In the movie Monster (2003 film) starring Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci, why did Shelby feel that she is attracted to Lee? She first saw her in the bar but what made her do what she did to manage to "force" Lee to stay with her? For me that was the least convincing point of the movie.

3 Answers 3


Historical background

Selby was somewhat based on Tyria Moore, described thusly by Sue Russell for the Washington Post in 2004:

[...] Aileen's lover, Tyria Moore, a jovial, very hefty, openly gay woman with missing teeth who was often mistaken for a man. (In another instance of Hollywood's romanticizing touch, Moore is replaced in "Monster" with Selby, a rather whinily dependent young woman struggling to come out as a lesbian, played by the winsome Christina Ricci.)

Interviews with writer / director Patty Jenkins:

  • IGN DVD: 2004 interview with Andy Patrizio for IGN.
  • SplicedWire: 2003 interview with Rob Blackwelder for SplicedWire.

Jenkins describing Tyria:

IGN DVD: What's your opinion of Tyria?

[Editor's note: Wuornos' real life lover was a 24-year-old woman named Tyria Moore, who spent four years with Wuornos until she was arrested. Moore would then turn on Wuornos, helping the prosecution at her trial. This is Christina Ricci's character, with a name change.]

Jenkins: I sort of have sympathy for everybody in the story. I think she's very similar to a lot of people in Aileen's life, which is a lot of people found her situation so dire and overwhelming that they found it easier to look the other way and take what she was willing to offer them, and were kind of cowardly in their ability to help this person. So I was very frustrated and angry with her.

IGN DVD: Was she just covering her own ass or someone who finally realized what happened and was outraged when she turned on Aileen?

Jenkins: Tyria was consistent all along. Her whole morality was built on "I'm not the one doing it." So when approached by the state, asking "Was she doing it?" she said "Yep. Wasn't me." That was her whole thing, so it never surprised me that she was absolutely up front about everything she knew, because she was not ever going to put herself on the line for anything. It was fine for her to look the other way and wear the men's clothing and spend their money because she didn't do it.

IGN DVD: I'm surprised she wasn't charged as an accessory.

Jenkins: Oh, I'm blown away by it.

So that's how Jenkins views Aileen's real-life girlfriend.

Jenkins describing Aileen's appearance:

IGN interview: I think the thing that people don't know about Aileen was she had been a good-looking woman, it's just that life dragged her down.

SplicedWire interview: If you look at the tapes of Aileen in court, when she was on the stand, she was an attractive woman. She had bad teeth. She was beaten down by life. But that was it.

Why real-life Tyria was replaced with fictional Selby

Peter Calder's 2004 NZ Herald article contains more info about why Tyria had to be replaced with Selby:

Jenkins did change the names of the victims and of Wuornos' lesbian lover, Tyria (sometimes Tyra) Moore, who becomes Selby Wall in the movie and, unlike Theron's Aileen, bears little physical resemblance to her real-life counterpart. She says she did so deliberately because Moore and the victim's families are still alive. But the decision was driven less by sensitivity than by the stringent legal process she had to follow.

In the movie

Jenkins on the fictional Selby:

SplicedWire: Speaking of Ricci, her aura, her hair, her clothes -- everything about her really feels like someone just stepping into that sexuality she's not quite sure she was ready for.

Jenkins: Yes. I love the struggling (you see) in her. She's trying to stay in the closet (a little because) she has to in trying to stay at home. But she's trying to find herself, and she's not sure what that means yet. Am I butch? No, I'm not butch. Am I conservative? No, I'm not.

A film about Aileen Wournos needed her girlfriend, but if you can't base her too closely on the real-life Tyria, you have to become creative. And now it is no longer clear why a young woman, played by attractive Christina Ricci, would fall for Theron with that make-up, playing an unfriendly, older prostitute.

In the movie, Selby's parents send her away from home to cure her from her homosexuality and she has no friends. How isolated she is is also visible later, when they are roller skating. She only knows Trevor, the son of the family she lives with and who tells his parents about her and Aileen... Right before she meets Aileen, she sits in a gay bar and an attractive young woman comes up to her - script:

Woman: How are you doing?

Selby: Great

Woman: Anyone sitting here?

Selby: No

Instead of sitting down, she takes the chair away. Selby is still alone and now someone else couldn't even sit down at her table anymore. Then she tries her luck with Aileen and is finally successful.

With Aileen she is much freer to do what she wants and can break out of her prison. Aileen also provides for them (you never see Selby work). Selby may not be okay with her being a prostitute (and Aileen actually tries to find better jobs) and with the murders - but she takes the money, drives the cars and she stays with her (she just doesn't want to hear about it). It's not until the police sketches are published that Selby actually has a problem with their lifestyle and even then, Aileen protects her (buys her a ticket, helps her with the police etc.).


Lee offers Shelby freedom and escape from living with relatives who take a sternly moralising view and would be unsympathetic to Shelby being a lesbian. Lee also offers Shelby some financial support since Shelby does not seem to be big on working for a living herself.

However, as I am neither a woman nor a lesbian myself I cannot fully know what they would feel. There may well be other reasons that other contributors may be able to highlight.

That is, if you take the relationship as realistic; although the film was based on a true story and apparently aimed at realism, it is still a work of fiction and we cannot know that the reality of Eileen Wournos's relationships would work exactly as portrayed.

I thought both Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci were very good in their roles and 'Monster' a good film that stands up to watching more than once, although by the nature of the story it would not be for everyone.


The true story goes like this:

By all accounts, the two women were legitimately in love, after having met at a gay bar. They enjoyed each other's company in all forms and manners, and were both best friends and lovers. Their relationship lasted 4 years. Aileen had been in trouble with the law from her early teens, and as such was the harder and more dominant of the two. Aileen considered Tyria Moore (a part-time maid and part-time bartender) to be her wife, thus taking the Male role in the relationship.

For the movie, Tyria wouldn't allow the film to use her likeness or image, so they chose the prettier, shorter, darker-haired Christina Ricci to play a character named "Selby", who was obviously loosely based on Tyria. However, the dynamic was still the same; Aileen was the dominant one, and the provider. Selby was shy and quiet by contrast, yet in love with Aileen.

So, to answer the question, Selby wasn't "forced" to stay there. She did love Aileen and stayed because of that relationship. However, just like Tyria in real life, Selby didn't like Aileen's chosen profession, and after the arrest for murder she worked with the police to get Aileen to confess to the crimes.

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