The Most Hated Family in America (TV Movie 2007) Poster

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Funny at times, yes, but still difficult to watch without anger
Shattered_Wake11 October 2008
Originally, due to a deep and endless hatred of Fred Phelps and his congregation, I didn't think I would be able to watch this film without punching a hole through the TV or tearing my hair from my head. But, I was in a good mood (which I increased more by a few pints of Boddington's), so I figured I should give it a watch and see if I can get through it.

Funnily enough, I don't think I even needed a mood boost. While, yes, the Phelps are a truly despicable and condemnable family and Fred Phelps is one of the few men that I would personally no problem wishing death upon, British journalist Louis Theroux presents these horrible people in such a way that seamlessly blends their disgusting hatred with some smooth and hilarious humour.

Regardless of the humour and comedy that is sewn into the film, it is difficult to watch (especially to those who vary from their opinions. . . which is about 99.8% of people I've met) and takes some self-control to handle the issues. Theroux does a fantastic job of fairly allowing the Phelps family to speak their minds about the issues without seeming smug or mean, and makes it clear that while is obviously against their message, he wants them to have a fair chance to express themselves.

To anyone looking for an interesting documentary, regardless of your views, I highly suggest this one.

Final Verdict: 9/10

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Enjoyable in the way Theroux's films usually are, but also upsetting and a touch disturbing too
bob the moo25 April 2007
The Westborough Baptist Church believe that America is condemned by God because of its acceptance of homosexuality and rejection of His true teaching. The members of the church are overwhelmingly from one family – the Phelps family under the tutelage of Pastor Phelps – father or grandfather to many of the group. In an attempt to understand why they are so hated and try to get a grip on their beliefs, Louis Theroux spends several months with them at their home, talking to them as individuals and joining them on their pickets at the funerals of dead soldiers, whom they believe are dead because God is punishing the US.

Louis Theroux has made a name for himself in seeking out the weird and the wonderful characters and scenes in the world and managing to get close to them, using his affable and harmless manner to often reach the heart of the people and let them show more than they intended. And so it is here with the Phelps family – a group that we start out seeing as a group of religious cracks but gradually become more and more upsetting as the film goes on. The film does a great job of exploring its subjects and Louis effortlessly brings a lot out of some of them.

Of course it is not hard to get them to come over as hatemongers who have fixated on one sin and one teaching from the bible and are seemingly ignoring the rest (regardless of the defence that it is the "elephant in the room") and Louis just lets them preach at him. However he also nudges them to talk with mixed results. Pastor Phelps is a waste of five minute of film but the mother is interesting in her immobility in her position. Where he has much more success is with the children because they are quite normal people despite these views. He gets them talking and his style rewards the viewer by drawing out the slightest touches of doubt and a belief that seems to stem more from repetition and, dare I say, brainwashing than it does from a considered thought process and understanding. It disturbing to see because it is hard to escape the belief that the children genuinely have no chance. I suppose it is no different from those born into violent families, abusive families, overly protective families and so on – but it still doesn't make it easy viewing.

Fans of Theroux will love it and the casual viewer will find that the subjects are difficult to fail to be engaged by. Enjoyable in the way Theroux's films usually are, but also upsetting and a touch disturbing too.
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Managing to do a good job of portraying this sick clan without coming off as mean spirited or smug
MartinHafer30 December 2007
This was a wonderful documentary for British television about the Reverend Fred Phelps' family and their crusade to make pretty much everyone outside their sick little cult hate them! I say wonderful because while these are very vile people, the interviewer manages to come off as very decent and caring towards some of the most unlovable and nasty people on Earth! He is able to put a human side on the group and extensively interviews Phelps family members. Fred himself is mostly absent from this documentary (for more of him, try watching FALL FROM GRACE) because he was just so incredibly surly and rude that getting more than a smattering of abuse was all the poor interviewer could arrange!!

The Phelps cult, if you are unaware of them, is from Topeka, Kansas and is world famous for their hateful protests--most notably, at soldiers' funerals but also at churches, synagogues and the like across America. Their protests consist of holding up very hateful signs indicating that God is happy that Americans die because we and the rest of the world tolerate homosexuality (in other words, because gays aren't killed outright by society, God will destroy us). Within their tiny cult of about 60 members, there is no mention of God being a God of love or forgiveness. Instead, He is all wrath and hate--and their signs are full of provocative phrases such as "God Hates America" or "Thank God for IEDs". Lovely sort of people, huh?! But the documentary goes beyond just portraying their sick message by trying to humanize, somewhat, the family and show the emotional and psychological toll this message of hate has upon them--and in particular, the children. Fascinating and a great insight into some scary and thoroughly despicable people. I really commend the crew and especially Louis Theroux for a remarkable and exciting documentary.
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putting the mental in fundamentalist
movieman_kev8 April 2007
One thing I got out of this documentary about the small group of wrong-minded hateful cultish people of the Westboro Baptist Church. A group that constantly rails against Homosexuals, the military, and America in general, was not hatred of them, but a feeling of great sadness especially for the little children of the flock, who have absolutely no clue what it's all about yet, but are still indoctrinated enough that one can feel that none of them have a chance in life anymore. Documentarian Louis Theroux does a remarkable job staying semi-objective while still trying to open some of the groups eyes a little. Not seen in the film proper, but as an appendum on the BBC site, Theroux shares a story of how during a picketing of a milittary man's funeral, the members of this group, told the daughter of the man that just had died, that her father is now in hell. That is a very good barometer of how evil these people truly are.
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Oh My Lord
MacCarmel5 December 2012
The Phelps family protested across the street from my daughter's high school and the students responded with hundreds of kids on the other side of the street. The Phelps family was restricted by police, the students were respectful and didn't engage in name calling or violence and it all dissipated in the news. This was three years before I saw this documentary. I had been aware of the Phelps family for 15 years before that but this documentary really brought their lunacy front and center. "What's Wrong With Kansas" -- Indeed. These people, and many more like them in the Midwest (my roots) are what is wrong with America. I don't doubt for an instant that they believe in the purity of their cause. But they are dead wrong. From a religious standpoint, an ethical position, a moral position, and a political position. These people and their supporters are what is making America a laughingstock to the rest of the world. I pity them.
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The Most Interesting Yet Disturbing Documentary I've Ever Seen
user-864-1927757 December 2013
Louis Theroux decides to visit "America's Most Hated Family": the Phelps family. The members of the Phelps family started and are part of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Their central belief contains extreme ideologies, including that God hates America because of their acceptance of homosexuality and the military. They are known to protest with picket signs that are very bold and utterly deplorable. I found this documentary very hard to watch, for every word that came out of the Phelps family sent a chill down my spine. I was never aware that these kind of extremists are out there in this world. It's very ironic how this family believes that they are "obeying God's words", when actually they are doing and showing the opposite of Christian teachings. Whatever they said, they were taking Bible verses and twisting them from what they really mean. What I saw as most disturbing was that they would teach their next generation that God hates America, and that homosexuals are "fags". I simply have one question. Who are they to judge whether or not God hates America? As a Christian, I was very disturbed watching this documentary. The Phelps family says that God hates and condemns all people of America. However, in the Bible, it states 66 times that God loves his children. Yes, we have sinned and yes, we are not perfect, but it does not mean God hates us.

I liked how Louis Theroux went outside his comfort zone to interview many of the people to make a more interesting documentary. However, it seemed as though he was serving into the people's mouths that what they were doing is wrong. I wished he went in with a little more empathy. Then, we could have gotten more information about their views, instead of them just defending themselves over and over. If you want to watch an eyebrow lifting documentary, I recommend this. However, if you do not want to see a disturbing documentary that will most likely want you to punch the screen, then this is not for you. Overall, I would give this documentary a 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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Really disturbing, stupid ignorant people!
TheEmulator232 August 2007
I found this film/documentary to be truly disgusting, and the people involved in this so-called "Church," to be just the opposite of what Christianity is supposed to be. Before I go any further, I don't believe in the lifestyle that homosexuals have, but at the same time I don't hate them either. I also was raised in the church although I am no longer active in it, and was taught that homosexuality is wrong. I am mixed on the whole gay debate or whatever it is called. Just as the bible says, "He without sin, cast the first stone." I despise the fact that these people are so pathetic/purposeful-less in their lives that they go to funerals of those that have lost members in their family protesting the U.S.A. and their policies. My feelings are that it is terrible that all these children believe in this crap too, because they don't know any different. My biggest complaint is that this "Church" hates the United States so much, well then they should get the hell out of here! They are an insult to all TRUE Americans and are a big reason why so many hate us! I am glad that none of these people have friends outside of their disturbing Hate group/CULT. I just hope that the children someday think for themselves (it's doubtful) and realize that HATE isn't the answer. This was truly well done, and the interviewer is one of the best in the business, and would like to see more of his work here in the States. An overall truly disturbing look at some of the screwed up people here in the U.S.
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An absolute amazing documentary
jim7774223 April 2009
This is one of the most amazing documentaries I have ever seen. It is sad, terrifying, and from a foreigner's perspective - one great reason not to live anywhere near Kansas.

No matter what you think of the Phelps' family though, one thing you have to agree: they stand up for what they believe in. What this documentary doesn't address is: why such a group can even exist in modern day society? They accuse all and sundry of being "fag-enablers". Basically any person or group (or country) who even vaguely supports homosexuality is off to hell. And that's what they proselytise. They don't hate those people - they just inform them that god hates them.

People accuse them of "hate crime" but the atheist reporter was given nearly a week's access and they were (nearly) all very pleasant and friendly to him. I found that remarkable.

His interviewing skills were brilliant. Very similar to our own Andrew Denton.

But back to the original question. How can such a group even exist? Well unfortunately the bible says everything the Phelps' preach. You cannot accuse them of hypocrisy on that front. So anyone who believes the bible also must accept the Phelps' position. It must be a terrible conflict for christians out there. Because those very US Christian values have "enabled" the Phelps family to exist. The US is a "Phelps enabler".
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Exacting *and* heartfelt documentary filmmaking
rzajac4 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is an example of the best that a documentary film can be.

It has an "on-the-fly" sort of feel, but you realize as it rolls out that a lot of pains were taken.

It's hard to imagine someone doing a better job of capturing on film the amazing phenomenon which is this peculiar species of religiosity finding full, unalloyed expression in this church family. As a teenager, I dabbled in fundamentalism, and the most amazing thing was how I found this film to be nostalgic. People may watch this and thank god such folks are in such a tiny, inbred minority, but they'd be jumping to a self-satisfied conclusion. The specific, extreme behaviors of the Phelps clan may be isolated to the Phelpses, but the underlying subservience to doctrinal purity on display is way, way more prevalent in American society than is comfortable to admit.

For example, we're treated to the spectacle of a tiny kid who quite painfully, obviously doesn't really know what the heck he's picketing. This may shock you... but guess what? If you're reading this in America, there is, probably within about 30km of where you're sitting right now, a church where they're planning or enacting a "baptism" ritual on kids who are too young to have the foggiest what they're really doing. That's not all that far-flung from what you see happening to kids in this flick.

*** SPOILER AHEAD *** Perhaps the most amazing thing is how Theroux finds a chink in Fred Phelps' armor. He asks Phelps, "How many children do you have?" and Phelps adroitly--or so he thinks--shrugs it off as unprofessional and irrelevant. But come to find out, it was a theological question after all--and Phelps dodged it. Furthermore, he dodges it by retreating behind a facade of stony, patriarchal isolationism. So, maybe there's hope for the old man, after all! One begins to suspect that the flinty hearted man of doctrinal exactitude act is just a shtick, and it could be a matter of time before he comes around and learns to accept and love again.

Perhaps that's the moral of the story--but I wouldn't bet on it. The greatest likelihood is that he'll go down cursing.
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And they actually believe that hate?
haphazard7213 October 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This was a good documentary and I think Louis and his crew should be commended for their efforts. It must've been hard to immerse himself in their lives and not feel angry. Would love to see and hear his thoughts and reactions at the end of each day of filming...

As for the the family, it just scares me that they believe all this hate. This is a cult, it's not a church.

I listen got their brainwashed messages and just shudder. But I shudder for the kids who clearly have no clue what they're saying or protesting about- that was obvious when they tried to explain their beliefs to Louis.

Worth the watch, but be prepared to be a bit saddened, angry and dismayed- all rolled into one.
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Five Year Old Bigots
tedg2 March 2008
I accidentally saw this on a plane. I don't usually watch TeeVee shows, what with all the compromises you have to make.

One of those compromises is the subjects that the market demands be chosen. We're trailer park critics. We like to find people with lives so obviously honked around that it makes us feel better about our own only slightly less feeble foundations. Often its a broken celebrity trapped by excess. Just as often it is some group similarly captured. In this case its excess in the opposite direction.

These people are obsessed by sex. They are so obsessed that sex means fornication (the word having power only because it was used in the King James translation) and that means homosexual fornication. This is presumed to be widespread and to consist primarily of babyraping or similar unknown devilish things. Everyone not in the group are coconspirators, so they blame us all, and especially the military.

Its bizarre, and we allow ourselves to smugly follow these nitwits, this cult. Its embarrassing that this is how we choose to entertain ourselves.

Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
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