“Basically this series should be called: Man goes around America not really understanding anything”
This is how comedian Jamali Maddix introduces the second season of his documentary series Hate Thy Neighbour on Viceland, and yeah….that does pretty much sum it up!
Maddix takes on the Theroux-esque role of bemused onlooker, shaking his head and watching through his fingers, as a country eats itself in front of him.
His first series mainly focused on race issues around the world, pointedly at a time where politics seems to be hurtling to the far right. Maddix took on idiotic English Defense League members, where Maddix’s accusations of racism are met with the jumbled rationalisation of a toddler caught writing on walls, football fascists, anti-assimilation groups in Israel and New York’s black separatists.
For the second season Maddix is also tackling other troubling issues festering in the US. Issues such as the erosion of free speech to the point of hate spreading, pro-life preachers and the lengths American parents will go to discipline their kids – this was actually the hardest episode for me to watch as young teenagers were locked up in a “correctional facility” for a weekend, screamed at and thrown around by uniformed prison officers until they were reduced to shaking, sobbing wrecks.
And its clear in each episode exactly how confused and lost Maddix is with each issue. By the end of the Prison Camp for Kids episode his utter disgust for one mother is barely hidden from his face. Having witnessed what her child had been through for 48 hours and how much he had been affected, it is not lost on the viewer that when the child’s mother turns up late to collect him, barely able to muster a shrug of interest, Maddix is straining at the bit to confront her.
But Maddix keeps an almost friendly distance throughout his meetings, he musters a level of respect for stomach turning people that is quietly powerful, there is something rather great about someone that will always go high when others go low, and Maddix does this with aplomb. He comes across as a bit of a lad, an East End boi, easy going and affable. Like Theroux he is able to befriend and lull people into a loose lipped, relaxed mode where the most rotten viewpoints drip forth, he is then able to turn to the camera and go: “look, this is what people are thinking and feeling and doing – its REAL”.
One of his greatest assets however, that Maddix plays to his full advantage, is his ambiguous ethnicity and background. There is nothing greater than watching dullard bigots fall over themselves trying to place him into a group, utterly confused by him and hoping that he falls outside the criteria for their specific brand of hate because they have genuinely warmed to him. It is truly a thing of beauty.