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The Cult of Louis Theroux: Icon Analysis Using Social Data Entertainment

Entertainment By Becky Jones on August 10th 2017

Despite not having any major pieces of work out since 2015 (My Scientology Movie), the conversation and fascination with Louis Theroux has not dwindled, but grown.

Disclaimer: I myself am a loyal fan of Louis Theroux. 

I love the controversy of the subjects he chooses and his willingness to get involved in anything, from getting a tummy tuck to having a massage at a brothel.

Most of all I love the multitude of awkward moments he creates by pushing people’s buttons.

I have watched and enjoyed everything he has made, and completely understand his popularity. Motivated by personal interest, I used Brandwatch Audiences to find out as much as I could about his popularity.

A popular guy

In My Scientology Movie, Louis re-enacts some of the exercises and practices used by Scientologists in efforts to reach self-fulfillment. It’s his unconventional style and stunts like this that have turned a national treasure into a cult-like figure.

But who are the people that make up his fan cult? The Brandwatch React team found out.

Who tweets most about @louistheroux?

With a reputation for being one of the “most wanted” men in Britain (he was named seventh by Tatler as well as being listed in the “weird crush” top ten by Heat Magazine), we expected his fan base to be predominantly female.  

Cult of Louis Theroux

Alas, we were wrong. 

55% of tweeters talking about Louis Theroux were male compared to 45% female authors. But, why?

Perhaps, people of all genders, particularly men, are genuinely interested by the topics of the documentary rather than just the man himself.

Cult of Louis Theroux

We looked at the top interests of those who tweet @louistheroux and found that they were significantly more interested in books and politics than the average tweeter.

We also looked at the professions who were most likely to tweet about Louis.

cult of louis theroux

Along with creative professionals, journalists made up a significant amount of the tweeters.

So, male, politically intrigued creatives and journalists are those who are more likely to tweet about Louis Theroux. This would suggest a large number of his fans have a genuine interest in his work, and the enticing controversial topics he addresses.


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The heart of the cult

So far, it all seems fairly normal. But we haven’t got to the true heart of the Louis Theroux cult just yet.

We decided to dig a little deeper and look not just at fans who tweet, but those a little more obsessed – those who faithfully mentioned him in their bios.

Bios give people the opportunity to define themselves in a few words to the outside world – in essence, the ability to list things that make up their identity. Those who mention Louis Theroux in their bios are suggesting that he is one of the parts that make them a whole.

Those who mention Louis Theroux in their bios are suggesting that he is one of the parts that make them a whole.

That is a serious fan.

Will the male, politically intrigued journalists prevail again in the majority?

Well, no.

Cult of Louis Theroux

At this point, the gender ratio changes quite significantly with 74% of the bio mentions coming from females and only 26% from males.

Okay, so maybe females are just more dedicated to their enjoyment of Louis Theroux and his work.

They may have been so moved by the subject and quality of Louis’ documentaries that it has indeed earned him not just a Twitter mention but a place in their personal biographies.

Or maybe not….

We looked at the interests of those who mentioned @LouisTheroux in their biographies to see if they were similar to the results of those who tweeted about him.

cult of louis theroux

Strangely, the top interests seem to be animals and pets and food and drink – they like these significantly more than the average tweeter.

Meanwhile, unlike those who mentioned him in tweets, whose top professions were creative and journalism the group who mention Louis in their bio’s top profession was student.

A seemingly unrelated profession in comparison to journalism.

cult of louis theroux

Did I miss a ‘Louis Theroux’s Student Stories’ episode, or ‘When Louis Met…Kittens’? Or, is there another explanation for these seemingly unrelated interests?

Faithful fetish fans

When I first told my team I was doing an analysis on Louis Theroux, one of my female colleagues’ first comments was “I am weirdly attracted to him”. [Editor’s Note: This was me, and I stand proud.]

This captures perfectly the second slightly stranger side to the online Louis Theroux phenomenon.

As explained by the New Statesman:

“While Theroux’s nerdy, self-effacing British charm appeals to both genders, there is something about him that excites the sexual imagination of young women in particular, turning mere idolatry into something more – a kind of fetishisation.”

His charm being described by the Ladbible as “extremely awkward, almost virginal on occasions.”

What does it all mean?

It is this strange attraction and fascination that makes up the core and heart of the Louis Theroux cult.

The rest is filled by journalists and politically interested people alike who are interested in the documentaries themselves.

Louis receives love and fans for both the content and nature of his documentaries as well as being a “weird crush”.

Only Louis can do both.

Louis is well aware of his enormous fan base, and treats them to regular musings on his Twitter page.

And in between those tweets you can enjoy the weird and wonderful @NoContextLouisTheroux account.

Whatever your reason is for loving him, we understand it, and we encourage it.

Are you a journalist looking to cover our data? Email us at react@brandwatch.com for more information


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Becky Jones

Becky is interning here at Brandwatch whilst also studying Psychology at Edinburgh University. She likes Louis Theroux, cats called Louis (she actually has a cat called Louis), and pyjamas (not called Louis).