Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris is being sued by Joyce McKinney, the subject of his latest film Tabloid. McKinney’s suit claims among other things misappropriation of likeness, defamation, misrepresentation, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract stemming from her participation in the film.
Tabloid told the story of the 1977 British “Manacled Mormon” tabloid story in which McKinney claims she took her fiancée away to a secluded cabin for a weekend-long loving making session as a way to persuade him from leaving the Mormon Church but was reported as her having kidnapped and repeatedly raped him.
McKinney claims that when she was approached to participate in the documentary in 2009 she was told that the project was part of a series for Showtime and she would be given the chance to clear her name. Instead, she alleges in her suit that two representatives for the director tricked her into letting them take personal effects for possible use in the film and that the documentary holds her up for public ridicule.
As someone who has seen a number of Morris’s documentaries, I find the charges being leveled here to be somewhat unbelievable. Morris is one of the last doc directors I would ever accuse of going out of their way to do a “hit piece” on a particular subject. He displays an even hand in presenting material on all sides of a story and allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions. If a subject thinks that they have come off badly in one of his films the probably only have themselves to blame.
I have to think that McKinney probably thought she was going to get to tell her side of the story and that no other side of the story would be told. When the film didn’t turn out to be what she imagined it to be, McKinney ultimately turned litigious. However, it wasn’t before she made herself a very active online presence, decrying the film on many website comments sections where the film was being discussed. David Chen, host of SlashFilm’s SlashFilmcast pod cast related a story on a recent episode where he received a long voice mail from McKinney, railing against Morris and the film. What we’re seeing here, I think, is a variation of Buyer’s Remorse.