Critical Summary: Monster’s Ball Hollywood movie, Monster’s Ball, condemns females into the darkest pit of degradation. It cleverly takes on a noble disguise where it attempts to teach viewers about morality and life lessons; however, it dismisses the issue of equality between gender differences that is yet to be questioned in our society’s popular culture. On the glorifying surface, Monster’s Ball tells a moving tale of a white, racist man, Hank, who eventually learns to discard his hatred and prejudice for Black people as he finds himself falling in love with a Black woman, Leticia.
The story revolves around the persistence to overcome the obstacles facing racism while unfolding and discovering redemption through hope and the ability to put one’s differences aside. It shows that interracial relationships are possible, and the story ends powerfully with the universal idea that ‘love conquers all’ – the ideology of romantic love in which “love is the ultimate solution to all our problems” (Storey, 104) when Leticia chooses to stay with Hank.
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However, one can imagine the rage and shock of feminists and females alike when one unfolds the underlying message of the movie; underneath this oilseed layer of a Journey to discover hope, peace, and love, lies an ugly scheme of stereotyping that focuses heavily on women. Not only does Monster’s Ball portray women as weak, passive and lonely souls who thirst for nothing but a man’s care and nurture, it heightens the notion that women are forever suppressed and objectified under the power of men.
This essay will reveal the ways Monster’s Ball stereotypes females, and will analyze the passages “Logician Psychoanalysis”, “Freudian psychoanalysis” and “Reading Romance” from book Cultural Theory and Popular Culture to support the arguments being presented. It has always been a popular belief that women are inferior to men. Through media, literature, and other forms of texts, the representations and practices that construct popular culture have influenced our minds into stereotyping women as sex objects and weak beings who are dependent on men.
This idea ties with the notion of Women’s pleasure’, as introduced by feminist Roseland Coward, where she says that women are involved in “an endless cycle of pleasure and guilt… The essential attributes of femininity’ (Coward, 1984). She further states that “feminine positions re produced as responses to the pleasures offered to [them]” (Coward, 1984) and at many times, these pleasures derive from men’s ability to give, thus “sustain[inning] male privilege” (Coward, 1984). Therefore, without a man, a woman is incomplete.
In Monster’s Ball, Leticia faces many hardships after the death of her husband. She has difficulty taking care of her son and fails to pay for her house, and eventually becomes homeless until Hank comes along and provides her with shelter under his roof. The notion of romantic love also ties to the fact that “it is not a fantasy about covering a uniquely interesting life partner, but a ritual wish to be cared for, loved, times throughout the movie. For example, Leticia tells Hank repeatedly “l need you, I need you so much” when she makes love to him.
The scene displays Leticia as an emotionally-unstable person after the loss of her husband. This idea brings up Tania Modalities claim about romantic fiction, that such “mass-produced fantasies [speak to very real problems and tensions in women’s lives… [through common idea that women are dissatisfied with their lives]” (Modifies, 1982). Tension and a sense of anger linger in the air when she screams out to Hank “Make me feel good! ” in a desperate and agonizing tone. The sudden outburst of a need for sexual fulfillment also heightens Leticia weakness.
One may interpret Leticia action as a way of fulfilling her ‘lack. In the passage Psychoanalysis of Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, Logician psychoanalysis states that the notion of ‘lack within oneself is “an empty place that various attempts at identification try to fill… The desire to find that which we lack [in order to find] our selves whole again” (Lagan, 1989). In the story, cause Leticia husband is not there to give her love and pleasure, she finds it elsewhere, thus she makes love with Hank.
The absence of Hank then will hold Leticia back from being able to fulfill this need; thus refers to the idea that a woman is not able to be complete without a man. Lagan states that the notion of lack is tied to one’s existence in nature, where one longs for the once inseparable time from the mother’s body. This union with the mother provides an important and symbolic tie and closeness of oneself to the mother. The search to fulfill this ‘lack leads to Freudians ideology of the Oedipus employ, which states that because the child must now resign itself to the fact that it can never have any direct access to… He prohibited body of the mother… [the child must] move among substitutes for substitutes, metaphors for metaphors, never able to recover the pure self-identity and self-completion” (Lagan, 1989), thus causes us to be forever drifting for the search to fulfill this desire of motherly care. In Monster’s Ball, Hank searches for this lost maternal care through Leticia. Because Hanks mother dies when he was at a very young age, he lacks the motherly care, and thus is to able to rediscover his self identity. With the existence of Leticia, Hank is able to transfer his lack of care and direct it to Leticia.
He learns to care and nurture her, and this sense of maternal care is thus fulfilled from Leticia as a substitute for his mother. This brings up the issue about the position of a female in a man’s eye. She is there for him to care for, thus allowing the male to be the dominant one in the relationship. Once again, this shows male superiority over females. It is important to note the change in Hanks personality, which is mostly derived room the Journey as he travels to retrieve the maternal care; he makes do with “substitute objects, with which [he] try vainly to plug the gap at the very centre of [his] being” (Lagan, 1989).
Viewers are able to see this ideology of Oedipus complex growing and transforming as Hank progresses in each stage of life. In the first stage, the “mirror stage”, the infant “forms an identification with the image in the mirror” (Lagan, 1989) as he tries to copy his movements and see himself in a more complete self” (Lagan, 1989), where the ego of the child begins to form. It is ring this mirror stage that the child tries to identify and recognize itself through the imaginary. In Monster’s Ball, Hank grows up seeing Buck as his mirror.
Because he lacks motherly care at a young age, Hank looks up to Buck as the only source of mirror, which causes him to grow up to holding Bucks beliefs and values – a mirror image of Buck. This changes, however, when Buck enters a new stage of life, of which one calls the “Logician Oedipus complex”. At this stage, Hank deals with changes as he continues to develop images through his surroundings. When Sonny dies, Hank realizes the importance of Sonny in his life; he realizes his love for his son, and he begins to take in the images of Sonny.
He learns to rid his racist views of Black people when he attempts to ask Cooper for help to fix his car. He learns to be caring through the relationship with Leticia. Sexual relationships occur throughout the movie, and they heighten the popular idea that women are looked upon as sex objects to all men. Sonny and Hank have sexual affairs with prostitute Vera. Buck says the line “l had more fussy after she (referring to Hanks mother) killed herself. It can be seen that all females in the movie are portrayed under a negative light: they take roles as prostitutes.
All the women are unable to handle themselves on their own. And those who are too weak end up committing suicide (Hanks mother and wife). The weakness of women is also portrayed through the relationship within Hank’s family. They mention their mothers many times when referring to negativity and comparing the sons under a cynical light. For example, when Hank tells Buck that he quits his Job as a prison guard, Buck is disappointed and tells Hank Mimi reminded e of your mother… That woman failed me. ” Also, Hank says the same line to Sonny when Sonny fails to successfully walk Lawrence Mangrove to his execution.
With the constant referral to females involved in their lives, it can be seen that in the eyes of these men, weakness is equated to women. Leticia again shows weakness when she fails to defend herself when Buck humiliates her. As Leticia unwillingly hands Buck the cowboy hat that she had bought for Hank, Buck puts the hat onto his head and humiliates her. He says to Leticia “In my time, I had a thing for Amiga Juice too. Although Leticia feels offended and hurt, she holds her tongue and walks off in shame and anger. Weakness is again shown at the end of the movie.
Even after Leticia finds out that that Hank has been dishonest with her, she chooses to ignore the issue rather than confronting Hank. Readers may perceive Leticia as being afraid of rejection, with the fear that once she confronts Hank, problems will arise and he will leave her. Thus instead, she drowns down the bitter feeling after having found out that Hank was involved with her husband’s execution, and she chooses to accept it and go on with ill be alright”, implying the fact that Leticia has nothing to worry about now that she has him by her side to take care of her. Coward develops an interesting ideology about romantic fiction.
She says that a romantic fiction must consist of two things: first, they must “still satisfy some very definite needs; and second, that they offer evidence of, and contribute to a very powerful and common fantasy’ (Coward, 1984). Coward explains that these fictions are regressive in two respects: on one hand, the romantic fiction succumb to the power of the male, and two, they are regressive “because of the attitude taken to male sexual desire – passive and without guilt, as the responsibility for sexual desire is projected on to the male (sexual desire that men have and to which women merely respond)” (Coward, 1984).
This shows female powerlessness, as portrayed through Leticia character throughout Monster’s Ball. For example, Leticia perpetuates her image as a woman in need of Hanks love and care, and her willing response to give to Hank when sexual desire is aroused. Coward explains that romantic fiction is so popular because it “restores the childhood world of sexual elation’s and suppresses criticisms of the inadequacy of men, the suffocation of the family, or the damage inflicted by patriarchal power” (Coward, 1984). Monster’s Ball holds true of all three conclusions.
The story at many times highlights and focuses on the faults and flaws of women: Leticia fails to protect her son who gets hit by a car; Leticia clumsiness that causes her to spill coffee. And even when a man is at fault, (IEEE. Sonny failing at completing the walk to the execution and Hank showing weakness when he quits his Job), Monster’s Ball manages to twist the fault around and point it to the females. For example, Hank says to Sonny in response to his failure to walk Mangrove to the execution Mimi are Just like your mother”.
He compares Sonny to his dead mother who has committed to suicide Janice Roadway adds to Coward’s interpretation of a romantic fiction, where Roadway concludes that “the ideal romance provides perfect triangular satisfaction: fatherly protection, motherly care, and passionate adult love” (Chowder, 1978). She studies a group of women romance readers who say that an ideal romance is of a woman who becomes overwhelmed by difficulties in life, and then finds a man who will be able to are for her and nurture her – a fantasy that men can bestow on women the care and attention women are expected regularly to bestow on men” (Chowder, 1978).
This connects to the need for motherly care, which ties back to Hanks need for motherly care, and he looks for this lack through his relationship with Leticia. Throughout the movie, it can be seen that females play a noticeable role in helping to construct identity within both genders, male and female. With the help of Leticia, Hank is able to recover a bit of the lost maternal care that he lacks as a child, hush developing him into a man who learns to care and love, and who is able to finally rid the racist views he holds against Black people throughout his life.
On the other hand, females seem to be regressive in the development of a strong dependent on Hank. Viewers can see the slow but definite regression in the development of a strong identity throughout the course of the movie. At the beginning, Leticia is portrayed as a stable woman when her husband is still alive. Viewers then see how she suffers from longing to be loved and cared for, and thus urns towards Hank for the nurture and protection. Further into the story, viewers then see how Leticia is able to walk out on Hank and refuse to listen to him speak as he rushes to chase her while she drives away from Hanks house.
This misleading independence is then wrecked when Leticia accepts Hanks offer to live in his house when she is forced out of her own house because she can no longer pay for the rent. Finally, Leticia shows herself at her weakest when she is unable to confront Hank even when she knows that Hank has been dishonest with her. * Through the delivery and display of numerous media and texts within our society, popular culture has implanted the very idea that women are inferior, useless, and weak when compared to men.
Although we live in a society where we struggle to pursue equality amongst men and women, evidence show that difficulty persists, and we must continue to try to break out of this conventional and stereotypical view of women. Works Cited Storey, John (Bibb) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, 4th Eden, Harrow: Pearson Education Coward, Roseland (1984), Female Desire: Women’s Sexuality Today, London: Paladin. Lagan, Jacques (1989), Four Fundamental Concepts in Psychoanalysis, New York: Norton.