MONSTER’S BALL: Leticia in the eyes of the Male Gaze

Present your own theory about Leticia, the character Halle Berry played in Monster’s Ball. What type of stereotype does she fall into, if any? How does Leticia compare to Claudine as a single black mother?  Is she a love object, sex object or both? Also, how does Hank’s perspective of Leticia, change the audience’s view of her. And as always incorporate the readings but also find outside sources/critiques about the film and link them in your post.

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8 thoughts on “MONSTER’S BALL: Leticia in the eyes of the Male Gaze

  1. I don’t think that Leticia fits into one of the common stereotypes but I do think that she fits into this Supermama/Macho-Goddess that Manatu talks about in the Preface of her book. This is a cross between a mammy and the oversexed Jezebel, a woman who is ready for sex and uses men as sexual play things. I think that Leticia is a very independent woman in the sense that she tries very hard to provide for her son and keep her life together while her husband is about to be executed. Letitica knows that she is not going to have the support from her husband anymore and that she still have a life to live and a son to care for. I think Leticia is somewhat similar to Claudine, she is busting her but to try and provide for her child but I think that Claudine portrays more of a degrading image of black women than Leticia, Claudine plays the system teaching her kids todo the same and she leaves her children alone in an apartment just to go be with a man. Leticia degrades her son for being fat and eating candy but it stems from a place of love, as crazy as that sounds, she really does just want what’s best for him.
    When Leticia’s son is killed she starts to fall apart and this man, this white man, has to come and save her. I think in the beginning Leticia uses Hank for sex to help comfort her and to help her cope with the pain she is feeling. Because of this she could be labeled a sexual deviant for jumping into bed with this man that she barely knows, but I don’t see her that way. Leticia has just lost everything that meant anything to her and she is doing what she can to keep moving forward, and she does this by finding comfort with this man. Angela Bassett dissed Halle Berry for talking on this role, she thinks it plays into a demeaning stereotype of black woman. (http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,624142,00.html)
    When Hank starts to help her out by giving her a car and when she loses her house she has to move in with him, I think maybe people start to view her as a gold digger for this and at first I think Leticia could be perceived as sex object or a jezebel, using sex in exchange for financial support, but to Hank Leticia is more, he respects her and really cares for her, which in turns helps him to respect not just her but all black people. I think this causes the audience to see Leticia in a more sympathetic way where the audience can also respect her for what she has gone through and how she acts. She decides she loves Hank, even after finding out who he is, it seems she decides it doesn’t matter and that it will be ok.

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    • Liv, describing Leticia as the Supermama/Macho-Gooddess is a very interesting observation and I can see why you would portray her as such. As Bogle describes in Manatu’s book, “this new filmic development saw a shift in characterizations of black female subjects, which placed then at the other end of their denigrating film role contunuum. ” As you noted, there are a lot of problems with the portrayal of Leticia, to some degree she’s an abusive mother who is unable to keep a job and her home. She is downtrodden, therefore she is actually worse off than Claudine, who at least manages to have a job while on gov’t assistance. But they are both women who are need of men to not only love them but to care and save them. The only difference is that Hank finds redemption and is healed through his love of Leticia and from her loving him back. You mentioned that she become more sympathetic because of him, but Hank also because more human and sympathetic because of her. They are both redeemed through their love of each other.

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  2. Leticia seem to be an underdeveloped character considered she was the main one. in the beginning of the movie she seem to be the superwomen, barely getting by but still making it to take her son to see his father before he executed. Yet there were small cracks in that stereotype theory seeing as she didn’t know what was wrong with the car and revealed she was losing her home. Then she was portrayed as a sexual being in certain parts of the movie seeming to use sex as a means to “feel good” when things were rough (like after the death of her son and after she got put out of her home and moved in with hank). She doesn’t fall into any singular category in the end of the movie.
    Leticia compares to claudine in the sense of a man making her basically complete. She not only was a widow but also a mother mourning for a lost child. Basically she lost all that she had so insert a man and ta dah she is fixed again. Typically the defendant and the defendant’s family are punished equally while some audiences (like myself) simply see her as an undeveloped character some audiences may have sympathized with her. “The black family continues to be perceived as inconsistent with the dominant culture’s definition of an intact family structure (Manatu, pg 164). The movie does a great job of perpetuating the black family as “other” or always being affected by the judicial system.
    Hank’s perspective of Leticia didn’t seem to be based solely on race (or maybe I just didn’t see it). His interpretation seem more based on the fact she, obviously had no husband, she was financially struggling and just lost her only child. while the grandfather’s reaction did seem to be based on race I don’t believe that was passed on through the generations.

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    • Keanda, you are correct that Leticia is an underdeveloped character. At least, as she relates to the stereotypes we talked about in class. As the main character or hero of the film, she does progress from a bad place to a better place in the story. But, her change or development is achieved throught the love and acceptance of the male character. She is only made to feel good through rough sex with Hank and only becomes feminine and whole through his love of her. The place that she arrives at the end of the film is not through her own personal achievement of getting an education, getting out of debt, finding internal peace of mind and spirit and then falling in love but through her acceptance of Hank despite knowing he executed her husband. As Manatu states, filmmakers fail to see, promote and reflect the accomplishments of contemporary black women. There are really no differences in the portrayal of Claudine and Leticia despite the fact the films were produced over 20years apart. Although, we have black professional women like Olivia Pope and Mary Jane Paul on television, we still have a ways to go in portraying them as wholistic well rounded characters that are free from stereotypes of the past.

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  3. Leticia characters switches up throughout the whole movie. You first see her as a single mother who’s struggling to make ends meet , take care of her son , dealing with the fact that her husband is going to be dead real soon & still manage to make it to work everyday and do her job. This streotype can be consider the superwomen. She laters becomes a jetezbel after the death of her son. She sort of uses a man who help her out with this tragic accident and out of that she gains sex with barely even knowing him and then gets car. With her being sexual active with this man he then gets rid of his father and moves her in and you can see a relationship starting to build. In chapter 3 love and romance ” in film , ambitions , intelligence , and sexuality are suppressed , while the pursuit of romantic love is amplified and promoted”. In the movie she seems weak and hopeless until a man comes along and gets her back on her feet through sex. She’s more a sex object than anything. http://edition.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/Movies/02/01/review.monsters.ball/index.html Is an article that gives the reviews on the movie and they couldn’t understand a person who looks like Leticia haven’t found a husband by now and visit her husband for the past 10 years. With Claudine and Leticia the similarity is that a man makes things go right for them in life and have sex with them the first chance they get. The only difference is that Leticia had two tragic events play back to back which made of caused her too stay with him throughout all that she dealt and found out about him

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    • David,
      I agree with a lot of your points but I wouldn’t necessary view Leticia as a Superwoman Although, I see why you would she her as one. Leticia fails at being a Superwoman because of her inability to get it together on all points except for her sexual relationship with Hank. Author Michelle Wallace writes, “the myth of the Black Superwoman: A woman who has “inordinate strength” and is “stronger emotionally than most men.” That is more Coffy than Leticia, even Claudine is more of a Superwoman than Leticia. You quote is accurate in regards to how she experiences love. Leticia does become feminine or experience romantic love until Hank falls for her. Good job!

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  4. The movie Monster Ball although it was a good movie to watch I had to see it under a new light. I can blame it on all the gender studies classes and some of my possible psychology classes, as well as the multitude of readings I have done over the years. But this move was terrible. Leticia’s character was extremely under developed and I had a very hard time placing her in any for of stereotype based on our readings by Manatu. I would assume at first that she would be the super woman always working hard as a single mom to make ends meet, and her constantly in the red and fearing of not having a job or being able to pay for anything. I would assume she was a sapphire due to her give no shit attitude and that she will yell and curse and drink at the first signs of stress. Not to mention I would be extremely pissed too if my husband was on death row and I am now left on my own to take care of our child while working god knows how many jobs and have a shit car. No what made me more upset about this whole movie was the fact that in order for her to feel or for Leticia to do anything she had to be validated by a man. And no not a black man but a white man. It is obvious that she is seen as a sex object from her first meeting with Hank and how he looks at her as a person of servitude. Mostly because of his upbringing and how his own father was a racist asshole. Granted yes, Hanks character went through a whirlwind of development and I praise the fact that he did. But I did feel very uncomfortable by the fact that all their exchanges were tied so closely together and how in the end Leticia just accepts everything and says why the hell not. It honestly lessened my views of her and it wasn’t much to begin with.

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    • Liz, I disagree with you in regards to Leticia being a superwoman. As the superwoman, she would have excelled in everything except love and that is the one and only area that she succeeded in at the end. As a superwoman, she would have been able to deal with her son’s weight, had a successful job and fixed everyone’s problems but her own. I do agree with you that she only finds happiness through a man. She first is seen by Hank as someone not even deserving a decent tip, then as a sexual object then eventually as a love object. You make some good points but hav liked to see you time them to the reading.

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