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!'"

10 Surprising Facts About Wham!’s 'Last Christmas'

Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Over the course of his illustrious career, George Michael gave the world many gifts. One that keeps on giving is “Last Christmas,” the 1984 holiday classic by Wham!, Michael's pop duo with Andrew Ridgeley. “Last Christmas” is such a uniquely beloved song that it inspired a 2019 film of the same name. That’s just one interesting part of the “Last Christmas” story. Read on for 10 fascinating facts about this seasonal synth-pop favorite.

1. George Michael wrote "Last Christmas" in his childhood bedroom.

“Last Christmas” was born one day in 1984 when George Michael and Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley were visiting Michael’s parents. While they were sitting around watching TV, Michael suddenly dashed upstairs to his childhood bedroom and composed the modern Xmas classic in about an hour. “George had performed musical alchemy, distilling the essence of Christmas into music,” Ridgeley said. “Adding a lyric which told the tale of betrayed love was a masterstroke and, as he did so often, he touched hearts."

2. “Last Christmas” isn’t really a Christmas song.

There’s nothing in “Last Christmas” about Santa, reindeer, trees, snow, or anything we typically associate with the holiday. Rather, the song is about a failed romance that just happens to have begun on December 25, when Michael gave someone his heart, and ended on December 26, when this ungrateful person “gave it away.”

3. George Michael wrote and produced the song—but that’s not all.

Singers George Michael (left) and Andrew Ridgeley, of the band 'Wham!', performing on stage, July 1986
Dave Hogan/Getty Images

By the time Wham! recorded “Last Christmas” in August (yes, August) 1984, Michael had taken full control of the group. In addition to writing and producing the song, Michael insisted on playing the Roland Juno-60 synth in the studio. “George wasn’t a musician,” engineer Chris Porter said. “It was a laborious process, because he was literally playing the keyboards with two or three fingers.” Michael even jangled those sweet sleigh bells himself.

4. “Last Christmas” didn’t reach #1 on the UK charts.

As the movie Love Actually reminds us, scoring a Christmas #1 in the UK is a really big deal. Unfortunately, “Last Christmas” didn’t give Wham! that honor. It stalled at #2, and to this day it has the distinction of being the highest-selling UK single of all time to not reach #1.

5. George Michael sang on the song that kept “Last Christmas” at #2.

“Last Christmas” was bested on the UK charts by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” an all-star charity single benefiting Ethiopian famine relief. Michael sang on “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” and was so committed to the cause that he donated his profits from “Last Christmas” to helping the African nation.

6. George Michael was sued for plagiarism over “Last Christmas.”

In the mid-1980s, the publishing company Dick James Music sued George Michael on behalf of the writers of “Can’t Smile Without You,” a schmaltzy love song recorded by The Carpenters and Barry Manilow, among others. According to Chris Porter, the recording engineer on “Last Christmas,” the suit was dismissed after a musicologist presented 60-plus songs that have a similar chord progression and melody.

7. "Last Christmas" has been covered by a lot of other artists.

Andrew Ridgeley (right) and George Michael (1963-2016) of Wham! performing on stage together in Sydney, Australia during the pop duo's 1985 world tour, January 1985.
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Jimmy Eat World, Hilary Duff, Good Charlotte, Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Gwen Stefani, and Taylor Swift are just a few of the artists who’ve covered “Last Christmas” over the years. The strangest rendition may be the 2006 dance version by the Swedish CGI character Crazy Frog, which reached #16 on the UK charts.

8. Some people make a concerted effort to avoid hearing “Last Christmas.”

While millions of people delight in hearing “Last Christmas” every year, an internet game called Whamageddon encourages players to avoid the song from December 1 to 24. The rules are simple: Once you hear the original Wham! version of “Last Christmas” (remixes and covers don’t count), you’re out. You then admit defeat on social media with the hashtag #Whamageddon and wait for your friends to suffer the same fate. Note: The rules prohibit you from “deliberately sending your friends to Whamhalla.”

9. “Last Christmas” finally charted in America following George Michael’s death in 2016.

Back in 1984, “Last Christmas” wasn’t released as a commercial single in the United States, and therefore it wasn’t eligible for the Billboard Hot 100 chart. However, Billboard changed its rules in 1998, and in the wake of George Michael’s unexpected death on Christmas Day 2016, the song finally made its Hot 100 debut. In December 2018, it reentered the charts and peaked at #25.

10. George Michael was involved in the Last Christmas movie.

November 2019 saw the release of Paul Feig's Last Christmas, a romantic comedy inspired by the song starring Game of Thrones's Emilia Clarke. Producer David Livingstone came up with the idea while George Michael was still alive, and when he pitched the pop star on the project, he was given the greenlight—with one condition: Michael stipulated that actress and author Emma Thompson write the movie. Thompson co-authored the story and the screenplay, and she even wound up playing a supporting role.

The Origins of 12 Christmas Traditions

Tom Merton/iStock via Getty Images
Tom Merton/iStock via Getty Images

From expecting Santa to fill our footwear with gifts to eating cake that looks like tree bark, the holidays are filled with traditions—some of which are downright odd when you stop and think about them. Where did they come from? Wonder no more. Here are the origins of 12 Christmas traditions.

1. Hanging Stockings

While there’s no official record of why we hang socks for Santa, one of the most plausible explanations is that it's a variation on the old tradition of leaving out shoes with hay inside them on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas’s feast day. Lucky children would discover that the hay they left for St. Nick’s donkey had been replaced with treats or coins when they woke up the next morning. Another story says that St. Nicholas learned of a father who was unable to pay for his three daughters' dowries, so St. Nick dropped gold balls down a chimney, which landed in stockings hung by the fire to dry. But this appears to be a modern telling—traditional versions of the story generally have the gold land at the father's feet after being thrown through a window.

Regardless of what started the tradition, people seem to have realized the need to use a decorative stocking in place of an actual sock pretty early on. In 1883, The New York Times wrote:

"In the days of the unobtrusive white stocking, no one could pretend that the stocking itself was a graceful or attractive object when hanging limp and empty from the foot of the bedstead. Now, however, since the adoption of decorated stockings ... even the empty stocking may be a thing of beauty, and its owner can display it with confidence both at the Christmas season and on purely secular occasions."

2. Caroling

Though it may seem like a centuries-old tradition, showing up at people’s houses to serenade them with seasonal tunes only dates back to the 19th century. Before that, neighbors did visit each other to impart wishes of good luck and good cheer, but not necessarily in song. Christmas carols themselves go back hundreds of years, minus the door-to-door part. The mashup of the two ideas didn’t come together until Victorian England, when caroling was part of every holiday—even May Day festivals. As Christmas became more commercialized, caroling for the occasion became more popular.

3. Using Evergreens as Christmas Trees

Rows of Christmas trees at tree farm on cold winter morning
arlutz73/iStock via Getty Images

Before Christianity was even conceived of, people used evergreen boughs to decorate their homes during the winter; the greenery reminded them that plants would return in abundance soon. As Christianity became more popular in Europe, and Germany in particular, the tradition was absorbed into it. Christians decorated evergreen trees with apples to represent the Garden of Eden, calling them "Paradise Trees" around the time of Adam and Eve's name day—December 24. Gradually, the tradition was subsumed into Christmas celebrations.

The tradition spread as immigrants did, but the practice really took off when word got around that England’s Queen Victoria decorated a Christmas tree as a nod to her German husband’s heritage (German members of the British royal family had previously had Christmas trees, but they never caught on with the wider public). Her influence was felt worldwide, and by 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree. Today, 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. every year.

4. The Colors Red and Green

As with many other old Christmas traditions, there’s no hard-and-fast event that deemed red and green the Official Colors of Christmas™. But there are theories—the green may have derived from the evergreen tradition that dates back to before Christianity, and the red may be from holly berries. While they’re winter-hardy, just like evergreens, they also have a religious implication: The red berries have been associated with the blood of Christ.

5. Ugly Christmas Sweaters

To celebrate this joyous season, many people gleefully don hideous knitwear adorned with ribbons, sequins, bows, and lights. In the past, the trend was embraced solely by grandmas, teachers, and fashion-challenged parents, but in the last decade or so, the ugly sweater has gone mainstream. We may have Canada to blame for that: According to the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book, the ugly sweater party trend can be traced to a 2001 gathering in Vancouver.

6. Leaving Milk and Cookies for Santa

Closeup image of wish list and treats for Santa Claus on table next to burning fireplace
Artfoliophoto/iStock via Getty Images

When we plunk a few Oreos or chocolate chip cookies on a plate for St. Nick, accompanied by a cold glass of milk, we’re actually participating in a tradition that some scholars date back to ancient Norse mythology. According to legend, Odin had an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir. Kids would leave treats for Sleipnir, hoping that Odin would favor them with gifts in return. The practice became popular again in the U.S. during the Great Depression, when parents tried to impress upon kids the importance of being grateful for anything they were lucky enough to receive for Christmas.

7. The A Christmas Story Marathon on TBS

If one of the highlights of your holiday is tuning in for 24 hours of watching Ralphie Parker nearly shoot his eye out, you’re not alone—over the course of the day, more than 50 million viewers flip to TBS. The marathon first aired on TNT in 1997, then switched to sister station TBS in 2004. This Christmas marks the 20th year for the annual movie marathon.

8. Yule Logs

Chocolate yule log cake with red currant on wooden background
etorres69/iStock via Getty Images

Throwing a yule log on the fire is another tradition that is said to predate Christianity. As part of winter solstice celebrations, Gaels and Celts burned logs decorated with holly, ivy, and pinecones to cleanse themselves of the past year and welcome the next one. They also believed the ashes would help protect against lightning strikes and evil spirits. The practice was scaled down over time, and eventually, it morphed into a more delicious tradition—cake! Parisian bakers really popularized the practice of creating yule log-shaped desserts during the 19th century, with various bakeries competing to see who could come up with the most elaborately decorated yule log.

If you prefer a wood yule log to one covered in frosting, but find yourself sans fireplace, you can always tune in to Yule Log TV.

9. Advent Calendars

Technically, Advent, a religious event that has been celebrated since the 4th century, is a four-week period that starts on the Sunday closest to the November 30 feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle. Traditionally, it marked the period to prepare for Christmas as well as the Second Coming. These days, it’s mostly used as a countdown to Christmas for the religious and the non-religious alike.

The modern commercialized advent calendar, which marks the passage of December days with little doors containing candy or small gifts, are believed to have been introduced by Gerhard Lang in the early 1900s. He was inspired by a calendar that his mother made for him when he was a child that featured 24 colored pictures attached to a piece of cardboard. Today, advent calendars contain everything from candy to LEGOs.

10. Eggnog

Eggnog in two glass cups
GreenArtPhotography/iStock via Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would be inspired to chug a raw egg-based drink, but historians agree that 'nog was probably inspired by a medieval drink called posset, a milky drink made with eggs, milk, and sometimes figs or sherry. These were all pricey ingredients, so the wealthy often used it for toasting.

Eggnog became a holiday drink when colonists brought it over from England, but they found a way to make it on the cheap, nixing the figs and substituting rum for sherry. And how about that weird "nog" name? No one knows for sure, but historians theorize that nog was short for noggin, which was slang for a wooden cup, or a play on the Norfolk variety of beer also called nog (which itself may be named after the cup).

11. Mistletoe

Mistletoe has been associated with fertility and vitality since ancient times, when Celtic Druids saw it as such because it blossomed even during the most frigid winters; the association stuck over the centuries.

It’s easy to see how fertility and kissing can be linked, but no one is quite sure how smooching under the shrub (actually, it’s a parasitic plant) became a common Christmas pastime. We do know the tradition was popular with English servants in the 18th century, then quickly spread to those they served. The archaic custom once allowed men to steal a kiss from any woman standing beneath; if she refused, they were doomed with bad luck.

12. Christmas Cards

Exchanging holiday greetings via mail is a surprisingly recent tradition, with the first formal card hitting shelves in 1843. Designed by an Englishman named J.C. Horsley, the cardboard greeting showed a happy group of people participating in a toast, along with the printed sentiment, "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.” A thousand of them were printed that first year, and because it cost just a penny to mail a holiday hello to friends and family (the card itself was a shilling, or 12 times as much), the cards sold like hotcakes and a new custom was born. Today, Americans send around 2 billion cards every year.

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