After gracing our screens for over 17 years with fantastical broadcasting magic, covering a wide range of topics from the world of porn, to investigating those facing impending death, it is fair to say we can now crown Louis Theroux as the king of documentaries (if such title were to exist, of course).
With three prestigious awards under his belt, including two prized BAFTA Awards, can we now add Theroux to the long list of British National Treasures? (Try not to think about Nicholas Cage too much when examining this question). In my opinion: yes.
Surprisingly, in recent years, Theroux’s work has touched base with a lot of younger viewers and although he has essentially become a meme within the internet world, his thought-provoking documentaries seem to be really resonating with the teenage generation.
Let’s begin with a short overview of Theroux’s journalism career so far, which saves you browsing his ever-so-reliable Wikipedia page for hours on end. He started in the US, and worked as a writer for an alternative free weekly newspaper called Metro Silicon Valley in California, shortly after he was hired by Spy magazine; a satirical magazine based in New York City until he finally followed a route of broadcast journalism. After having worked on Michael Moore’s (the guy that did that really good documentary Bowling for Columbine) TV Nation as an off-beat correspondent Theroux was signed on to a development programme with BBC in 1995 and the birth Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends ensued shortly after.
There are two things to blame for this. Firstly, the growing popularity of Netflix. Yes, that website you forget you pay £7.99 a month for, has propelled Theroux upon the screens of today’s youth. The greater access to Theroux’s work has led us teenagers to take a look into the intellectual television our parents undoubtedly watched in the 90s and 00s, and has eventually persuaded both generations to watch Theroux’s present day documentaries together.
Secondly, since joining the BBC, Theroux’s gentle and informal approach has pleased audiences of all ages and it’s this method used by Theroux that has effectively exposed the contradictions and fatal flaws of those with seriously held beliefs. The country’s admiration of Theroux’s style is a clear indication of his work’s success, I mean, everyone really loved the time he slated the Westboro Baptist Church for imposing their ideals on children who weren’t even fully aware of the consequences, because it just gave us all more reasons to hate them. And lest we forget the time Theroux embarrassed Tom Metzger, America’s most profound and dangerous racist, when minimal people turned up to his neo-nazi rally. Lets be honest; it’s awfully enjoyable to see people who discriminate minorities voluntarily embarrass themselves on national television, and Louis Theroux is always the one to do this, simply by urging them on with a few investigative questions.
But Louis’ much-loved technique is not only effective when it comes to shaming those who favour hierarchy and supremacy. A lot of Theroux’s documentaries have touched base on many sensitive issues, such as brain injury, autism and pedophilia and it’s the perceptive approach by Theroux that often aids us in understanding such serious subjects in greater detail.
It is the brave conquests on Louis Theroux that not only make him popular with our generation, but with the whole nation. After questioning Theroux’s ‘National Treasure’ status I naivley doubted that I would ever be back tracking on my initial views. Louis Theroux is not Britain’s Newest National Treasure but rather has been since 1995, and will continue to amaze documentary viewers for as long as he graces our screens.
Words by Georgia Hinson