Friday, 17 March 2017

Louis and the Nazis and Nazi Pop Twins- In praise of Louis Theroux

Except for a bit of Kate Chopin once in a while, I haven't read much literature recently. I've been watching films, especially documentaries, and have 2 new heroes. 
One is Kieslowski. 
The other is Louis Theroux. He's just brilliant. I've just watched some of his extreme documentaries, like The Most Hated Family in America and America's Most Hated Family in Crisis about the Westboro Baptist Church, or Louis and the Nazis about skinhead leader Tom Metzger and some other Neo-Nazis. Louis Theroux approaches his subjects, open about who he is and what he believes in, but he has the ability to make people talk, and reveal themselves. After watching Louis and the Nazis, I watched the follow-up Nazi Pop Twins by James Quinn, and the weaknesses of Nazi Pop Twins only show how much better Theroux is. He states his beliefs from the start, whereas James Quinn manipulates his subjects, and whilst Theroux comes close to his subjects and wants to understand them, including the ones with most extreme, hateful thinking, Quinn always seems to draw a line, to keep a distance from his subjects, and with too much voice-over stating his own opinions, seems to want his audience to react in a certain way to the people in Nazi Pop Twins instead of letting his subjects reveal themselves and leaving the freedom to the audience. 
Moreover, in his films, Theroux is calm and cool, and always polite. That doesn't mean he hides his stance. 1 of my favourite Theroux moments is in Louis and the Nazis, when 2 Neo-Nazis keep asking whether he's a Jew, and he refuses to answer, because it doesn't matter- it's scary for some time, because they insist on it and express their contempt and hatred of Jews, but he sticks to his principles. But he's always polite and calm. He has a faux-naive persona, like he doesn't know anything, and in that way makes people talk. When Theroux disagrees, he does it by asking questions and suggesting, and trying to make people think and see the faults of their arguments or their own inconsistencies. That again is another difference between him and Quinn. Nazi Pop Twins falls apart in the last, say, 15 minutes. Quinn becomes overtly critical, and openly attacks the woman in the film. 
But what I love most about Theroux is that, when he makes films about people who are "different", especially those with hateful point of view and rhetoric, he always tries to find the humanity in his subjects. And that's wonderful. 

Bonus: Here is an article I've just come across that praises Louis Theroux. 


  1. A guy I worked with went to the same primary school as Theroux, so when he became famous, John (who shares his name with a Tudor poet but is not famous) emailed him and asked him to come for dinner. Much to John's surprise, Louis said yes and was a charming guest.

    I tend to find his wide-eyed innocent interview style a bit jarring in it's disingenuousness, but he has done some very interesting work.

    Not read much of his Dad's stuff either. So little time, so many bukks.

    1. I suppose if you watch a lot of Theroux and don't "love" him then you might feel that way, and get fed up with him, or something, but yeah he has done some very interesting work. The extreme stuff.