Comfortable and Furious

Monster (2003): What makes a Monster?

“When I was little I thought for sure that one day, I could be a big, big star.  Or maybe just beautiful… beautiful and rich, like the women on TV. Yeah, I had a lot of dreams. And I guess you can call me a real romantic, because I truly believe that one day, they’ll come true. So I dreamed about it for hours. As the years went by, I learnt to stop sharing them with people. They said I was dreaming. But back then, I believed it whole heartily.” — Aileen Carol Wuornos (Charlize Theron)/Monster 2003

Do monsters make the world, or does the world make monsters? As  innocent as the declarations made within the film’s opening monologue may seem, the fact they also carry a self-awareness with regards to the deluded optimism; painting them only makes Monster more an inherently tragic story when it comes to the events surrounding the real life of serial killer Aileen Wuornos.

The film frames her as both victim and victimizer as the result of a world that had nothing short of utter indifference to the very innocence she once treasured.  As a crime drama, Patty Jenkin’s Monster succeeds in capturing the tragic themes of the trajectory, the journey, as well as the overall failures of a person who once believed in the good of the world. She is essentially consumed by the same evils that would easily judge and condemn her as a monstrous force, instead of evaluating its own role in the conception.  

There can be no justifications for the murderous acts of real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Whether her claims of self-defense in regards to the seven murders she committed are factually valid, the creative license that a film like Monster has, utilizes the sheer randomness that frames the world as a way of portraying the inherent tragedy of Charlize Theron. She is a person who just never fit in, and really had nowhere to go from the start.

Monster’s opening image shows an emotionally distraught and psychologically ruptured Aileen holding a gun, whilst contemplating suicide. For those who have carried or wrestled with the temptation, it’s understandable to recognize that as certain as embracing the end can be in those moments, it can be equally human to flip the switch as well. A recommencement of the life of a person can still carry traces of hope, as opposed to the utter futility that makes Monster almost painful to watch. Hope is something we’re all taught from an early age, long before being properly educated about the concept of failure, futility, and the bigger picture of indifference that is an inherent component of our infinite cosmos. 

Although Monster cannot be labeled as a love story, the fictionalized  romance that takes place within the narrative adds an even greater degree of  tragedy to the story of a woman who simply wanted a life worth living.

Charlize Theron gives a vivid flawed/humane portrayal of Aileen Wuornos. Christina Ricci’s vulnerability in her performance as  Selby Wall— who was based on Tyria Moore— adds an even greater measure of  utter futility in the journey Aileen goes through for just the sake of a better life, which can all be tied back to her career as a prostitute.

As gratifying as Aileen’s first murder may have seemed (self-defense) , the demonic framing of her client Vincent Corey (Lee Allen Tergesen) encapsulates the transformative aspects of her character journey as she takes this breaking point of rage and uses it to punish other men seeking her services. She also operates in an act of rebellion against the very world that punished her in a similar inhumane fashion for the crime of simply existing. 

Following the killing of Vincent Corey, the film’s narrative escalates between a multitude of other murders; Murders which carry far less justifications in regards to the initial claims the real Aileen Wuornos made. These killings operated as a manner of purely survival-based methods of showing just how equally sad the story of this very flawed character was. As biographically accurate or inaccurate as Monster may be, the fact that it is centered as a narrative on a woman’s simple desire to find some measure of happiness and survival only adds to the bigger picture of the world we live in.  

Innovation through industrialized evolution, has been at the expense of the rapid acceleration that has left many people wallowing in their inability to keep pace; sometimes to even meet the constantly changing basic standards, leaving them in an ever-consuming existential crises. This aspect of the story is best captured in the scenes where Aileen tries to find legitimate employment. The odds were not in her favor,whether it was due to a lack of experience, or even the laughably disorganized manner in which employment services are structured in the present day, . 

As cliche’ as it is to use the saying that some people are simply born with  bad luck, the account Monster gives show cases this message with a strong  inclination designed to counter the fantasy narratives that have done well to  paint a lot of what American culture constitutes, even in the shittiest of  circumstances.

We’ve all heard the taglines of: “Love conquers all.” “Every cloud has a silver lining.” “Faith can move mountains.” “Love will always find a way.”  “Everything happens for a reason.” “Where there is life, there is hope.” This only makes Aileen’s more honest statement of “Oh, well… They gotta tell you  somethin” more tragic but equally insightful on how to look at the idea of the world vs the that of an individual deemed a monster. 

Patty Jenkin’s Monster doesn’t justify or deliberately condemn the actions of Aileen Wuornos. It does, however, pose questions as to what crafts a person like her. Modern society will easily declare her to be evil and even to a degree where she is seen as less than human.

No sense of openness is granted, pertaining to the multitude of worldly based factors and the role they played in crafting the rush to immediately declare her a monster. In the end, Monster shows how little the Universe gives a shit about your idea of happiness or misery. That’s it, and as much as people want to remain hopeful in the midst of the most tragic of circumstances, it hardly alludes to cold reality. A better person, or just another monster to fill the nightly news for normal people to passively judge, condemn, and ultimately demonize with little to no empathy as they chug their beers or garf down their third big mac?  






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