Shepard Fairey makes Idiocracy-inspired election artwork

The street artist whose Hope artwork became one of the defining images of the 2008 presidential campaign has turned his attention to Donald Trump

If youve seen the hashtags #IdiocracyToday and #PresidentCamacho, youll have realised that the 2006 box office flop Idiocracy is being embraced anew. Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judges sci-fi comedy about a genetically dumbed down America is now being celebrated as prophetic cult classic. Or as Etan Cohen, one of the screenwriters, tweeted in February: I never expected #Idiocracy to become a documentary.

Etan Cohen (@etanjc)


p lang=”en” dir=”ltr” class=”tweet-body”>I never expected #idiocracy to become a documentary.

February 24, 2016

The film has a long-term fan in Shepard Fairey, the street artist who created the famous Hope poster in support of Barack Obamas candidacy in 2008. When the film first came out, he says, and his wife Amanda noticed a correlation between Idiocracy and the real dumbing down of American media we were witnessing even 10 years ago.

Now, as part of a voter education movement he has called Make America Smart Again, Fairey has created limited edition Idiocracy-inspired posters which he will sell on Sunday, timed to coincide with the second presidential debate. The Mondo screen printer poster (designed with one of the movies most famous lines, Its got electrolytes and MASAs tag line What brains crave!) will be available for 72 hours, with all proceeds going to to the League of Women Voters.

Why did the street artist set up MASA? I think that many voters dont understand the issues in a way that is sophisticated enough for them to make good decisions, Fairey told the Guardian. Things are getting quite blurry. The 500-year marathon to the bottom turned out to be a 10-year sprint.

Terry Crews as President Camacho: unnerving parallels. Photograph: Supplied
Idiocracy is set in a dystopian America where a toxic combination of stupidity and consumerism has destroyed the environment and intellectually stunted society. In an Austin Powers-style situation, Joe, an army librarian played by Luke Wilson, is selected for a human hibernation experiment in 2005 and is awakened during the Great Garbage Avalanche of 2505. He soon learns that he is the smartest person in America. But no one will listen to him because he talks like a fag.

The president (played by Terry Crews) is Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, a five-time Ultimate Smackdown champion and porn superstar. Firing off his assault rifle, he declares in his State of the Union address: I know shits bad right now, with all that starving bullshit, and the dust storms [but] I got a three point plan to fix everything!

Meanwhile the country is a wasteland with a nationwide famine brought on by widespread agricultural failure. Crops are hydrated with Brawndo, a Gatorade-type drink instead of water. Brawndos got what plants crave. Its got electrolytes, claims the secretary of state, the much-quoted line that inspired Fairey. The Brawndo corporation owns the FDA and the FCC and their slogan is accepted science. (Last week, one tweeter observed that But hes a successful businessman is the 2016 equivalent to Its got electrolytes.)

The parallels are all too clear, and have been pointed out online through side-by-side clips and mashups of the Camancho and Trumps rabble-rousing bombast. Theres even a Movement to classify Idiocracy as documentary with its own Facebook page.

On Tuesday night, while the vice-presidential candidates debated, Alamo Drafthouse screened Idiocracy in 45 theaters to packed houses across the country. It is all right there, staring you in the face, Tim League, the founder and CEO of the chain said. We are clearly awash in an Ow, my balls electorate a reference to the hit reality TV show within the movie, an assemblage of clips of men getting hit in the testicles.

Last week, MASA held their own screening of Idiocracy. Fairey moderated a discussion with Judge (who also co-created HBOs Silicon Valley), Crews and Dax Shepard, who plays Frito, Joes Costco-trained lawyer.

I love the way humor is used in Idiocracy to make the social critique more digestible, Fairey says. The movie is a harsh but necessary indictment of the anti-intellectual culture and politics that seem to become the norm more and more every day.

The artist says that the films irony is that its a somewhat lowbrow piece of entertainment about the perils of succumbing to a cultural rejection of anything intellectual or highbrow. In other words, the genius of the film is that it may actually get through to the audience it should reach, rather than just preaching to the intellectual elite.

Asked how Make America Smart Again can promote Idiocracy as cautionary tale if it is a non-partisan group, Fairley said, MASA is pro-truth and anti-stupidity, which one could argue is partisan in this election because of Trumps behavior. But lets face it, members of both parties have lied and appealed to the lowest common denominator. The point is that as voters we need to demand better from all the parties and all the candidates.

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