If she were meandering down the street towards you, you’d cross over even before you knew she was a serial killer. She’s got bad hair. Bad Teeth. A never-ending supply of bad vests, trucker caps and slighty-too-small denim that’s not frayed because it’s thrifted, she just can’t afford it any other way.
Charlize Theron’s performance in Monster still resonates with an incredible power. Immersing herself in Aileen Wuornos’ character, swagger, and depicting her descent into depravity won her an Oscar and character comparisons for the rest of her career. Aileen’s view on the world is undeniably skewed; the result of a horrific childhood, and her relationship with Selby (played by Christina Ricci) is, in turns, heartwarming and comical, yet ultimately tragic. It’s surely no coincidence that costume designer Rhona Meyers charts Aileen’s breakdown with an increasingly bizarre selection of outfits that culminates in a navy boiler suit. That working class symbol echoes the costume in which she is to end her days – the distinctive orange uniform of the US penitentiary system.
From the outset its more than obvious that Aileen exists on the fringes of society, more trailer park trash then park avenue princess. Her ill-fitting vests fail to conceal dinghy underwear. Filthy stone washed jeans are paired with lumberjack shirts and trucker caps. At her best she is still wretched, a wallpaper floral shirt, a teal blue blazer – a lost relic from the 1980’s – and an unflattering pleated skirt. The day Selby arrives at their apartment, having taken their stolen car without authorisation, Aileen greets her wearing a shark-print vest. Whilst brandishing a scrubbing brush.
Reappropraited masculinity is the order of the day – slouchy and baggy shapes, she is a prostitute who conceals her assets. Low-rent band t-shirts, a battered brown leather jacket and a stained grey sweatshirt were doubtless rummaged from the local charity shop, or someone else’s wardrobe. Aileen swaggers and rages, claiming to hate men, but taking on their defining characteristics. Her relationship with Selby is redemptive, born from Selby’s tender compliments about her beauty, dangerous territory for a little girl who dreamed of becoming a ‘big big star, or maybe just beautiful, beautiful and rich like the women on TV’.
And hands up who else spotted the uncanny resemblance with Iron Maiden’s Dave Murray?