Disney studios are part of our life, of our childhood. We have all grown up enjoying their movies, falling in love with their perfect heroes and princesses that, over time, we have ended up rejecting. Disney stereotypes have been criticized and remain so to this day. It is true that, from the current perspective, few of our old characters would pass in the approved filter. For that reason, instead of looking at heroes and princesses who have become outdated, today we immerse ourselves in the discovery of a timeless villain: Cruella de Vil.
Just as heroes and princesses have been left behind, so have some villains. Values change and, therefore, what one day we consider bad, the next day, can become good. It is true that Disney has worked hard to make clear the line that distinguishes good from evil, but, from the same thing, multiple readings can be made.
However, there are some who will never be able to become “not so bad” as Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and, of course, Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians.
And to want to make a coat with puppy skin is to be very bad yesterday, now and always.
What if another reading were possible? What if we change puppy for mink? Would Cruella be so bad or would we accept her socially?
Cruella de Vil, a true villain
The animated film premiered in 1961, being quite innovative for what had been produced under the Disney label. Until now, titles such as Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Alice in Wonderland have stood out. That is to say, these were films in which magic and fantasy were fundamental.
Elements such as television appear that tell us that we no longer live in remote fantastic worlds or stories that happened a long, long time ago. In addition, its main villain turns out to be a character devoid of magic, is not witch or sorceress, but keeps a great evil. Cruella de Vil is a fashion victim, a wealthy woman from her time with a certain obsession with fur coats.
This more realistic vision of the villain produces certain terror in the spectator. When the villain is presented as someone far away, who does not live in our time or our world, it will hardly cause panic. It is something similar to what happens with horror movies; When the film turns out to be too implausible or narrates facts that are almost impossible to happen, the viewer will not get involved and will not feel afraid. However, when in a film we are presented with a real murderer, a story based on real events or something that could happen, then fear occurs.
In the case of Cruella, its characterization acquires special importance: extremely thin woman, who smokes constantly, pointed eyebrows and cavalérico face. A very classic characterization in the Disney villains, his look and his eyebrows already confirm what we all feared: Cruella is bad.
The fact that she appears smoking compulsively gives her a certain characteristic snobbery of the time, but it is also an indication of her wickedness. Remember that the film is intended for a child audience and, as a result, the tobacco has negative connotations. Thinness and aggressive lines, in turn, often appear in villains (with the exception of Úrsula, for example), but they are also a reflection of the world they are trying to move us to: the fashion industry.
The horrors of fashion
Nowadays, more and more companies are aiming towards a more sustainable fashion and are gradually dispensing with animal skins. Although it is true that leather coats are still manufactured and that, in the footwear industry for example, it is difficult to find shoes that do not use leather, sensitivity towards animals has arrived quite late, being the majority in the last decades.
During the 20th century, fur coats such as mink, chinchilla, fox or otter were highly coveted. The taste for skins was a trend, synonymous with purchasing power and glamor. Cruella de Vil perfectly embodies these values, fashion is above all, even, of life. For her, there is nothing more important than satisfying her whims.
That is why he decides to get a truly novel skin: the skin of the Dalmatians. How can someone want to kill some puppies just to get dressed? Why not use a synthetic leather that imitates its spots? This is something that horrifies us deeply, we all know that the dog is the best friend of man, that faithful and loyal companion who has become one of the family.
So, what about mink or foxes? Why is it right to use your skin and not that of a Dalmatian?
Cruella, besides being an excellent villain, hides a dark reality that goes almost unnoticed by a large part of the population. The fashion industry, for a long time, has abused animals to satisfy the desires of humans.
When talking about a dog, we feel empathy, we sympathize with him and we see that Cruella’s attitude is that of an evil woman, but the same does not happen with other animals. Somehow, Cruella is giving us a lesson: we are judging her while we wear leather and animal skins. Is not it contradictory? Is not it hypocritical?
We adore Cruella de Vil
Her name could not be more accurate, the very etymology of it already alludes to its evil, to the despicable that its character is. And, nevertheless, we adore it. We adore her for being a perfect villain, but also because we know that what we are seeing is fiction and is extremely funny. She is intelligent, eccentric, successful, abuses her employees, is totally selfish … In short, a real harpy.
In 1996, we were able to see Cruella de Vil for the first time in a real image. An extraordinary Glenn Close was in charge of giving life to the iconic Disney villain. His interpretation has contributed, in a certain way, to the mythification of the character. Few actors have managed to give a Disney character such a distinctive and applauded image.
The Cruella of Glenn Close manages to make shade to all the other personages, especially, to the good Roger and Anita. The truth is that, in 101 Dalmatians, good humans are quite flat and totally dispensable, they are characters that do not reach the viewer. However, the villain rises with all its splendor both in the animated version and in the real one, although, in the latter, it shines especially.
Her extravagant look catches us, makes us unable to stop looking at her. Cruella is a self-sufficient woman, who dominates over all the characters in the film, is ambitious and knows no limits to her creation. In short, it is a character that works perfectly, from the visual to the deepest of his dark personality. With comical dyes, plays to be the bad of a movie that, unwittingly, becomes totally protagonist.
Cruella de Vil is one of Disney’s most remembered villains. Able to generate rejection and admiration almost equally. Destroys the idealization of the fashion world, shows the truth behind the coveted skins and the hypocrisy of the world. It’s so unique, so iconic, it’s hard not to worship it.
“You know I love the fur, dear, are my only love, I love the fur. And tell me, what woman is there in this horrible world that hates them?”
-Cruella de Vil-