“I mean, in a way Idiocracy kind of looks optimistic right now,” Mike Judge tells The Daily Beast by phone from his Los Angeles office.
Last month, Judge received his 12th Emmy Award nomination, this one for directing the fourth season finale of Silicon Valley (more on that in our full Q&A coming later this week). But while that show may be a bona fide hit for HBO, it is his cult favorite film Idiocracy, released in 2006 to little fanfare and even worse box office receipts, that still somehow feels like his most relevant and prescient work.
Judge’s story is about an America that has devolved so much it elects as president a former professional wrestler and porn star named Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, played by Terry Crews, 500 years in the future.
It only took a decade for the country make reality TV host and former WWE guest star Donald Trump leader of the free world. And now some see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the Democratic Party’s best hope to beat him in 2020.
“Camacho almost seems like a more pleasant person,” Judge says, comparing his fictional president to Trump. He may not have a very big vocabulary and is prone to spewing profanity, but at least we never see President Camacho pander to neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
During the 2016 election, Judge and his Idiocracy co-writer Etan Cohen, came up with an idea to create a series of parody campaign ads starring Crews’ Camacho. Unfortunately, Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, which still owns the film and its characters, declined to give them permission. It didn’t help that the ads were being billed as explicitly anti-Trump, despite Judge’s insistence otherwise.
In retrospect, it’s unlikely that ads highlighting the similarities between Trump and a man who emerged from a cloud of fog to address the nation as loud guitars wailed in the background would have changed anyone’s minds. They may have even made Trump’s voters like him more.
“Sometimes I think it’s going to be OK and sometimes I don’t,” Judge says of Trump’s first 200 days in office. “I think the media loves to create hysteria over anything. And I wish people would calm down a little more. But the problem is, you have a president who just loves to tweet crazy stuff.”
At the height of the 2016 campaign, Judge says he was “trying not to imagine” that the dystopia he had created on screen could become reality. But as he told The Daily Beast a year ago, “every other Twitter comment I get is about Idiocracy, and how it’s a documentary now.” Before Trump won, he called the parallels “surreal” and a “tad bit scary.” Now, he sounds genuinely concerned.
“I mean, the fact is, he is the president,” Judge says, hopeful that Trump is less like President Camacho than he seems on the surface. “I want good things for the country. I don’t want to be the one that predicted something horrible that then happens.”