A study of female aggression as represented in Patty Jenkins' fiction film Monster

The film Monster (USA, 2003) is based on the life of Aileen Wuornos, the Florida prostitute who was one of the few documented female serial killers in the United States. The scriptwriter and director of the film, Patty Jenkins, surprisingly centered the film on a love story, instead of assuming the role of judge or advocate towards the actions of Wuornos. After a flash back sequence that recreates the childhood of Lee (Charlize Theron), the film opens as Lee meets Selby (Christina Ricci), a young and immature lesbian in a bar. Lee responds very rudely and defensively to the clumsy flirtation of Selby, as she does not think of herself as gay and her life as a prostitute has made her very hostile towards society. However, Lee opens up to Selby, as she perceives her as her last chance to find Love. Patty Jenkins cinematically evokes Lee’s hopelessness and despair before meeting Selby in order to emphasize the importance of this same-sex relationship. For Lee, Selby is the innocent child that she has to protect and save, a symbol of the child she once was herself. Inspired, she goes out to work on the highway to earn money for their first date, and a client beats her unconscious, ties her up, rapes her with a tyre iron and pours petrol over her. Fearing for her life, Lee shoots him, and then takes his car and wallet. As her relationship with Selby develops, she enters into the role of provider and protector. After her brutal encounter, she is scared of the streets and makes an attempt to go straight. However, 3 in her attempt to look for a proper job she encounters social rejection and brutalization. Pressurized by her new girlfriend to provide money, Lee goes back to prostitution. However, her last traumatic experience with the rapist john makes her believe that all her clients might turn out to be abusive, which provokes in her a desire for revenge and killing. Unable to stop, she robs her victims to provide for her girlfriend and believes that she can identify which clients deserve to die. After the killing of an innocent man, she is turned over to the police by Selby. Monster is not about sensationalism, but rather portrays the intimate tragic story of a human being who became a serial killer, due to a combination of bad social and personal pathologies. The Meaning of the Form: The aim of this thesis is to explore the representation of women and aggression in Patty Jenkins’ film Monster. I will argue that, while the female characters in Monster do not escape the conventional portrayal of women within the dominant Hollywood cinema, their portrayal does nonetheless create a ‘non-normative’ representation. By exploiting the classical narrative and a particular model of representation of women, Jenkins creates a cinematic text which attacks the patriarchal principles grounding the model. Therefore, the main argument of this thesis will be that Jenkins uses the Hollywood system of narration and representation of women in order to subvert and criticize it. Ultimately she is using the film as means to critique the patriarchal violence within American society itself. In order to substantiate my argument, I will first look at the conventional representation of women in fiction-film genre1, and will then investigate how the performance of aggression is constructed within the film. The film represents aggression as a social phenomenon that develops into a pathological behavior. By establishing the history of the general phenomenon of female aggression, I will examine its specific representation in my film case study Monster. Although the film introduces different female characters that each have their particular expression of aggression and representation, the primary focus of analysis will be Lee, the main character of the film.
female aggression, "Monster", Patty Jenkin, women in cinema