Female archetypes still anchor our stories. Although, in popular culture, the spinster is a discounted breed of intrigue.The spinster archetype represents a woman who’s lost her sexuality. Oftentimes, love has passed her up.
I saw Tabloid a few weeks ago and the documentary’s subject, Joyce McKinney, is still top of mind. Errol Morris’s portrayal of McKinney conveys images of past spinsters like Miss Havisham or Grey Garden’s Little Edie. All three characters are exploited for memories that left them behind. They are anachronistic creatures in a developing world.
In Tabloid, Joyce McKinney, a once beautiful pageant queen, narrates her tale of true love and how it spiraled out of control. This is an obsessive (yet good-natured) kidnapping story. It begins when her lover, Kirk Anderson, leaves for London unexpectedly to pursue Mormon mission work. Joyce, lovestruck and desperate, ropes two friends into a quest to recover the brainwashed Kirk. Forcing him to into a car, Joyce drives Kirk to the countryside. Her side of the story: they had “non-stop sex” for three days. Kirk alleged that Joyce had kidnapped and raped him. The “Mangled Mormon” trial played out in the British tabloids for years after.
Morris’s Joyce McKinney is hauntingly kooky and diabolical. While many other men have desperately loved her, Joyce has resolved to live alone with her six cloned puppies. In Great Expectations, Miss Havisham tells Pip, “I’ll tell you what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter–as I did”.
Miss Havisham is the jilted bride existing among her rotting wedding decor. Joyce McKinney is that same abandoned bride, now living out of a truck. It brims with laundry baskets full of tabloids that remind her of lost love. To both women, their former lovers represent the pinnacle of life. Morris has taken Joyce’s sad story and cut together a film that despite being shameful to watch, you cannot overt your eyes from.
So, what does the future hold for the “spinster”? As US women marry later and live longer, society’s view of older, single women will be challenged. Dating sites and community-based living arrangements already provide alternatives to a traditional life of loneliness. These single, older women women will make up a large portion of society with a disposable income. In that case, will the media and subsequently pop culture reinvent the portrayal of the spinster? Is an alternative scenario one of Re-Sexed Spinsters versus Sexless Spinsters?