Louis Theroux is a British documentary filmmaker, whose career has mostly been spent working for The BBC
, first coming to attention with the series Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends
, and continuing that with a series of one-off documentaries produced starting in the 2000s.
Theroux's documentaries mostly take place in America, and usually feature him getting up-close and personal with members of fringe communities, including prisoners, gamblers in Las Vegas, plastic surgery addicts, Neo-Nazis, and perhaps most famously, the Westboro Baptist Church. He very rarely makes actual judgements on those he is interviewing, but at the same time isn't afraid to ask probing questions.
His works include:
- Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends — Ran for three seasons, with three or four two-part episodes each.
- Louis and the Brothel
- Louis, Martin and Michael — Louis actually doesn't get to interview Michael Jackson, although his father, Joe Jackson does get interviewed.
- Louis and the Nazis — About Neo-Nazis in California, specifically Tom Metzger, and singing duo Lamb & Lynx and their mother.
- Gambling in Las Vegas
- The Most Hated Family in America — The first of two documentaries on the Westboro Baptist Church
- America's Most Hated Family in Crisis — His only follow-up documentary to date, again featuring the Westboro Baptist Church, and this time with something of a focus on members who have left the group
- Under the Knife — About the cosmetic surgery industry
- Behind Bars — The first of several documentaries about prisons, in this case San Quentin Prison in San Francisco
- Law and Disorder in Philadelphia, Law and Disorder in Johannesburg and Law and Disorder in Lagos — Mostly about street gangs, with the latter two being rare instances of Louis filming a documentary outside America
- A Place for Paedophiles — Takes place at the Coalinga Facility, a housing and rehabilitation centre in California
- The City Addicted to Crystal Meth — About the commonplace usage of Crystal Meth in Fresno, California
- The Ultra Zionists — Another one that takes place outside America, this time in Israel, and featuring Jewish ultra-nationalists
- Miami Mega Jail — A two-parter, which actually features two different jails in the Miami area, along with a military-style rehabilitation program
- America's Most Dangerous Pets — Mostly about rich people with tastes for exotic pets, particularly large carnivores such as lions and tigers
- Extreme Love: Autism and Dementia — A two-parter about the people afflicted with those disorders, and the various facilities and organizations that have sprung up to help them
- Louis Theroux's LA Stories — A trilogy of documentaries, for which Louis and his family actually moved to Los Angeles.
- City of Dogs — About dog owners in the city, and the lengths they go to in pampering their pets
- Edge of Life — Covers the stories of several terminally ill individuals and their attempts to prolong their lives
- Among the Sex Offenders — Documents the lives of paroled sex offenders living throughout L.A.
- By Reason of Insanity — A two-part look at criminals who successfully used the insanity plea, and are currently housed at a facility in Dayton, Ohio, awaiting potential release.
Louis Theroux's documentaries provide examples of:
- Analogy Backfire: While on the way to a protest during Louis's first encounter with the Westboro Baptist Church, Shirley Phelps-Roper rants about how people think they have some special power just because they're members of the military. Louis points out that Shirley herself thinks that she's special because of her church membership, only for Shirley to proudly agree with him, causing Louis to do a Double Take.
- Anticlimax: The opinion Louis has of a visit by Neo-Nazi leader Tom Metzger to Tijuana in Louis and the Nazis. Prior to the visit (which he gets roped into being the driver for), Louis is worried about the possibility of some sort of ugly, racially-motivated incident taking place. In actuality, 99% of the visit involved Metzger and his agent going around bars, getting drunk and making jackasses of themselves, without doing much of anything out of the ordinary.
- The Apartheid Era: Louis has also visited south Africa, making two documentaries on now-deceased racist Boer leader Eugene Terre'Blanche and the Afrikaaner Broederbund, old-time Afrikaaners yearning for a return to apartheid. He also followed right-wing preacher/politicial leader Dr Ian Paisely on a "safari" to South Africa, hoping to explore links between racist Boers and Protestant extremists in Northern Ireland.
- Beginner's Luck: In his first-ever game of Baccarat near the end of the Las Vegas special, Louis made a profit of $3,000. He attributes this (and making a few hundred dollars from blackjack the previous night) due to knowing when to quit, unlike a lot of the other customers.
- Butt Monkey: During his Las Vegas visit Louis teamed up with two Vegas regulars, John and Tim for a night of blackjack. At the end of it all, Louis was $200 better off than when he started, Tim was about $4,000 worse off, and John ended up losing at least $50,000; possibly even more, since he was still gambling when Louis and Tim went off to get some breakfast. On top of that, his luck was so bad that Louis and Tim went on winning streaks whenever he want to another table, but promptly started losing again when he returned.
- Dark Secret: In the autism episode, one of the main teenagers he interviews brings up Louis's page at Wikipedia, and jokingly reveals several aspects of Louis's past which he didn't exactly want to be made public knowledge (or at least, any more than they already were). Subverted in The Most Hated Family in America when Shirley Phelps-Roper brings up the fact that Louis has had a child out of wedlock, which Louis says he feels no shame in.
- Deadpan Snarker: Louis does this a lot, albeit in a fairly low-key manner, mostly because the people he interviews are actually intelligent to pick up on him doing it and he prefers not to piss them off if he can.
- Godwin's Law: Discussed in Louis and the Nazis, when Lamb & Lynx's mother is having them perform a dance around a swastika marked in tape on their kitchen floor. She argues that the swastika is a good luck symbol and existed for thousands of years before Hitler was born. Louis says that while that's technically true, it's extremely naive of her to think that people won't be offended by it being used by a Neo-Nazi and self-proclaimed Aryan family.
- I Have No Son: A big part of America's Most Hated Family in Crisis, with Steve Drain's daughter Lauren and Fred Phelps's granddaughter (and daughter of Fred Phelps Jr.) Libby having quit the church since the making of the original documentary. With the former the sentiment was very much shared, with her having become an agnostic and admitting she wants nothing more to do with her parents or the church. The latter on the other hand still deeply cares for her family, though admits the chances of ever getting back in the church, even if she wanted to do so, are virtually nil.
- Insane Troll Logic: By Reason of Insanity unsurprisingly features quite a bit of this, though one example that stands out is an inmate who at the time of his arrest thought that his assaulting a police officer on Martin Luther King Day helped Barack Obama win the 2008 election. By the time Louis interviewed him though, he had regained enough of his sanity to realize just how ridiculous that idea actually was.
- Meaningful Background Event: An unintended one happens near the end of The Most Hated Family in America, when one of the younger members of the Phelps family drives Louis and the director/cameraman to a protest. As she pulls up, she admits she's genuinely baffled as to why people react so negatively to the family's protests... and as she speaks, other members of the church unload some signs containing particularly homophobic slogans from a truck in the background.
- Medal of Dishonor:
- On his return visit to the Westboro Baptist Church, Louis finds out that not only have they made a "Louis Theroux in Hell" sign for their protests, Fred Phelps has even called him "one of the biggest workers of inequity in the history of mankind" and even likened him to Pontius Pilate, both of which Louis admits being weirdly proud of.
- When asked about her opinion on The Most Hated Family in America, Shirley Phelps-Roper said that her only complaint was that it wasn't called The Most Hated Family in the World.
- Mixed Ancestry: Louis's father Paul is American whereas his mother Anne is English. This is why he's able to film in America on such a frequent basis. To complicate matters, he was actually born in Singapore (his parents were working there at the time).
- Ms. Fanservice: One of the plastic surgeons' secretaries in Under the Knife had received quite a bit of discounted treatments from her boss, and wasn't shy about showing it off.
- Not So Different: In The Most Hated Family in America and its sequel, Louis notes that he actually has a lot in common with Steve Drain, the Westboro Baptist Church's in-house filmmakernote . On top of that, he notes that the vast majority of the church members actually seem very normal when not involved in protests.
- Reformed Criminal: Several of the prison staffers in Behind Bars and Miami Mega Jail were in fact former jailbirds themselves, who decided to turn their lives around by helping other criminals in the same situation.
- Running Gag: During the Las Vegas episode, Louis repeatedly asked random strangers in the hotel's elevators whether or not they were winning... and needless to say, most of them weren't.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Joe Jackson stormed out of his interview with Louis, after the latter questioned whether Michael Jackson might be in the closet. Also counts as a Rant Inducing Slight, since Louis had previously asked him several far more probing questions about his violent behavior toward his children in their youth.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Louis's opinion of Tom Metzger in the Nazis special, especially during the Tijuana visit when Metzger wandered off for a while, showed up again ten minutes later and then berated his agent, claiming that his status as a "political leader" meant he could be a kidnapping and ransom target, despite Louis noting that it was obvious that none of the locals had the faintest idea who Metzger was, and clearly didn't give a damn about him.