Probably the most over-rated movie last year, in my opinion, was Borat. While the movie had its moments, I simply do not understand the phenomenon, the tendency of people to proclaim it the best comedy ever. It just wasn’t that funny. Not to me, anyway. It was Jackass for pseudo-intellectuals.
And I’m sorry, I have to agree with Hitchens. What struck me on watching the movie was not how racist and intolerant Americans are, but how polite they were to someone who was himself bigoted and obnoxious. In the famous rodeo scene, they become uncomfortable as his boasts become nastier; the obnoxious frat boys drive him across the country, give him free beer and try to talk him out of his Pamela obssession; the Southern hosts put up with his appalling behaviour with more grace than any liberal would. Borat has allowed a lot of obnoxious, self-important writers to sneer at the rest of America. But I think it’s much more illustrative of their own arrogance.
By contrast, I just recently watched Idiocracy, the latest Mike Judge movie to be abandoned by the studio. The movie is no Office Space, but it’s at watchable and at least as good as Borat. Somehow, 20th Century Fox found a way to inflict Garfield II, Deck the Halls, Fantastic Four, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, and Big Momma’s House II on the innocent unsuspecting public while this movie remained on the shelves.
I’m not sure I buy the underlying hypothesis of Idiocracy, for reasons that are too involved to go into now. But as a vicious nasty satire of our anti-intellectual culture and corporate America, the movie is deadly accurate.
I actually have the opposite take of Judge on the Culture of Idiocy. I think the popularity of shows like Jerry Springer and Jackass (and Borat) is more reflective of the increasing intelligence and education of Americans, rather than the opposite. It allows people to look down on their inferiors, a process which used to involve just looking out the window.
On the other hand, the bizarre and frustrating popularity of this guy makes me wonder if Idiocracy is a too optimistic.