Silicon Valley returns to HBO for its fourth season on April 23, and in advance of the premiere, The New York Times has run a lengthy profile of creator Mike Judge, the man behind other cult mainstays like Beavis And Butt-Head, Office Space, and Idiocracy. Judge has always been a fascinating figure, both for being a tough nut to crack and for exuding a level prescience that’s rare in Hollywood.
The profile provides fascinating insight into all of the above projects. Judge talks about the former neighbor and co-worker who inspired Office Space’s Lawrence and Milton, respectively. Of Idiocracy, the flop turned prophecy he made in 2006, he says, “I should’ve made it 10 years later and set in the present.” The article also follows several Silicon Valley writers at a garish tech conference, where they’re no doubt gathering material for upcoming episodes. Of the show’s authenticity, the author shares the following:
The portrayal of the tech world on “Silicon Valley” might scan as absurd to anyone outside the industry, but within the valley the show is known and appreciated for its verisimilitude. Not only does it have a technical adviser in the writers’ room and on set; it also has a small research staff. Judge and Berg frequently meet with a network of contacts in the valley for material, in subjournalistic fashion, offering anonymity or compositing as cover to protect their sources. Thomas Middleditch, who plays Richard, told me he gets two responses from people in tech: They either love the show for its accuracy or find it so accurate that it’s too stressful to watch.
By examining Judge’s thoughts on technology and humanity, the piece provides some striking insight into mankind’s struggle to adapt in an ultra-modern era and how that all feeds into our current predicament.
Judge has said that one reliable source of comedy for him is the way humanity simply isn’t prepared for modernity, which ensnares us in vast systems of control in order to sustain itself. What he couldn’t have imagined while making “Idiocracy” in the early 2000s was that technology was about to thrust humanity into an era for which we are even more ill equipped. It was around that moment that Silicon Valley inventions — blogging platforms, social media, YouTube — began sweeping away old orders and gatekeepers in a way that was both exhilarating (because we were more in charge of our destiny than ever before) and mortifying (because we were, well, more in charge of our destiny than ever before). “Idiocracy” was released the same year that Time magazine heralded this new age by naming us all the Person of the Year. A decade later, Donald Trump earned that honor, along with the presidency. If anything can explain the short time horizon on which “Idiocracy” and reality merged — if you believe they have — perhaps it is that technology left us completely, terrifyingly, to our own devices.
Pretty good for the guy who brought the word “fartknocker” into the lexicon.