When Disney’s live action Cruella debuted last year, I have to admit, I was not excited in the least. Disney giving an animal abuser a chance to redeem herself in the eyes of their viewers was a little bit too much for me. I did, however, watch the film not too long after it was released on Disney+.
I am ashamed to say that I fell in love with the film, and more specifically, Cruella herself.
Cruella is a young, misunderstood, mentally ill protagonist who is simply trying to succeed. She speaks to entrepreneurialminorities such as myself. She is a woman trying to succeed in a corrupt world, all the while being corrupt herself. It is an intriguing paradox–one that catches everybody’s attention.
I watched the 2 hour and 16 minute drama completely enamored by the depth and darkness of her character. I was aware of how this film was changing my perspective, and what I was feeling during various scenes. I felt sorry for her in some, and in others I felt inspired.
Of course, from a more realistic point of view, Cruella isn’t special at all. She is a shitty person who went through shitty things and became successful through shitty means. She is an abusive, basic bitch with money. That is all there is to it.
But once I thought about it, the more I realized how it wasn’t just me. We all love villainous women. Harely Quinn? Love her. Bellatrix? A queen. Regina George? I kin her.
Why is that? Why do we love female villains so much? Is it because we love how powerful these women become? Is it because women are portrayed in new ways on the big screen?
Regardless of the reason, a cruel villain is very much a real villain, and should not be glorified, even in fictional or dramatic works. Younger (and even older) audiences are swayed too easily, and we may normalize certain thoughts or behaviors that we shouldn’t. E.g. in Anna Sorokin’s case, many people romanticized her financial crimes and the manipulation of her former friends.
Lauren Barton (she/they) is a magazine journalist based in East Tennessee. She is the founder of Tectonic and writes for Reclamation Magazine, GEN-ZiNE, and the Well-Trained Tribune. Follow them on Twitter at @laurenbarton03.