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Is Monster Based On A True Story? Inspiration Explained


Netflix’s Monster tells the story of a teen fighting for justice after being wrongfully accused of murder – but is Monster based on a true story?

Netflix’s Monster tells the story of Steve Harmon, a young, Black teenager fighting for justice and his future after being wrongfully accused of murder — but is the movie based on a true story? Monster first premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival before landing on Netflix this month. Kelvin Harrison Jr. plays the lead, starring alongside Jennifer Hudson and Jeffrey Wright.

The Netflix movie’s narrative focuses on the aforementioned Steve, a 17-year-old high school student from Harlem. In Monster, Harmon’s future is put into jeopardy when he becomes tangled up in a robbery-homicide case. The film follows Harmon’s journey as he and his lawyer, played by Jennifer Ehle, fight against an unjust criminal justice system and a racially motivated prosecutor to clear his name and prove his innocence.

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Harmon’s story in Monster is one audience will recognize from many real-life cases, but the film is based on the 1999 award-winning young adult novel of the same name by Walter Dean Myers. Though it is a work of fiction, the author included several autobiographical elements in the story, which he discussed in a 2011 interview with NJ.com. Like Steve, Myers also grew up in Harlem. The author credits his high school teachers for helping him through his adolescent years by encouraging him to use writing as an outlet.”I had an advantage in that I lived through all this stuff and have been able to think about it and to consider it,” Myers said. “Why did I go in one direction, while these kids may or may not go in that direction.”

Jennifer Hudson in Monster on Netflix

Later in life, while working in construction, Myers followed his high school writing teacher’s advice and began writing at night, eventually leading to a long, notable writing career. In Monster, Harmon is also a storyteller — portrayed as a writer in the novel and a filmmaker in the Netflix movie. The title of the novel and film was also pulled from Myers’s real-life experiences. In his 2001 memoir, Bad Boy: A Memoir, Myers recalls getting into trouble as a quick-tempered teen who developed a love for reading and writing. In uncertain times, Myers found himself turning to the streets for comfort. That’s when Myers noticed how many people were quick to label him a “monster,” unfairly judging him from the onset based on their own prejudice, much like those who judge Harmon in Monster.

Monster, like much of Myers’s work, touches on themes of identity, race, individual integrity, and the complicated nature of truth and justice. Watching the film, it’s impossible not to think of the countless cases of wrongful conviction and discrimination that exist in the U.S. criminal justice system. The Netflix adaptation has its flaws, but Monster will have audiences thinking about the reality behind Harmon’s fictionalized case. Like the all too real-life cases such as those depicted in the Netflix documentary series, The Innocence Files, and the stories told by inmates in Netflix’s four-part documentary, College Behind Bars. These real-life cases and convictions show how although Monster is a work of fiction, it’s also a story rooted in reality.

More: Innocence Files: Biggest Reveals From The Wrongful Convictions Documentary

  • Monster (2021)Release date: May 07, 2021

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