The Friday Afternoon Movie: Louis Theroux: America’s Most Hated Family In Crisis

Before we begin, can I just ask you to look at that title. Do you see it? See how it overflows its banks, cascading down onto a second, blissful line? Nadya recently changed the headers so that we can do that. Have you any understanding of how wondrous this is? Do you have any idea how difficult it was for a grandiloquent fuck like myself to pare down my excessive verbiage to fit on one line? My post titles are going to run a paragraph long for weeks I expect.

Alright, that’s enough. I can see that you are entirely too enthused about the little bit of web coding. It’s time to bring you down a few notches; somewhere closer to a normal state of hopelessness and despair. To that end, The FAM present America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis Louis Theroux’s hyperbolically titled follow up to The Most Hated Family in America, both done for the BBC. The titular family is that of Fred Phelps, alleged drug addled abusive husband and father, who heads the Westboro Baptist Church, the Evangelical church, and pop music parodists, infamous for their picketing of, among other events, the funerals of American soldiers. Theroux’s previous visit had taken place 4 years ago, and since then, a number of members had left the church, including one of Fred Phelps’s sons.

Both of these documentaries (I was unable to find the first in its entirety to link here) are stunning for the ignorance on display. Like Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s 2006 documentary, Jesus Camp, Theroux presents a group of people whose bigotry is presented as devotion to divine scripture. Phelps and his ilk manage to out-crazy the participants in that film, if only because of how vociferous their dogma is, how naked their hatred for anything or anyone that differs from what they believe, and how complete and thorough its grip is on them. Perhaps the most disturbing scene in the entire hour is when Theroux interviews Grace, the youngest daughter of Shirley Phelps, accompanied by three other family members to make sure he doesn’t try to corrupt her with his words, speaking for her so that her answers may more closely align with the church’s teachings.

In the end, I suppose it winds up being more voyeuristic than anything, playing to a morbid fascination with just how far the depths of idiocy can go, just how awful people can be. Still, it serves to remind us that, yes, there are people who walk this Earth who really think this way and who, for the time being, are not going anywhere.

8 Responses to “The Friday Afternoon Movie: Louis Theroux: America’s Most Hated Family In Crisis”

  1. Viktor Says:

    I think the film hits the exact note it was trying for: can you not feel a bit of sympathy or pity for these horrible wretches?

    I, for one, think they deserve none of the hate they’ve been given and far more pity. They’re clearly incredibly deranged and simply trying their best to do right according to their fucked-up mindsets. The counter-protesters simply feed right into the fantasy structures they’ve concocted- how long do you think they’d last if they were met only by sad stares and signs asking if they need a hug?

    Try to put yourself in their shoes (I know, horrifying thought, but bear with me. We can sympathize with serial killers, we can sympathize with these people) and think of what would be the right course of action. The Phelps clearly are set into thinking that telling everyone that they are going to Hell, in the most forceful way possible, is the only way to be good people. There is no reason for them to go to all this effort to preach and spout hatred, even by their dogma- they will go to Heaven whether or not they tell others how to. They are only doing what they do out of (to them, remember) the goodness of their hearts.

    Their fucked-up, brainwashed hearts.

    I dunno, Devil’s Advocate here and all that. Still. I think everyone has heard about them already and, at least for me, you can only stay hateful and bewildered at something for so long before it turns into apathy at an ineffable existence or pity at one you’ve come to understand too well.

  2. Andy Says:

    Hard to believe that they’re doing all of this in good intentions, it would be so much easier to feel some measure of pity for them if that were the case. As it is, the message that they putting forward seems overwhelmingly tainted with spite and hatred and it would take a far better person than me to react any other way but in kind.

  3. rubyredshoes Says:

    I love Louis Theroux, if there is somewhere on the interweb where I can watch all of his documentaries I would right now….

    Although I don’t doubt that these people are really quite messed up (and the people in similar documentaries) I sometimes wonder about how they are “framed” in them. Do these documentaries give us a complete picture of what their lifestyles are like or just point figures at them like animals in a cage?

    I’d really like to see an unbiased approach to these types of documentaries, just because their lifestyles are so different to ours and beyond our understanding doesn’t necessary make them wrong.

  4. Stephen R. Smith Says:

    The adults in this are entitled to their crazy. They’re old enough to make their own decisions, and while I think they’re complete lunatics, they have the right to their opinions, and the First Amendment gives them the right to share. I do wonder where the line is between exercising free speech and the spreading of hate propaganda.

    What makes me want to vomit is what they’re doing to their children. They’re effectively isolating them from anyone else that doesn’t share their viewpoint, and effectively making them targets and putting them in harms way. These kids have no defense against what’s happening to them, no one is protecting them or giving them any choice. That, I think, is disgusting.

  5. phil Says:

    This movie make me think of the philosophical reasons Grant Morrison wrote “The Filth.”

  6. phil Says:

    *”made” or “makes” Not “make” –Curse my inability to proofread!

  7. joe moran Says:

    “Before we begin, can I just ask you to look at that title. Do you see it? See how it overflows its banks, cascading down onto a second, blissful line?”

    Ross, can’t see that at all. Can anyone else on their browsers? Not sure what you’re talking about now. Hello?

    C O M E IN R O S S…

    Did you see the spaces between “C” and “O” ? and the not spaces between “I” and “N” ?!?!?

    Is this reality?

  8. see saw Says:

    Theroux’s second go at Westboro is srrictly for tourists.

    Meanwhile, Louis, recycling the usual, available oddball,
    has yet to turn those BBC state propaganda arm cameras
    on ANY of the ‘Big Boys’.

    Fact is, Louis needs to expose and unfold their agenda
    —Gobalism (cultural subversion and destruction) and EUGENICS
    (world population extermination —uh, we meant ‘easing’).

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