Friday, September 23, 2011

Tabloid (Rhoades)

“Tabloid” Tells About Sex in Chains
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (Academy Award winner for “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara”) was reading an article about cloning in The New York Times. In the last paragraph was a sentence saying that the woman who’d had her dog cloned in Korea was the same woman involved in the “Sex in Chains” story from years ago.
“That’s how it works, actually,” he says of stumbling across the topic for his next film. Turns out, dog cloner “Bernann McKinney” was actually Joyce Bernann McKinney, the woman convicted of kidnapping and sexually molesting a young Mormon missionary in 1977.
He called up McKinney, now a realtor in North Carolina, requesting an interview, but it took a while for her to agree.
“Tabloid” – currently playing at the Tropic Cinema – is a documentary about the sensationalism surrounding the so-called Case of the Manacled Mormon.
The story is juicy: a young Mormon missionary in England went missing. When Kirk Anderson turned up a few days later, he claimed he’d been abducted by a blonde who chained him to a bed and had her way with him.
The blonde was Joyce McKinney, a former Miss Wyoming. Although arrested for the crime, she jumped bail and went back to the US. The British courts sentenced her in absentia to a year in jail, but did not attempt to extradite her.
McKinney maintained that the missionary “left with me willingly.”
The British tabloids had a field day, reporting the story with “gusto.” The Daily Mirror was the ringleader, making circulation gains with this story about a woman raping a man.
Newspapers always find those anomalous “Man Bites Dog” stories good for readership. The Sex in Chains story so dominated the Mirror that its chief competitor, The Daily Mail, began promoting itself as “The paper without Joyce McKinney.”
Errol Morris has tackled some gripping topics in his thirty-plus-years film career, my favorite being “The Thin Blue Line,” about the truth behind the death of a cop. Others include “Gates of Heaven,” about the pet cemetery business; “A Brief History of Time,” about physicist Stephen Hawking; and “Vernon, Florida,” about the eccentric residents of this southern town.
As a documentarian, Morris draws on his background as a private investigator who specialized in Wall Street cases. His “The Thin Blue Line” is credited with freeing a wrongly accused man and gaining a confession from the real killer.
With “Tabloid,” Morris subjects the former beauty queen to his interrogation. “I can never understand the public’s fascination with my love life,” she bemoans all the publicity.
Morris traces her history back to Utah where she met the Mormon man of her dreams, followed him to England, and kidnapped him rather than lose “my special guy.” Chaining him to a bed, she ripped off his “magic underwear” and forced him to have sex with her.
While the excuse for this documentary is examining tabloid sensationalism, it’s really the same kind of prurient interest exhibited by the Daily Mirror that drives this film.
“Do you think a woman can rape a man?” Morris asks her point blank.
“I think that’s like putting a marshmallow in a parking meter,” she replies, still self-delusional.
As she says in the documentary, “You can tell a lie long enough you believe it.”
Despite all the notoriety and legal hassles, McKinney apparently did not give up. In 1984 she was accused of stalking now-married Kirk Anderson.
How obsessed was she? “I would have skied down Mt. Everest nude with a carnation up my nose” to gain his affection, she admits.
Our opinion: Rather than focusing on tabloids, Morris would have been better served to explore sexual obsession.
Hm, I once dated a former Miss Wyoming, but she didn’t try to chain me up or suggest I try on a pair of handcuffs. She didn’t even offer me a carnation. Go figure.
[from Solares Hill]

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