I'm a big fan of documentaries. They are far and away my favorite thing to watch. Why? Because I love information. I'll take all of it I can get. However, the best documentaries go beyond just teaching you something you didn't know before; they also make you feel something. Among all the available emotions, my favorite is anger, so it's only natural that my preferred brand of documentary is the kind that makes you mad. The kind that makes Netflix recommend watching March Of The Penguins next, because it knows how pissed off you must be right now. That's my shit. We talk about a few examples on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic Danielle Soto and Cracked editor Tom Reimann. I'm also going to talk about a few right now. Watch them later! Tell me what you thought of them in the comments section! I'll never read it! Nevertheless, here are five infuriating documentaries you should watch tonight.
#5. Small Potatoes: Who Killed The USFL?
Hey, while I have you on the line, let's talk about Donald Trump! He did just lock down the GOP presidential nomination in all but the most technical sense, so I reckon he's newsworthy enough right now to merit a mention. And since the next logical step is him running the entire country, it's fitting that we start off by talking about a documentary that offers an advance look at what happens when Donald Trump starts making important decisions.
The ESPN "30 for 30" series has produced some of the most compelling sports documentaries ever, and Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? is, in my opinion, among the best of that great collection of work.
It tells the story of the United States Football League, which lasted three seasons (1983 to 1985) as an upstart competitor to the almighty NFL.
Years of planning went into bringing the league to life. A man named David Dixon first had the idea way back in 1967. He laid out a strategy for building and expanding the league, and then set about finding investors willing to put money behind making it a success. You know, exactly how a business works.
Problems arose almost immediately, but the USFL did experience some success, especially when it came to attracting talent. Their most notable achievement was luring three straight Heisman Trophy winners (Herschel Walker, Mike Rozier, and Doug Flutie) away from the NFL right out of college. Several eventual NFL legends -- like Jim Kelly, Steve Young, and Reggie White -- all started their professional football careers in the USFL as well. Sure, the league lost a shit-ton of money every year they were in existence, but progress was being made.
Enter Donald Trump. After the league's inaugural season, he became owner of the New Jersey Generals franchise.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Should've been called the Commanders. Ha! Get it? Because he'll be Commander In Chief soon! Please kill me!
Almost immediately, he set about changing the one thing that allowed the USFL to somewhat succeed. You see, for those first three seasons, the league played in the Spring, so as to not have to unnecessarily compete with the NFL. Trump wanted that competition, thinking that it would force the NFL into a merger with the USFL. He was one of only two owners who thought it was a good idea initially, but in time, he got the rest of the league to agree.
Surprise! Turns out it was a terrible decision! Trump never got his merger, a frivolous lawsuit ensued, and the league vanished shortly thereafter. So if you're curious as to what Trump's track record is like when it comes to running things with the words "United States" in their name, let this documentary be your guide.
Of course, no discussion about Trump is complete if it doesn't immediately segue into something about people in this country illegally. If you're the type who gets worked up about that kind of thing, then boy do I have a documentary for you ...
#4. The Imposter
Looking to lose all faith in the people responsible for keeping the children of the world safe and secure? Then by all means, give The Imposter a watch sometime. If you're one of those Trump supporters / xenophobes I mentioned in the previous entry, you probably now think I'm going to say this is a documentary about an illegal immigrant who came to the United States to kill kids. You're wrong, and almost certainly super-duper racist. Instead, The Imposter tells the story of a man with an extremely weird obsession. To put it as plainly as possible, he enjoyed tracking down parents who'd reported a missing child and then he would claim to be that missing child.
One particular case is at the center of this documentary. It starts in Spain, with him convincing police that he's just escaped kidnappers who'd used him as a sex slave for the past few years -- a ploy that quickly results in him living with a family in San Antonio, TX, pretending to be a relative who'd gone missing three years earlier at the age of 13. I know, it sounds like movie shit, and like any good movie, that's not even the most interesting part.
"Ma'am, has your son always dressed like a man playing a French terrorist in a movie?"
Hell, it's not even the most infuriating part. That award goes to the baffling series of oversights and mistakes that led to him being able to take the scam that far in the first place. For starters, he refuses to tell police in Spain his name. When they push him on it, he says if they let him sleep in an office overnight, he'll probably remember in the morning ... and they just fucking go for it! That's it. The documentary could've ended there. It could've been called "The Guy Who Scammed His Way Into Sleeping In a Spanish Police Office Overnight" and I'd have been plenty riveted by the details up that point. But it gets so much crazier.
Unsurprisingly, he uses his overnight office time to come up with the identity of a missing kid he can steal. For him, that's the good news. The bad news is that the kid looks absolutely nothing like him -- a problem complicated all the more by the fact that the scammer is in his 20s, but opted to steal the identity of a 16-year-old.
Oh, also their eyes are completely different colors. Yet Spanish authorities accept his story and he makes his way to San Antonio.
I still haven't told you the craziest part, and in the name of not spoiling it, I won't. To give you some idea, though, just know that, despite the glaring differences between him and their lost boy, the family welcomes him with open arms, even after the FBI tells them they shouldn't. Now ... why would they do such a thing? That's the question this documentary truly attempts to answer. The conclusion they eventually come to will ruin your day. Enjoy!
#3. The Galapagos Affair
OK, I promise this is the last Trump reference, but do you know how people like to vocally fantasize about fleeing the country if Trump gets elected? Well, The Galapagos Affair is a stark reminder that no matter how far you go, the worst parts of the world you live in will inevitably find you.
Another mandatory talking point when it comes to Trump is Hitler, so it's appropriate that the couple who kick off this documentary were looking to flee the sad state of German society in 1929. The Fuhrer wasn't quite in power by that point, but he was getting there. In what should've been one of the most prescient examples of foresight of all time, Friedrich Ritter and his lover, Dore Strauch decided to make their way to the Galapagos Islands to carve out a life for themselves on the previously uninhabited island of Floreana.
Wait, so they weren't even on the island yet in this photo?
It was a fine idea on paper, but the plan fell apart when the media got wind of their adventures. Hearing tales of the "Adam and Eve of the Galapagos" inspired countless others to follow in their, um, boat ... steps. By "countless" I actually just mean "like between five and ten," but that was more than enough to inspire full-fledged war.
At one point, an elderly woman shows up with a harem of young lovers and declares herself "Empress of Floreana." Shockingly, she's not even the craziest person on the island -- a fact that becomes overwhelmingly obvious when she does turn out to be one of the most probably-murdered people on the island. Two people go missing, actually. I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but when the entire population of your island is less than 20, it's a pretty big deal. So if you're planning to escape Trump's America by fleeing to an uninhabited island to live with a bunch of "like-minded" individuals, may this documentary serve as a compelling argument against that plan.
Fine, that's enough about Trump. Let's move on to a slightly less contentious topic ...