It is Louis Theroux's 37th birthday today! For those of you who have no idea who Louis Theroux is, you can read about him here, and then I advise you to watch his documentaries. He is a first-class presenter and broadcaster.
When I was 39 weeks pregnant with my oldest child, the furthest I could get to was the couch, so we rented a gazillion DVD's from our local DVD store on Emek Refaim in Jerusalem (how I miss Jerusalem!), and among them were some Louis Theroux documentaries. After that, I was hooked. He covers off-beat cultural subjects, and his style is extremely dry and witty.
He describes his objective as being:
Setting out to discover the genuinely odd in the most ordinary setting. To me, it's almost a privilege to be welcomed into these communities and to shine a light on them and, maybe, through my enthusiasm, to get people to reveal more of themselves than they may have intended. The show is laughing at me, adrift in their world, as much as at them. I don't have to play up that stuff. I'm not a matinee idol disguised as a nerd.
But my feeling is that he is being too modest. We just now finished watching his documentary on Nazi skinheads, and I was blown away by the way that he handled himself and the thugs who surrounded him. He spent a week living amongst a group of white supremacists, and followed the movements of the leader of the White Aryan Resistance. Although it is clear that the people whom he exposes are on the fringe of society, and will never have any power or influence in the States, it is still scary that they exist.
The leader of the White Aryan Resistance, Tom Metzger, aired his views to Louis about "Niggers," and when asked by Louis why he called them that, and why he hated them so much, his response was: "Because they are ugly." Tom, who is a balding, overweight man with no redeeming physical features said in all seriousness that he believed himself to be better looking than Denzel Washington, and that he could easily get more women than him. At that point, Louis suggested that Tom was delusional, a comment which didn't endear him to the Nazi.
At one point, he went to see some skinheads in their home, and after sitting and talking with them for a few minutes, one of them asked him if he was Jewish. The skinhead claimed that Louis looked Jewish. Louis refused to answer the question, and said that if he were to tell him whether he was Jewish or not, he would be sending out a message that his religion makes a difference, and he wasn't prepared to do that. You really have to watch the documentary to get the full effect. Louis was surrounded by four or five heavyweight Neo-Nazis who started taunting him, and calling him "Jewboy." When Louis asked them what they would do if he told them he was Jewish, one skinhead replied, "I would throw you out of here, and beat you up, and leave you to die." But Louis still wouldn't tell them. I really admired him for that. He could have told them that he was non-Jewish - which he is - but instead he took a stand against these pigs.
I am in a giving mood - I just found the video on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me9f66yEKuk. It is worth watching. Then go read the 8 pages of comments from people on Youtube who watched the video, and supported the Nazi stance, and it will reinforce the feeling that this world is truly messed up.
Non sequitur, Louis bears a striking resemblance to a friend of mine, Raphael Freeman. Don't you agree?