Fast Food, Globalization, and the Decline of Human Intellect
By Jordi Gaton
Private Joe Bauers is a very dedicated army library veteran, who has made it his mission to contribute as little as possible to the army and to be the most nondescript person in existence. Average according to every metric and test, Joe suddenly finds himself awake in 2505 after a 500-year cryogenic experiment gone wrong. As he slowly gains consciousness, he finds himself in a dystopian world rife with filth and bright bold advertisements abounding on every building and street corner. For the 500 years in cryogenic sleep, “the intelligent became an endangered species” and natural selection failed, allowing for humans to become lazier and revert to their more primal selves. Now individuals, like Frito Pendejo, and the rest of humanity waste away on their couches consuming buckets of processed Carl’s Junior fast food and suck down Brawndo (Gatorade) from their la-z-boys watching the hit new show “Ow! My Balls,” as humanity rapidly declines around them. In this world, Joe, the most average man of 2005, is the smartest man in the world and may be the world’s only hope to solve the crop failure problems and mass starvation of 2505. Joe’s quest to combat stupidity and to return humanity’s ability to produce and prepare food by non-processed means also satirizes contemporary society’s growing dependence on globalized food markets and processed, fast food.
Fast food is simple, quick, and mind-numbingly delicious. Most importantly it takes out any thought or stress that may be associated with the preparation of food. One person grows the soy, another slaughters the cattle, and you the consumer simply fulfill the simple act of mastication to absorb the minimal nutrients that this food posses. In Idiocracy, Mike Judge feeds on this negative association between fast food and lack of effort to fuel this cautionary fiction of humanity’s inevitable devolution at the hands of both globalizing forces. This devolution is contrasted with the growth of both fast food and global chains, as represented in the devolution of “Fuddruckers” in Figure 1 and Figure 2. After the cutting-edge human cryogenics project falls to the wayside, it is quickly replaced by an American fast food chain Fuddruckers. The devolution of this restaurant’s name seen with side-by-side shots helps to establish both the timeline of the story and represent the decline in intelligence of the human population. The lack of maturity and base enjoyment that the human populace gets from this restaurant’s vulgar name acts as satire to demonstrate the destructive effect that globalization will have on an unwitting American populace.
The director Mike Jones further cements this connection between fast food and a lack of intelligence by portraying many people from 2505 consuming fast food pried from grease-filled buckets reminiscent of KFC’s chicken bucket and sipping either beer or Brawndo (this reality’s Gatorade substance, Figure 3). In observing these links, it becomes clear that the director wishes to criticize modern society’s current obsession with the production and consumption of fast food as lacking the intelligence and culture that non-processed food contains. The hope for a better future therefore lies with the reclamation of local food production and cooking methods lost to the rise of globalization. In order to accomplish this, however, Joe Bauers and the next smartest man in the world, President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, must use their brainpower to figure out how to grow crops.
After rising to the challenge, Joe Bauers makes the groundbreaking statement to the president’s staff that they need to use water instead of Brawndo ( Figure 3 ) to water the plants. Met with incredulity, the staff replies “Water, like in the toilet?,” “But Brawndo has electrolytes; it’s what the plants crave.” After many hours of debate, Joe uses his superior intellect to delude the group into believing that he can talk to plants, so that they will start to water all of the crops. In this outrageous exchange, Mike Jones satirizes how globalization fuels a growing lack of appreciation for both the origins of food and of vital resources like water.
With Coke and other soft drink consumption rising within both American and global markets in 2005, the director challenges the viewer to consider whether or not foods and drink prepared in such a processed and mechanical manner force individuals to lose interest or respect for the origins of food. Perhaps the solution to this societal issue lies in the average person watching this film, who like Joe, must learn to understand that they play a vital role in policing global society as a consumer. Idiocracy, therefore, challenge the viewer to wake up and be skeptical towards the parts of society that both scientifically and objectively harm the public health of the world. The burden to advance society does not solely lie on the shoulders of the future Einsteins, but rather it relies on the collective determination of society to challenge and prevent the adoption of maladaptive behaviors.
Judge, Mike. Idiocracy. Twentieth Century Fox, 2003.