The past few instalments from the franchise of Louis Theroux have been somewhat off the mark, his tact has become more judgemental and opinionated and the subjects seem a little obvious. I wonder if this is apersonal affliction I have with the programmes as I grew up loving his Weird Weekends series, even going to the lengths of reading the book. Now I am older and a little wiser perhaps the subjects I then found fascinating are actually a little too cliché.
With so much focus on America this judgemental angle results in the show becoming almost a fun poking at the USA and its society, pointing out how the British system is the correct and right way. Louis could be seen as doing the job of Morgan Spurlock and Michael Moore but from a questionable angle which doesn’t involve his own culture. Although Louis is himself half American I think it is fair to say that he fully represents ‘Britishness’, through his accent, education, appearance and the fact he works for the BBC.
America’s Medicated Kids aired last Sunday and lacked any particular substance beyond light entertainment on the scale and quality as one of Channel 4’s Body Shock or Mind Shock documentaries. It consisted of Louis spending time with three families who have children on cocktails of drugs for ADHD, OCD, Aspergers etc. and then questioning the parents as to if they’re doing the right thing. The whole thing seemed to ultimately boil down to the simple conclusion that the parents were subduing their children because they couldn’t cope with them. The main boy (Hugh, I think) was a ten year old whom Louis clearly connected with. The boy seemed like a highly intelligent and in tune boy with a few social problems which Louis concluded were Aspergers symptoms. Although all the children seemed perfectly normal it is truly impossible to judge as they were all on drugs at the time, unless we saw them without drugs we are unable to have a true opinion. So, manipulation aside, nothing can be drawn from this experience except that the children seem relatively normal whilst on drugs.
Of course the main aim of this documentary was to point out the general drug culture within America, and it is only here that someone can be described as having ‘a family history of bipolar’. In Britain the only thing you have a family history of is visible life ailments such as heart disease and glaucoma. Louis also made a point of emphasising that the mother of Hugh was a highly educated woman and not, assumingly in Louis opinion, stupid like most Americans. Fundamentally there was nothing to prove anything harmful about the medication or any evidence to it being detrimental to the child’s lives, so we ask, Louis, what were you trying to tell us?
I question how long Louis can continue broadcasting already known phenomena’s of American culture whilst still holding an audiences attention. It would be surprising if he wasn’t in the Far East in the next few years finding a slightly more exotic culture to analyse. All this when there must be plenty of interesting subcultures within Britain itself to be explored. Maybe we’ll just have to wait and see.