Jack Adams

March 6, 2018

Professor Ramos

Rhetorical Analysis Paper

The Rhetorical Aspects of the Movie “Idiocracy”


The movie Idiocracy makes a number of arguments regarding actions we as a society are making today, that will possibly, greatly, affect the way we are as a society in the not so distant future.

The movie is set five-hundred years into the future where life as we know it has changed drastically. The main character, Joe, is chosen for an army experiment where he is to hibernate for one year. Due to an unfortunate series of events, Joe sleeps for five-hundred years and awakens to a world that is ravaged by garbage and stupidity.

The movie itself has the central purpose of making fun of our current society, its decisions, and the possible consequences of those decisions. It also gives a sense of hope that there is always the possibility of a hero coming along to save the day.


The Ethos of Idiocracy

The ethos of the movie Idiocracy is grounded in the way the movie is presented to the viewer. From the beginning, to the end of the movie, the film has a narrator who moves the viewer from scene to scene explaining the primary problem depicted within each scene.

The narrator’s voice is deep and rhythmic as well as quite convincing. The narration is without emotion but does have a tinge of sarcasm at certain moments.  It is the narrator who gives the film credibility. His voice is what assists the films creator in getting his point across to the viewer; that the world is headed for intellectual disaster.

The Pathos of Idiocracy

            The pathos of the movie Idiocracy is embedded in pity the viewer feels for the main character Joe as he is dumped into a future where he is unable to communicate with the people of the time because they are too stupid to understand him. The pathos is also present in the sympathy the viewer feels for the world itself as it is depicted to exist in the future, and sorrow the viewer feels due to the fact that the movie is actually believable.

The movie Idiocracy is a comedy, and like most comedies, it has a message imbedded between the funny moments. The primary message being that the world is declining with regard to the collective IQ and this idea will be the downfall of our society. The pathos of the film is that the film itself, while making the viewer laugh, also makes the viewer a little sad because so much of the film is true to our present social and political experience.

The Logos of Idiocracy

            The logos of the film Idiocracy is embedded in the logic of the argument presented in the film itself. From the opening narration to the end of the film where the main character, Joe, a completely average person in our time, is declared the smartest person in the world, the film has a logical story line that makes the film believable.


The viewer is persuaded to believe the storyline as presented by the narrator. The narrator interrupts the flow of the film in order to add a logical pattern to the random acts of stupidity occurring from scene to scene.

The Power of Advertising (Sports Drinks)

When the main character, Joe, asks for a glass of water he is laughed at by the people of the future. The people of the future don’t drink water; they only drink “Brawndo – The Thirst Mutilator – It’s got Electrolytes”. The people of the future are also on the verge of starvation because they think that since “Brawndo” is good for them it must be good for plants.


The people of our time are bombarded with advertising that seeks to convince consumers that certain products are good for them. One recent study with regard to sports drinks concluded that “consuming a sports drink will improve performance”, but that “there is little evidence that any one sports drink is superior to any of the other beverages on the market” (Coombes and Hamilton 181). Unfortunately, for today’s sports drink consumer, every sports drink claims to be the best. In the movie, there is just one drink left for all of society; Brawndo. Therefore, for the people of the future it must be the best for them and for everything requiring liquid to survive.

The arguments made in today’s world of advertising are very convincing; especially to those whose level of intellect makes them more susceptible to the methods used by today’s advertisers to sell their products.

The Trouble with Garbage

When the main character in the movie Idiocracy awakens from his 500 years of hibernation, he awakes lying in a huge pile of garbage. In actuality, the world is a huge pile of garbage that has been piling up over the centuries due to the fact that society has become too “stupid” to deal with all of the garbage that people have generated over time.

As the movie suggests, the less intelligent, and motivated, portion of our society are adept at ignoring the issue of garbage. This is clearly visible when visiting and area, of any city, where the less fortunate live. The dirtiest areas of any town are the areas where the unemployed and uneducated reside.


Waste management is an issue today and has been an issue for quite some time. Dealing with the issue of human waste, nuclear waste, and industrial waste are just a few of the challenges related to garbage, in general, that our society is faced with during our current age. It is almost believable that centuries from now our world could be covered with the waste our societies have generated over the previous centuries.  One recent study stated that “solid waste management is a challenge for the cities in developing countries mainly due to the increasing generation of waste” (Abarca Guerrero, Maas and Hogland 220). The movie suggests that as the population increases, we will need solid intellectuals capable of dealing with the complex issue of waste management.

Our Falling IQ’s

The opening fifteen minutes of Idiocracy focuses on the idea that America is getting “dummer” with each successive generation. The film starts with an interview of a professional, educated couple, and a caption of their “high” IQ’s in the corner of the screen. The couple explains the various reasons why they are not “ready” to have children. Meanwhile the film flashes to another character, “Cletis”, who not only has a very low IQ, but has impregnated both his wife and neighbor numerous times. The film essentially depicts the “professional” couple’s family tree dying out while “Cletis” family tree is growing like a weed.


Surprisingly, there is research that confirms this very scenario. One researcher looked at fertility differences among various groups within a society and how birth rates among these various groups might affect the long-term economy of that society. The author explains that “bright, well-educated women of all races are having fewer children, a phenomenon that may affect national productivity and the gene pool” (Hernstein 72), thus confirming the premise of the movie Idiocracy; as the intelligent have less children, and the “morons” breed prolifically, society will experience a downfall.

The Corporations are Taking Over

The only vendor in the entire film Idiocracy is Costco. The film depicts Costco as the only surviving retailer in the future. Once again, the film does comment through this depiction on the influence that large companies are having on our current economy.

In the film Costco is depicted to have everything; including a time machine which costs billions of dollars to use. It is said to have been built “by a really smart guy” who lived a long time ago. Unfortunately, when Joe arrives at Costco the building is so large that he is unable to find the time machine.


Companies like Walmart, Amazon, and Costco are pushing out smaller retailers and grabbing larger portions of the overall market share every year. One recent study, regarding Amazon, discusses the fact that “at Amazon.com we use recommendation algorithms to personalize the online store for each customer” (IEEE Computer Society 76) thus attracting customers to the personal online experience and away from traditional store fronts. As the movie suggests, as shoppers are pulled away from the smaller shopping experience the only surviving company will be giant retailers like Costco.


Although set in the future, the movie Idiocracy presents numerous rhetorical aspects of our current society as well as social issues that seem to be becoming more apparent with each successive generation. The movie itself is quite humorous, but the problems the movie presents are all too real.

The films ethos, pathos, and logos all make the film believable through the use of a narrator to add emotion and logic to the flow of the film. The producer’s use of product placement, advertising, and large retail dominance of the market, all lend a relevance of the film to the world of today. Additionally, the focus on our endless societal generation of garbage as well as our habits with regard to the proliferation of our species, make the future aspect of the film a possibility.

Works Cited

Abarca Guerrero, Lilliana, Ger Maas and William Hogland. “Solid Waste Management Challenges for Cities in Developing Countries.” Waste Management (2013): 220-232. Journal.

Coombes, Jeff S. and Karyn L. Hamilton. “The Effectiveness of Commercially Available Sports Drinks.” Sports Medicine (2000): 181-209. Journal.

Hernstein, RJ. “IQ and Falling Birth Rates.” Atlantic (1989): 72 – 79. Journal.

IEEE Computer Society. “Amazon.com Recommendations: Item-to-item Collaborative Filtering.” IEEE Internet Computing (2003): 76 – 80. Journal.

Annotated Bibliography

Abarca Guerrero, Lilliana, Ger Maas and William Hogland. “Solid Waste Management Challenges for Cities in Developing Countries.” Waste Management (2013): 220-232. Journal.

This article discusses the challenges that large cities around the world are facing, and will face in the future, with regard to disposing if the ever-increasing amounts of garbage generated by their populations is never dealt with. It discusses the various processes that developing cities are using to manage waste around the world. I use this source in my article when covering one of the most influential themes in the movie idiocracy which is waste pollution. This quote supported my paragraph in how as the populations increase, generations of waste material will continue to increase as well unless we do something about the issue. This article was a reliable source when explaining the issue of waste pollution.


Coombes, Jeff S. and Karyn L. Hamilton. “The Effectiveness of Commercially Available Sports Drinks.” Sports Medicine (2000): 181-209. Journal.

This article looked at the effectiveness of sports drinks on athletic performance. It found that drinking a sports drink before exercise does increase performance. It also found that no one particular sports drink is better than another when it comes to increasing athletic performance. I use this source in my article to make a point about how every sports drink company claims to have the best sports drink. In the movie Idiocracy, a drink called Brawndo ended up overpowering every other sports drink that had existed as if it were the best for you. This is a reliable source that talks about sports drinks and whether or not they can actually improve your athletic performance.


Hernstein, RJ. “IQ and Falling Birth Rates.” Atlantic (1989): 72 – 79. Journal.

This article looked at the varying degrees of fertility (birth rates) among different groups of women throughout the country. It found that educated women, of all ages, are having fewer children than those women who are uneducated. The article expresses concern with regard to the intelligence, and the economic contribution, of future generations due to the over-breeding of the less intelligent. I used this source in my article by covering the birth rate issue in idiocracy. It worked perfectly because this is an article that covers the real-world concern. I found this to be a reliable source for current birth rates and the gene pool.


IEEE Computer Society. “Amazon.com Recommendations: Item-to-item Collaborative Filtering.” IEEE Internet Computing (2003): 76 – 80. Journal.

This article looked at the computer algorithms that web based companies, like Amazon, use to attract shoppers and how they use past searches to market products to online shoppers. It also discusses how online retailers will continue computer algorithms in the future to boost sales. I used this source in my paragraph to discuss the retailer theme in the movie Idiocracy. The movie suggests that giant retailers like Costco will eventually overpower smaller shopping stores and take over the shopping industry. This is a reliable source because it talks about how Amazon uses algorithms to consistently attract customers based off of their personal searching interests.