Two subjects of true-crime controversies have spoken out about the true-crime trend in media. In the 1990s, Vili Fualaau was sexually abused by his late teacher, Mary Kay Letourneau, and around 2009, Amanda Knox was involved in an Italian murder case that saw the American student convicted twice, but then acquitted.
Fualauu’s true-crime critique, speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, comes amid director Todd Haynes’ 2023 film May December, based on Fualaau and Letourneau’s relationship. Letourneau, who died from cancer in 2020, sexually abused Fualaau for years in the 1990s when Fualauu was Letourneau’s teenage student. Fualauu and Letourneau married and had children together. They were divorced when Letourneau died, but at his ex-wife’s request, Fualauu visited his former teacher on her deathbed.
May December producers have said their film is inspired by the Letourneau story but called it a “jumping off point,” not the true story of Fualauu and Letourneau’s relationship. Having seen the film, Fualauu told THR:
“I’m offended by the entire project and the lack of respect given to me — who lived through a real story and is still living it … If they had reached out to me, we could have worked together on a masterpiece. Instead, they chose to do a ripoff of my original story.”
via The Hollywood Reporter
Amanda Knox spoke out on X
In the aftermath of Vili Fualauu’s 2023 comments regarding Haynes’ film May December, Amanda Knox, whose ordeal in Italy stemming from the 2009 murder of British student Meredith Kercher inspired the 2021 Matt Damon film Stillwater, shared the THR story on X, and said she supported Fualauu’s position. Knox was studying with Kercher in Italy, and Kercher’s murder case captured headlines around the world as Knox was convicted twice for the crime. She was finally acquitted after several appeals.
In her post sharing the THR article, Knox wrote:
“It’s the entitlement that really gets me. The feeling that someone else’s life, their mistakes, their trauma, their STORY is just free for the taking because it was in the news. This happened to me back in 2021 with the film Stillwater.“
via Amanda Knox/X
In her X thread, Knox added she’s invited Damon and the Stillwater producers to debate the ethics of fiction based on true-crime stories, but no one accepted, she said, adding:
“I haven’t seen May December, and I withhold any judgment about its merits as a film. I also am not offering any opinions about Mary Kay Letourneau or Vili Fualaau. However, you morally judge them is beside the point.”
via Amanda Knox/X
As Knox points out in her thread, similar points were made about Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, the hit 2022 dramatized Netflix series about the infamous Milwaukee serial killer. Several living relatives of Dahmer’s victims spoke out at that time about the content of the show, according to The Guardian.