Werner Herzog: It sounds odd, but what probably would have been more convincing to talk about the last half century or so. In the last half century, almost every single important cultural trend and technological trend originated from California, like computers, like Free Speech Movement, like accepting gay and lesbian people as an integral part of society, like—you just name it, on and on and on. At the same time, all the stupidities of our times. New Age pseudo-philosophy, I mean, it can’t get any more vulgar and stupid. Or the hippies, or, as I said, pyramid-energy or tantric-whatever and people going to yoga class or going to aerobics studios—it can’t get—and eating vitamins—fistfuls of vitamins every day, it’s just, it’s so gross that you can’t even talk about it. But at the same time, at the same time, quite important deep-plowing phenomena. I’ve been fascinated by Anna Nicole Smith, The Anna Nicole Smith Show.
Paul Holdengräber: Talk about that a little bit.
WH: Yeah, I was so fascinated that I even forced Roger Ebert, who was appalled by my suggestion, I forced him to watch it, telling him “don’t avert your eyes,” because there is something of great importance going on there, because—
WH: A vulgar, I mean a perversion, an obscenity, the obscene perversion of an American dream, an obscene perversion of what constitutes beauty. In many ways something very, very revealing about what is going wrong in this civilization. A monumental failure of civilization, and I said to Roger Ebert, and I said, unfortunately she died. I really regret that she died, but I hear so many times as a foreigner here, and a guest in your country, I hear so many times how, “We do not understand what are grievances of the Muslims, the fundamentalists, and they attack the World Trade Center.” Yes, they do, and they have grievances, and my advice is watch The Anna Nicole Smith Show and you will understand what sort of cultural loss of dignity, what amount of loss of … decency and whatever decadence is in all this and you would understand, you would understand much better. By the way, Muslim Fundamentalism is probably the only massive cultural movement that is not born in California and yet has great consequences. And I’m speaking of the last fifty years and you have to look back to Egypt in the 1950s, how it all originated.
—”Was the 20th Century a Mistake? Werner Herzog in conversation with Paul Holdengräber" (2007).