10 Smart Facts About Idiocracy

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Over a decade after its original release, Mike Judge's Idiocracy is still garnering headlines. Judge described the film's accuracy as "scary," and co-writer Etan Cohen said that he "never expected Idiocracy to become a documentary." The movie starred Luke Wilson as Joe Bauers, an Army librarian who takes part in a military hibernation experiment with a prostitute named Rita (Maya Rudolph). They wake up 500 years into the future, where everything is dumbed down and highly commercialized and Joe is now the smartest person in the world. In honor of the film's 10th anniversary, here are some facts about the dystopian comedy.

1. A VISIT TO DISNEYLAND SPARKED THE IDEA.

Though Mike Judge had been jotting down some ideas for a movie about evolution as far back as 1995, the idea that would become Idiocracy all came together in 2001—on a trip to Disneyland, of all places. Judge and his daughters were waiting in line at the Alice In Wonderland ride when, according to Judge, "Somebody behind me had a stroller and two little kids and her and this other woman with two little kids was passing by. I guess they’d had an altercation and they just start getting in this cussing match with each other, just, you know, ‘bitch’ this. But you know, just yelling and like ‘I’ll kick your ass' ... and I was just sitting there thinking wow, the Disneyland of that was envisioned, way back in the ’50s and, to right now.”

Judge asked Etan Cohen (Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill) to work with him on the screenplay. “It was almost like film school, except Mike Judge was teaching the class," Cohen said.

2. TERRY CREWS HAD TO AUDITION FIVE TIMES.

Terry Crews was up against some "big, big names" to land the role of President Camacho, according to the actor. "I met with Mary Vernieu, the casting agent, and it took me five different auditions but I just nailed each one," Crews said in 2010. "I was like, 'I am Camacho.' It got to the point where I was like, 'Dude, if you find somebody better just give it to him.' I literally told them that."

3. THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER HELPED JUDGE AND COHEN PREDICT THE FUTURE. (AND THE FUTURE WAS CROCS.)

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"One of the big things was Crocs," Cohen remembered. "Our production designer [Darren Gilford] had everyone wearing Crocs in the movie. We didn't even know what they were. Mike was like, 'You'd have to be an idiot to wear these!' By the time the movie came out, everyone was wearing them."

4. SOME OF THE FUN GRAPHIC ELEMENTS WEREN'T SCRIPTED.

Some of the logos, like Brawndo and Carl's Jr.'s new aggrieved look, were from Cohen and Judge's script, but graphic designer Ellen Lampl—working with Darren Gilford and the other designer—came up with the rest, like Nastea and FedExx. Lampl described the logos seen within the film as "A visual vernacular fusion of NASCAR, candy packaging, Mexico hand-painted signs and Japanese pop culture."

5. JUDGE WAS SURPRISED THAT SO MANY COMPANIES ALLOWED THEIR NAMES TO BE USED IN THE FILM.

Carlton Cigarettes and Wal-Mart didn't allow for their logos to be mocked, but everyone else did. Judge thought there was "no way" they were going to be allowed to lampoon most of the other companies mentioned in the script, until the studio's lawyers helped him. Judge recalled that when he talked to them about Starbucks clearance issues, the lawyers said, "Well, it would help if you didn’t pick on just one company and if you did more than one." Based on that advice, Judge and Cohen added the red light district which included Starbucks with the likes of H&R Block's Tax Return and Relief. "I couldn’t believe it all cleared," Judge admitted.

6. IT TOOK A WHILE FOR THE STUDIO TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO MARKET THE MOVIE.

Once principal photography on the film was finished, Judge and 20th Century Fox had some disagreements on a few key points, including how to best market the movie. "They're just overthinking it, which is what they always do," Judge told Esquire of the studio's issues with determining just the right way to market the film, including its trailers. "It's just dragged on way too long—a good seven months longer than Office Space (1999). I could have made another movie after I locked the picture before this one comes out."

7. IN THE END, THE STUDIO ESSENTIALLY BURIED THE FILM.

In the end, the studio's marketing team didn't create much fanfare around the release of Idiocracy. They didn't send out any press kits, and Wilson and Rudolph didn't do any press for it. After sitting on the shelf for a year, Idiocracy was finally released on September 1, 2006—but only to 130 theaters, none of which were located in big markets like New York or San Francisco. It made $177,559 during its opening weekend, and just $444,093 throughout its brief theatrical run. The New York Times published some theories as to why the film didn't have a wider release, with one blogger positing that, “some of the sponsors may well have been unhappy with the way their products are placed, and made some phone calls to higher-ups.” A Fox spokesman said the decision came down to an executive decision from the chairman of the studio. Some believed the studio did the bare minimum required to fulfill a contractual obligation with Judge requiring his movie to have any sort of theatrical release before being sold to DVD. In 2009, Judge himself told the Los Angeles Times that he thinks the studio learned from Office Space and simply opted to not waste their money marketing it.

8. AN ERROR WITH THE MOVIE'S TITLE MAY HAVE LED TO EVEN FEWER AUDIENCE MEMBERS.

According to Dax Shepard, who played Frito Pendejo, even moviegoers who wanted to see the film might have had trouble finding it. "Even in the theaters it did come out in, they didn’t list it correctly with Moviefone," Shepard told The A.V. Club. "I remember that was a big issue. They had listed it as 'Untitled Mike Judge Comedy' with Fandango, so even people who wanted to go see Idiocracy couldn’t find it."

9. FOR A TIME, YOU COULD HAVE BOUGHT SOME BRAWNDO!

In 2007, about a year after the movie's release, graphic designer/Omni Consumer Products founder Pete Hottelet—whose company turns pop culture products into realities—teamed up with Redux Beverages, creators of Cocaine energy drink, to produce 10,000-plus cases of Brawndo energy drink. Hottelet's key mandate was that the beverage needed to contain electrolytes and had to be "alarmingly bright green."

10. THEY WERE GOING TO MAKE ANTI-TRUMP ADS.

During the 2012 election, Terry Crews resumed the role of President Camacho to make some fun election ads. Crews, Judge, and Cohen had planned to do the same again this year, with a series of Camacho-starring, anti-Donald Trump ads—but 20th Century Fox would not allow them to proceed. "It kind of fell apart,” Judge told The Daily Beast. "It was announced that they were anti-Trump, and I would’ve preferred to make them and then have the people decide. Terry Crews had wanted to just make some funny Camacho ads, and Etan [Cohen] and I had written a few that I thought were pretty funny, and it just fell apart. I wanted to put them out a little more quietly and let them go viral, rather than people announcing we’re making anti-Trump ads. Just let them be funny first. Doing something satirical like that is better if you just don’t say, ‘Here we come with the anti-Trump ads!'"

5 Simple Ways to Upgrade Your Green Bean Casserole

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Green bean casserole became a fixture of Thanksgiving spreads shortly after Dorcas Reilly invented the dish in 1955. The classic recipe, which includes Campbell’s condensed cream of mushroom soup and French’s French fried onions, is a sacred piece of Americana—but there's nothing stopping you from playing around with it this Thanksgiving. Just brace yourself for skeptical looks from your more traditional relatives when these variations hit the table.

1. USE HOMEMADE FRIED ONION RINGS.

Green bean casserole typically calls for crispy fried onion bits from a can—and that's fine if you're pressed for time on the big day. But if you're looking to make your casserole taste unforgettable, it's hard to beat to fresh onion rings fried at home. Homemade onion rings are more flavorful than the store-bought stuff and they provide an eye-popping topper for your dish. If you're interested in making onion rings part of your Thanksgiving menu, this recipe from delish will walk you through it.

2. ADD SOME GOUDA.

This recipe from Munchies gives the all-American green bean casserole some European class with shallots, chanterelles, and smoked gouda. Some family members may object to adding a pungent cheese to this traditional dish, but tell them to wait until after they taste it to judge.

3. LIGHTEN IT UP.

As is the case with any recipe that calls for a can of creamy condensed soup, green bean casserole is rarely described as a "light" bite. Some people like the heavy richness of the dish, but if you're looking to give diners a lighter alternative, this recipe from Food52 does the trick. Instead of cream of mushroom soup, it involves a dressing of crème fraîche, sherry vinegar, mustard, and olive oil. Hazelnuts and chives provide the crunch in place of fried onions. It may be more of a salad than a true casserole, but the spirit of the classic recipe is alive in this dish.

4. MIX IN SOME BACON.

Looking to make your green bean casserole even more indulgent this Thanksgiving? There are plenty of recipes out there that will help you do so. This "jazzed-up" version from Taste of Home includes all the conventional ingredients of a green bean casserole with some inspired additions. Crumbled bacon and water chestnuts bring the crunch, and Velveeta ups the cheesy decadence factor to an 11.

5. TURN IT INTO A TART.

If your Thanksgiving menu is looking heavy on the side dishes, consider making your green bean casserole into an appetizer. This green bean and mushroom tart from Thanksgiving & Co. has all the flavors of the traditional casserole baked on an easy-to-eat tart. A tart is also a tasty option if you're looking to repurpose your green bean casserole leftovers the day after.

9 Not-So-Pesky Facts About Termites

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Termites get a lot of hate for chewing through buildings, but the little creatures are far more interesting—and ecologically valuable—than we often give them credit for. Unless, of course, you’re Lisa Margonelli, the author of Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Terminology, a new book that explores their amazing world. Here are nine facts about the highly social—and occasionally pesky—insects that we learned from the book.

1. THERE ARE FAR MORE TERMITES THAN PEOPLE ON EARTH.

Termite queens live up to 25 years, and can lay somewhere around 30,000 eggs a day. As a result, a single mound can be home to millions of individuals at a time. While the numbers vary from study to study, scientists estimate that the biomass of all the termites in the world is at least as great as that of humans.

2. MOST TERMITES AREN’T PESTS.

Of the 2800 named termite species in the world, the majority have no interest in eating your house. Only 28 species are known to chow down on buildings and infrastructure. Most are actually very beneficial to their ecosystems, clearing dead wood, aerating the soil with their intricate tunnel systems, and enhancing plant growth. Researchers have found that contrary to being pests, networks of termite mounds can help make dry environments like savannas more resilient to climate change because of the way termite mounds store nutrients and moisture, among other benefits.

3. TERMITES ARE GOOD FOR CROPS.

Termites can help make soil more fertile. In one study, researchers in Australia found that fields that were home to ants and termites produced 36 percent more wheat, without fertilizer, compared to non-termite fields. Why? Termites help fertilize the soil naturally—their poop, which they use to plaster their tunnels, is full of nitrogen. Their intricate system of underground tunnels also helps rainfall penetrate the soil more deeply, which reduces the amount of moisture that evaporates from the dirt and makes it more likely that the water can be taken up by plants.

4. TERMITES HAVE VERY SPECIFIC ROLES IN THEIR COLONY.

Each termite colony has a queen and king termite (or several), plus workers and soldiers. This caste system, controlled by pheromones produced by the reigning queen, determines not just what different termites do in the colony but how they look. Queens and kings develop wings that, when they’re sexually mature, they use to fly away from their original nest to reproduce and start their own colony. Once they land at the site of their new colony, queens and kings snap off these wings, since they’ll spend the rest of their lives underground. Queens are also physically much larger than other castes: The largest type of termite, an African species called Macrotermes bellicosus, produces queens up to 4 inches long.

Unlike their royal counterparts, most workers and soldiers don’t have either eyes or wings. Worker termites, which are responsible for foraging, building tunnels, and feeding the other castes in the nest, are significantly smaller than queens. M. bellicosus workers, for instance, measure around 0.14 inches. Soldier termites are slightly bigger than workers, with large, sharp mandibles designed to slice up ants and other enemies that might invade the nest.

5. TERMITES ARE ONE OF THE FASTEST ANIMALS IN THE WORLD.

Apologies to cheetahs, but termites hold the record for world’s fastest animal movement. Panamanian termites can clap their mandibles shut at 157 miles per hour. (Compare that to the cheetah’s run, which tops out at about 76 miles per hour.) This quick action allows tiny termite soldiers in narrow tunnels to kill invaders with a single bite.

6. TERMITES ARE SKILLED ARCHITECTS.

In Namibia, quarter-inch-long termites of the genus Macrotermes can move 364 pounds of dirt and 3300 pounds of water each year total in the course of building their 17-foot-tall mounds. Relative to their size, that’s the equivalent of humans building the 163 floors of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, no cranes required. And that’s not even the tallest termite mound around—some can be up to 30 feet high. More impressively, termites cooperate to build these structures without any sort of centralized plan. Engineers are now trying to replicate this decentralized swarm intelligence to build robots that could erect buildings in a similar fashion.

7. TERMITES BUILD THEIR OWN AIR CONDITIONING.

Some termites have developed an incredibly efficient method of climate control in the form of tall, above-ground mounds that sit above their nests. Organized around a central chimney, the structures essentially act as giant lungs, "breathing" air in and out as the temperature outside changes in relation to the temperature inside. Thanks to these convection cycles, termites keep underground temperatures in their nest between roughly 84°F and 90°F.

8. TERMITES ARE FARMERS.

Humans aren’t the only ones cultivating crops. Termites farm, too. They’ve been doing it for more than 25 million years, compared to humans’ 23,000 years. Some species of termite have evolved a symbiotic relationship with Termitomyces fungi, growing fungus in underground gardens for food. When they fly off to create a new colony, termite queens bring along fungus spores from their parent colony to seed the garden that will feed their new nest. Foraging termite workers go out and eat plant material that they can’t fully digest on their own, then deposit their feces on the fungus for it to feed on. They can then eat the fungus. They may also be able to eat some of the plant material after the fungus has sufficiently broken it down. The mutually beneficial relationship has led some scientists to suggest that the fungus, which is much larger in both size and energy production than the termites, could in fact be the one in control of the relationship, potentially releasing chemical pheromones that lead the termites to build the mound they live in together.

9. TERMITES ARE MICROBIAL GOLD MINES.

As scientists begin to understand the huge role that micobiomes play in both the human body and the rest of the world, termites provide a fascinating case study. About 90 percent of the organisms in termite guts aren’t found anywhere else on Earth. In their hindgut alone, they host as many as 1400 species of bacteria. These microbes are so efficient at converting the cellulose-rich wood and dead grass that termites eat into energy, scientists want to harness them to make biofuel from plants.

Want to learn more about termites? Get yourself a copy of Underbug on Amazon for $18.

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