Errol Morris must have felt like it was time to lighten up. After his last few documentaries addressed the death penalty, Holocaust deniers, the Vietnam War, and Abu Ghraib, his new one tells an astonishing-but-true story about an insane-but-functional woman named Joyce McKinney. It's called Tabloid, and its purpose is not enlightenment but entertainment.
In 1977, England was delighted by a news story about a North Carolina girl who had come to the U.K. looking for the boyfriend who had left her and was now working as a Mormon missionary. The young man, Kurt Anderson, said that when Joyce McKinney found him in the midst of his religious labors, she abducted him, tied him to a bed, and made him have sex with her. When she was arrested, McKinney insisted it had all been consensual, though she also insisted Anderson was being held by the Mormons against his will, which was manifestly untrue.
Well, you can see why the story amused the Brits. "The case of the manacled Mormon!" screamed the headlines. The idea of a woman raping a man made for fascinating cocktail conversation; the fact that the man in question was a Mormon missionary made it especially provocative. Out on bail, McKinney became a media darling, photographed at movie premieres and at parties with rock stars. When she and her accomplice, Keith May, fled to the United States (in disguise, with fake passports), McKinney had 13 suitcases full of press clippings.