minutes from 27:40 onward are devoted to Idiocracy – Judge started thinking about evolution and the disappearance of predators during the making of the Beavis & Butt-head Movie in the 1990s. Then, in 2001, was in line with his daughters at Disney’s Teacups ride, when two women with strollers in the line behind him got into an altercation. Is this what Walt Disney wanted or expected? Then, he got thinking about the movie “2001″ and how 2001 hadn’t turned out to be everything pristine and advanced, but was instead the Jerry Springer Show and Wal-marts. So just take that chart from then to now and see where it would go in the future.
He owed Fox a second movie after Office Space. He didn’t think anyone would make it. Gave the first draft script to Fox. Not much response. Then Luke Wilson wanted to do it, so Judge rewrote it for Wilson.
Idiocracy’s first corporate joke came after Judge drove past a tanning salon whose sign said “Exotic Tan for Men.” But that’s just low-rent, so it would be funnier if in the future handjob prostitution had spread upscale to Starbucks. He didn’t expect Fox’s legal department to approve it, but they came up with the suggestion that it would be less legally problematic if instead of just picking on Starbucks, the movie picked on a bunch of powerful corporations.
(Sounds like my kind of legal department!)
|The President of America addresses
the House of Representin’
“At some point I’m sure somebody flipped out, but I was shielded from all that.”
This is pretty interesting because one common theory is that Idiocracy’s satire of corporations is what sank it with Fox. Yet, Judge’s comment that Fox’s legal department came up with the idea of skewering numerous famous companies seem to lessen the likelihood of that idea.
“They didn’t really give it a release. There was a contractual obligation that they had to put it in 12 theaters and that’s all they did.” Judge talks about how Fox did so little to market the release that they didn’t bother communicating the title to MovieFone, so if you called up trying to find when and where it was showing, the recording referred to “Untitled Mike Judge Project.”
|The Governor of California addresses
the State Senate
“What they told me was that it didn’t test very well, which a lot of movies don’t. Office Space didn’t. … We got 70% very good or excellent, which is a horrible score.” He says that weird movies often get a polite “That was … good” reaction.
He suggests that maybe Fox’s horrible release turned out to be a brilliant strategy to get attention for the movie.
At 35:20, the screen then shows Reihan Salam’s September 29, 2006 Slate
article “The Movie Hollywood Doesn’t Want You to See.” I would estimate about 97% likelihood that Reihan read my September 3, 2006 iSteve posting “Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy:” The movie the Fox studio doesn’t want you to see
.” Also, my review in the October 6, 2006 issue of The American Conservative
came out around maybe September 22. And back on March 26, 2006, I had written a profile
of Judge’s politics, including a preview of the upcoming Idiocracy
I go into this tedious detail because I like to imagine that my one accomplishment
as a movie critic is getting the ball rolling on saving Idiocracy
from oblivion by getting the younger Washington pundits talking about it.
35:30 Judge expresses pride that the word “Idiocracy” has become part of the language. Commenting on the movie’s rise in fame and prestige, Judge says, “Maybe since it came out in 2006 everybody’s gotten stupider?”
(Republished from iSteve
by permission of author or representative)