Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Must-Watch

I recently stumbled upon the best documentary I've seen in a long time. From BBC2, it's about the Westboro Baptist Church, you know, the "God Hates Fags" people who have been protesting at soldiers' funerals. In it, Louis Theroux, who got his start in TV journalism on Michael Moore's TV Nation, goes and lives with the Phelps (the family who composes 90% of the church) for three weeks. There's lots of the bizarre in here——from "Gramps," the pastor, yelling "YER GONNA EAT YER BABIES!" during a sermon to the family picketing a hardware store that sells Swedish vacuums because the Swedish government had recently arrested a pastor who spoke out against homosexuality—and Theroux is the perfect reporter. Maybe it's because he looks like a slightly hotter version of Mo Rocca, is polite in that way only Brits can be, or because he adopts an air of sincere concern and bafflement throughout, but you can see that the family (the teenaged girls, especially) seem to really take a shine to him, even as they happily tell him he's going to burn in hell.

The best thing about this documentary, though, is that it goes beyond the "look what freaks these people are" angle to really examine cultures of hatred and how they can be passed down to children. When you watch the 7-year-old trying to explain what the "Fag Troops" sign his 6-year-old sister is holding means, or the girls say they don't have any friends or boyfriends and never will, it's easy to see them as victims of some kind of Philip Zimbardo–esque experiment on human cruelty. They believe because they've been conditioned to believe, and when Theroux tries to challenge their beliefs he's met with nothing but nonsensical argument. After finishing these videos (it's broken into a series of 7 on youtube), I just felt pity for these people, which released me from the hatred I've felt for them since the first time I saw the words "God Hates Fags" in the 90s. And that, I think, is the ultimate revenge.

The Most Hated Family in America (youtube)
An interview with my new crush, Louis Theroux (who, incidentally, is the cousin of sexy actor Justin Theroux, from Mulholland Drive and Six Feet Under)

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