Reviews of Dark States (2017) and related work

Dark States (2017Moving picture)

Louis Theroux (cast).

Seen in 2018.

Theroux directs his blank stare into the pits of opioid addiction in Huntington (“Heroin Town”), trafficking in Houston (“Trafficking Sex”) and a murder hotspot (“Murder in Milwaukee”). In Milwaukee, he investigates the unexplained death of a young man, father of four by four different mothers.

They’re all pretty terrifying but Milwaukee takes the cake: A perfect confluence of racism, hereditary poverty, bad education, police bias, hatred of the police, easy access to firearms, high testosterone and a toxic culture of masculinity. The latter also appears among the subjects of trafficking, who say they want a strong (violent, intolerant, aggressive, acquisitive) pimp to look out for them.

References here: The Trade (2018).

moving picture non-fiction series

Altered States (2018Moving picture, 3.0 hours)

Louis Theroux (cast).

Seen in 2019.

In “Love Without Limits”, mostly IT workers in Portland apply polyamory. In “Choosing Death”, sick people with painful diseases commit planned and peaceful suicide. In “Take My Baby”, babies are adopted—or not.

Portland has Louis wearing the same shirt throughout the shoot, including at a burlesque costume party and a D&D game, and participating in a sensuous eating event where he’s so shocked he actually proceeds beyond his normally fixed facial expression. He’s paradoxically less shocked by the Final Exit Network in “Choosing Death”, the strongest entry by far.

One FEN representative claims that hardly anybody would want to live with dementia, arguing that dementia is fundamentally different from a disability. That argument is not substantiated, but apart from this one dubious point, the FEN makes a strong showing. Without hiding the complexities of depression, guilt and sorrow, the dying patients also make a strong case for physician-assisted suicide laws like the California End of Life Option Act, despite Theroux’s dithering.

moving picture spin-off non-fiction series

Louis Theroux: Forbidden America (2022Moving picture, 175 minutes)

Louis Theroux (cast).

Seen in 2022.

In “Extreme and Online”, spectacular far-right trolls live on donations from their fans and obfuscate their political beliefs. In “Rap’s New Frontline”, Florida trap rappers make bad life decisions and bask in the adoration of underprivileged children. In “Porn’s Me Too”, both sides of a generational divide in pornography debate consent.

“Rap’s New Frontline” is similar to the Milwaukee episode of Dark States, but it’s more focused on the concept of desperately trying to get rich by promoting getting rich, specifically to do so by selling drugs and killing people for respect. This system obviously rewards the worst in people and seems to determine their moral values, which are on par with the invading Saxons’. “Porn’s Me Too” has the advantage of being a documentary over the fictional Pleasure (2021).

“Extreme and Online” is the standout here though. It’s a very good examination of the calculated use of wacky humour, zest, spectacle and online echo chambers to promote bad behaviour, partly for the sake of neo-nazism, but that too is evidently a money-making scheme that brings out the worst in people.

moving picture spin-off non-fiction series