Louis Theroux Recalls The Mistake He Made When Meeting A Trans Prisoner For TV Doc
Like many of us, legendary filmmaker Louis Theroux has spent lockdown binge-watching old shows; in his case, however, he has been going through the archives of his own films for his new documentary, Louis Theroux: Life On The Edge.
In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, however, broadcasters have been forced to hold up a mirror and assess old shows and films by today’s standards; a process that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Louis.
‘It feels like the world’s moved on and all cultural norms have changed. And it feels like maybe there’s moments that don’t feel quite right, or feel like they would be phrased differently now,’ Louis told UNILAD, adding that he thinks they’ve been ‘quite careful to address those’ in his new show.
The filmmaker has met all kinds of weird and wonderful people throughout his impressive 25-year career, and has spent time with people with all kinds of extreme views. But even he has been forced to reconsider the way in which he has engaged with people, as well as the language he has used in his previous work.
‘There’s moments where because of the nature of sensitivities now, and how much more educated we are, the conversation would take place in a different way,’ he explained.
Louis remembered his Life Behind Bars series, which is touched upon in episode three of Life On The Edge, where he spent time in a series of US prisons. In one episode, he was told he would be meeting a prisoner called Bradley Worledge, who was due for release soon. When he was introduced to the inmate, however, she was a trans woman, who introduced herself as Deborah.
‘I arrive at the cell and I’m told that this person is called Deborah,’ he recalled. ‘And Deborah comes out with long hair and with a kind of traditional feminine affect.’
And I say, do you consider yourself a woman? And she says, ‘yes, I’m a trans woman now.’
It is completely in the context of the time, kind of unexceptionable exchange, but now I would have phrased it properly.
‘Do you identify as a woman?’ Oh, you use a different language.
The filmmaker went on to discuss the way the use of the N-word has changed over the years; an issue that was recently brought to light when thousands of people complained to the BBC after a White news reporter used the racial slur in a report about a racist attack.
‘I think usage of the N-word is is kind of interrogated much more. Like I’ve done stories about neo-Nazis, but also in prisons and jails where the N-word has been bandied around,’ he said. ‘And each time that’s used, clearly there’s a huge responsibility to figure out whether it’s really justified.’
Louis’ new show looks back at some of his finest work, as the 50-year-old catches up with some of the interesting characters he’s met along the way.
The first episode of Louis Theroux: Life On The Edge airs on BBC2 at 9pm on Sunday, September 6.
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