In this article, Type Media Center fellow E. Tammy Kim discusses the role of age, race, and class in the new film May December, drawing comparisons between the film and the real-life case of Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau.


  • A Real-Life Affair: Kim analyzes the film May December, which follows Gracie, an older woman, and her much younger husband, Joe, as actress Elizabeth arrives to prepare for her role portraying Gracie in a film. Kim lays out the parallels that the film has to the real-life affair of Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau, detailing the many aspects of the film that directly mirror their relationship.
  • The Role of Race and Class: The article delves into the role that race and class played in the portrayal of Letourneau and Fualaau’s affair in the media, noting the disparity between Letourneau’s wealthy white family and Fualaau’s working-class Samoan family.
  • A Powerless Portrayal: Kim discusses how many details of Joe’s character — Faulaau’s equivalent in May December — are used to illustrate his victimization and lack of power. She notes that “Joe’s day job (X-ray technician) and hobby (raising monarch butterflies) are all about looking without being seen.”
  • Staying Above the Surface: The article highlights the ways in which May December depicts the superficiality of the media’s portrayal of the situation, with Elizabeth’s performance lacking depth and containing no nuance of race, class, or power.

Type Media Center’s Note

This article by our fellow E. Tammy Kim reflects Type Media Center’s dedication to nurturing independent journalism that not only informs but strives for societal change.