I would like to preface this post with a couple of things. One, I read this book twice — once in middle school and again in high school. The book was that good and Walter Dean Myers is a God amongst writers. Two, as a Black woman in this world, I am very protective of my Black men, so stories like this always boil my blood.
Let’s start with this….Harmon’s lawyer tells him that they have to make the jury see him as a human. Read that again. His lawyer not only has to defend him but she feels as though she also has to make the court see a 17 year-old Black teenager as a WHOLE HUMAN BEING. Hence the title, monster. Black men, in the eyes of the law, are never thought of as someone’s father, son or brother. They are thought of as barbaric animals that are a danger to anyone around them. Personally, and through historical context, I think this stems from slavery times where the Black men where bred, for lack of a better term, to fight or haul mixed with the fact that they came from a land of warriors. Naturally, in some respects, they were stronger than their masters which posed a threat to their authority. I believe that mentality has continued throughout the generations.
The scene that made me go “hmm” is the scene with Mr. Pendanski (Holes reference) AKA Tim Blake Nelson who plays Mr. Sawicki in this film. Mr. Sawicki gives the scenario of his first date with his wife. His wife, he and the person behind them at the movies all have a different perspective of the events of that night just like everyone in court. Somehow, it was then that I understood that that is all court is–a recount of various vantage points. You ever try to retell the same story to a couple different people? Do you ever notice that you remember more and more details as you recount the story? The reverse is true for when something traumatic happens to someone. Usually, questioning them initially results in a vague story, but as they get to sit and gather themselves after the event, memories come back to them.
You know what I loved about how they brought this book to life? The fact that they set the stage for Steve to view this part of his life as a movie, complete with him reading the scene action which is usually seen but not heard. It brought you into a space, much like Harmon, of disbelief–a dream if you will. Much like this book, which is written in screenplay form, I’ve never seen a movie done this way and it’s refreshing to see.
As I said previously, I am very protective of my Black men and for that reason, I celebrate them any chance I get. I am so proud of Jharel Jerome. I first saw him in Moonlight and forgot he was in this film, and most others where I find him. Any time I see him I am so proud and I don’t know him personally but I feel like he’s my own little brother! A$AP Rocky AKA Rakim Mayers I first saw in Dope and I’ve been waiting to see him in another film. Now he might just be playing a version of himself, but he does it well! Newcomer, to me, Kelvin Harrison Jr. played alongside Issa Rae and LaKeith Stansfield in The Photograph as LaKeith’s character’s intern, if I’m not mistaken. Every emotion he had to give us, I felt in my spirit. When he was scared, I was scared. When he say the wonder in the world, so did I. An actor who can do that will last long in the industry and we need more Black actors that can do that and be seen. The more and more I see John David Washington, the more I don’t see it hear his dad and that’s great! We’re finally learning to separate the two. Nas doesn’t act a lot but when he does, it counts. Jeffery Wright…. that is all. Have you seen him and ever thought, “Well, that was bad?” No, you haven’t.
Lastly, I want to reiterate that I have read this book and I remember quite a lot from the book, but that last scene where they cut the audio before the read the verdict for King made me nervous. Again, I read the book and I know King was found guilty and Harmon was found not guilty but i still sat in my coworker’s office and held my breathe. Anthony Mandler, who directed the following music videos:
- “Ice Box” Omarion
- “Live Your Life” T.I. feat. Rihanna
- “Find Your Way” Kem (who is my fave!)
- “Testify” Common (Remember Taraji P. Henson in this video?)
- “Sucker” Jonas Brothers
- “Holy Grail” Jay-Z feat. Justin Timberlake
- “Find Your Love” Drake AND my personal favorite
- “Bad Habits” Maxwell (with a pre-Scandal Kerry Washington)
as well as a host of other videos including Taylor Swift and Rihanna (not a huge fan of Swift but I respect her. I just don’t like Rihanna. That’s another story.) is the director of this film and I am so proud to see how he’s evolved as a director. I used to watch his video on 106 & Park so he is forever a part of my childhood. I’ve always admired how he could bring the songs to life in a movie-like music video.
Monster is streaming now on Netflix and the book can be found anywhere they sell books. LOL. I’d actually suggest reading before you watch. See if you’re imagination matches the cinematography of the movie.