Message In the Monster’s Balls

Image result for monsters ballsA Monster Love
By Esther Iverem (2002)

“Monster’s Ball” tries to convince us, in a raw, depressing Southern gothic style, that a Black woman in a small Georgia town will turn to a White man, who is an open racist, for sexual comfort and companionship. It also tells us that a racist will release his hatred when confronted with personal tragedy and the unexpected attention of a pretty, young Black woman. Beneath these two ideas is the old theme that love—even if it really is something else, like neediness or convenience—redeems and conquers all.

The “truth” of the woman is established through her misery. Leticia Musgrove (Halle Berry), who works as a waitress, is about to be evicted from her tiny house. Her husband Lawrence (Sean “P. Diddy” Combs) has been on death row for 11 years for killing a cop. Her grossly overweight but kindhearted son gets sweetness in his life by devouring chocolate candy bars. She prefers to suck down miniatures of strong whiskey. She is seemingly without family or neighbors who care. In fact, the Black community, particularly the Black male, is depicted here as a complete failure in her life—her husband, her son, the boss who fires her, the sheriff who comes to evict her.

Important to Leticia’s world, as presented here, is the fact that she does not know her new man’s attitudes, or the fact that he just supervised the execution, the “monster’s ball,” of her husband. She doesn’t seem to care. What she wants is to “to feel better” so she throws herself at him. What she knows is that this man, Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) has assisted her when she needed it and when no one else would.

It is fairly clear, at some point, that Hank knows who Leticia is but he never discusses the other connection between them. His transformation from a man who scares Black children from his property with a shotgun into a man head over heels in love with a Black waitress is not marked, understandable or believable. Your gauging of this transformation will greatly influence your reaction to the much hyped sex scene between these two. Leticia is clearly needy. But what is Hank feeling and acting on? Is this hot and raw? Disturbing? Both?

When Leticia discovers the past of her new guardian angel, her reaction is probably the closest the movie gets to emotional truth, which is not the same as resolution. Time and again, this film asks us to consider how we see a person’s soul and what we see. It asks us to define monster but is clueless about the antenna and caution African Americans, particularly Black women, have developed to survive within the monster of racism. It asks us to define monster. In the end, Leticia is forced to confront the former hate-filled soul of her new man as seen by her dead husband. Through his own tragedy, Hank is forced to look inside himself and consider human beings in a new way.

Image result for monsters ballsOn some level, “Monster’s Ball,” is similar to histories that attempt to recast or ignore the history of rape of Black women by White men, and the how that legacy still reinforces a strong racial barrier. (Think of stories of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings that depict Sally as the sexual aggressor.) Berry, the product of an interracial relationship, who says she “begged” for the part, may not be representative of the impulse or truth of most Black women.

But Berry gives an able assist, an Oscar-nominated one, in helping the writers and director to convince us of the [message] they want told.




9 comments on “Message In the Monster’s Balls

  1. Director Marc Forster […] follows up those acclaimed projects with this intense, racially charged romance. Billy Bob Thornton stars as Georgia prison guard Hank Grotowski, a hard-drinking racist ex-cop whose father, Buck (Peter Boyle), is dying of emphysema and whose son, Sonny (Heath Ledger), works the execution detail at the prison’s death row. When Sonny commits suicide, Hank is devastated and quits his job, spiraling into a deep depression until, one night, he comes to the aid of Leticia (Halle Berry), a beautiful African-American woman whose son, Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun), has been hit by a car. When Tyrell dies, Leticia and Hank find themselves to be unexpected soul mates linked together by tragic grief. It’s not long before Hank discovers that Leticia is the widow of Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs), the man whose execution by electric chair he and his late son helped to orchestrate. Monster’s Ball (2001) is based on a screenplay by actors Milo Addica and Will Rokos, who spent five years developing their script into a feature. Their title refers to the name of an English tradition requiring jailers to throw a party for a condemned man on the night before his death.
    Text by Karl Williams, Rovi

  2. A horrible film! Still hard to believe Halle won a Oscar for this garbage. But then again she had sex with a redneck hillbilly–and that’s what these racist pricks in Hollyweird love to see. It’s funny how they reward black people who do “certain types” of roles. smh

    • I did not understand the movie at the time. It made no sense but nonsense. But, I sure understand it now. As far as I am concerned she won an Oscar for crying at the Oscars. Finally some good acting.

    • Yeah you’re right!lol That was her best performance ever!lol

    • Gunnar W Bergmam says:

      You ought really to work with Your own mind. So You sir divide people by a White/Black standards. You schould look at Your own soul. Who is without sin casts the first stone…Are You without sin youselves?
      Stupid Swede

    • It’s already divided. Blacks and whites don’t get treated the same in society. We live in different worlds and blacks have a lower social status. So how can you divide what is already divided?

  3. Surely, you mean ‘playing stupid swede’. Tough accent to pick, same as a fake danish one. You like to mix, yet mess up gender. Interesting issue for those interested. Thanks for pointing out that the pic for the post disappeared.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s