Single Father Character Spotlight: Monty James

The dynamics of families are often displayed in the media. The entertainment industry depicts countless stories of families in the past, present, and future. In honor of Fathers Day and keeping with the premise of Degrees Single, it felt appropriate to acknowledge single fathers that are portrayed visibly and subtly in television and movies. Every Sunday in June, a new father, although fictional, will be discussed.

This week’s spotlight highlights the main character and protagonist of Tyler Perry’s film, Daddy’s Little Girl (2007). Monty James, played by Idris Elba, is a divorced, African-American father of 3 daughters. He and his ex-wife, Jennifer (Tasha Smith), share their daughters (the McClain sisters) from a previous marriage that is not elaborated on much within the movie. Early in the film, it seems that the girls, ages 12, 7, and 5, live with their maternal grandmother. Oddly, the grandmother has a more trusting relationship with Monty than she does with her own daughter. So much so that before her death, she asks Monty to take the girls to live with him full-time.

It should not be far-fetched to believe that a father would raise his child(ren) by himself. But as mentioned in the spotlight of Ivan Drago, society has conditioned many to believe that a woman is better suited to raise children alone, and overall, than a man. Thankfully, Monty James was yet another man who did not abandon his duties as a father. It seems a bit more noteworthy for him to be raising 3 girls when their mother is still alive and in the picture. And the girls preferred to be with their father over their mother. But Monty still found himself in a nasty custody battle over the girls with his ex-wife who was now dating a drug-dealer and local troublemaker.

“Monty James was yet another man who did not abandon his duties as a father.”

I wish the storyline of Daddy’s Little Girls would have given more of a backstory about Monty and Jennifer. Instead, the focus was on Monty’s blossoming relationship with a beautiful attorney, Julia (Gabrielle Union-Wade), against the backdrop of his custody battle. What could have shaped up to be a typical “she’s out of your league” story took a less predictable turn. Monty was portrayed as a likeable man upfront before his other circumstances were made known. He was working as a mechanic at an auto-shop that he hoped to own one day. And he was good at it! So, he is seen as a talented, ambitious man with an honest job and a dream. When his girls are introduced into the movie, it is during Monty’s visit to their grandmother’s house. The girls rush to the door to greet him, and he is affectionate. Monty is kind, brings them goodies, and one of the daughters thank him for helping her get a good grade on her project at school. What’s not to love?

“Monty was portrayed as a likeable man upfront before his other circumstances were made known.”

Julia’s elitist pair of friends from college, one in particular, found much not to love. After Julia allowed herself to become intimate with Monty, her friends noticed right away. During their lunch date scene, they mentioned that she had a “glow.” But when Julia disclosed who was responsible for that glow, one friend quickly minimized Monty to a driver from Edgewood with 3 kids. I am glad the movie gave us an early glimpse of Monty’s character beyond his circumstances, so we would not judge him the same as Julia’s friends. Honestly, upon hearing about Monty with his “baby momma drama” alone, I might have advised my friend to run also.

Monty had many odds against him which continue to be the unfortunate plight of so many Black men. He was not as stable as he wanted to be financially. Monty lived in a community called Edgewood that was considered to be subpar and plagued by drugs and violence. An eerily familiar part of Monty’s tale was the lingering effects of a false conviction of rape of a white girl when he was a teen-age, basketball star. These types of accusations coupled with bias within the judicial system have been the downfall of many Black men and a plague to African-American families and communities. It seems that the conviction was overturned in time for Monty to re-establish some normality in his life and be present for his daughters. Although his dreams seemed to be derailed, Monty’s attitude about the outcome was noble: “I think that parents sometimes gotta give up their dreams so their kids can have one.”

One could say that Monty was a #GirlDad before the hashtag was created, following the untimely death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and all other passengers on the helicopter. His character battles misconceptions of Black men and fatherhood which Monty eloquently addressed within the film: “I know the world will have you think that, you know, brothers in the hood don’t look after their kids…I know there are some that don’t, but I do. I love my kids. I want them back.” Spoiler alert: Monty gets his daughters back. He gets his auto shop. He finds love. Fatherhood wins again.

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