Fame and truth rarely exist in the same place or at the same time!
Written By: No One
Directed By: Errol Morris
I had an itch to watch Tabloid for some time now. When I first heard about the film I found myself attracted to the subject matter. I should have realized going into an Errol Morris movie that the subject might not be what I thought. Such is the case with Tabloid, a documentary that isn’t truly about a crazy women who raped a Mormon. That’s what the outer shell of the film comes across as, but that’s not the meat of the film. This film from Mr. Morris chooses fame and truth as its conjoined subjects. Those are two things that most everyone wants, and Tabloid is a film that asks if the two can live together, or more importantly what fame and truth say about people in general..
There isn’t a shred of obvious truth in Tabloid. The truth of the film is what the viewer decides is the truth. That’s why some people have come away from the film hating it for its supposed exploitation of Joyce McKinney (the woman I jokingly called a crazy rapist earlier in this review). For that exploitation to exist that means the viewer has decided on their version of the truth where Errol Morris is only interested in making fun of the life of Miss McKinney. Others love the film for its content and for the way it sheds light on an old, and very weird, case. Those viewers have also pieced together their own version of truth within the film. There’s no way the story of Miss McKinney could be real, so the truth for them is in the fantasy of her lies.
It’s debatable whether or not there’s any actual fame to be found in Tabloid. Again, Mr. Morris leaves this up to the viewer to decide. The subject of Miss McKinney’s desire avoided the documentary altogether, so there’s no fame on his end. The tabloid reporters were more than willing to share their recollections of the case, but did that result in anyone knowing or caring about them? Miss McKinney is charming and effusive in front of the camera, but once it stops rolling how much will she benefit from being in front of the camera? If fame is her game then did her actions achieve the desired goal? Maybe she doesn’t want to be famous and only wants to tell her story? The onus is on the viewer to ascribe fame, the desire for fame, and whether fame was achieved.
What Mr. Morris does is to combine the search for truth and fame into an exercise in staring down subjects with his camera. There is some flash at play in Tabloid, but that flash exists to tie into the title of the film. The tabloid newspaper like backdrops and cut-a-ways are present to simulate fame and the search for truth that people believe embodies a newspaper. All the while Mr. Morris lets the people in Tabloid answer questions and provide ample material for the audience to chew over. For Errol Morris the truth is in his camera and the only fame that matters is the fame that comes about through the truth.
At the end of the day the question that will be asked is whether the story of Joyce McKinney really matters? That, my friends, is the reason Errol Morris made this documentary. The importance of her story is a subjective matter, but so is the truth and so is fame. Tabloid isn’t about a concrete moment in time or an issue for all eras, but the subjective nature of our minds and how we decide to categorize people, their stories, their fame, and the truth we desire. That’s a subject that’s certainly worth exploration, and Mr. Morris explores it to great effect in Tabloid.