Monday, February 20, 2012

My Favorite Female Movie Characters: Cruella deVille (101 Dalmatians)

   You know you're evil if you have a whole song devoted to the subject. Enter Cruella deVille, the most fiendishly fabulous villain in the Disney canon, who has an entire song devoted to her delightful wickedness. 
      The only thing Disney does better than princesses is villains. While their heroines are often bland do-gooder types who lack any real impression on the viewer after the movie is over, Disney creates villains with style, flair, motive, and really definable characteristics. Cruella is one such person; she is wildly flamboyant, theatrical, self-indulgent, and demanding, like a hybrid of Norma Desmond (more about her later) and Bette Davis in her 'All About Eve' days. She makes her grand entrance by throwing open a door and prancing inside, saying, "Anita, DAAHHLING!" When Anita asks how she is, she answers with the most diva-esque answer possible: "Miserable, dahhling, as usual. Perfectly wretched," while sweeping around the room like a furry hurricane. (I've always wanted to use that line in a social situation.) She smokes a cigarette that looks like it is leaking green slime and slings it carelessly around her, uncaring about its affect on others. To boot, she actually wants to murder (and SKIN) hundreds of puppies. There are Disney villains who kidnap, steal, lie, kill, and all sorts of other horrible things, but killing puppies? This is just an evil of an inconceivable ilk. 
       The thing that always interests me most about Cruella is how she stands up against the sub-protagonist, Anita. Anita is a beauty and seems to be happily married to Roger, the songwriter who pens the tune about Cruella. She's nice, but pretty bland. From what we know, she likes dogs and is a housewife, standard fare for the time the film was released, but it seems she doesn't have much to do. She even has a housekeeper. What does a housewife with a housekeeper and no children do all day? Cruella, on the other hand, seems to have a very busy life. Of what, we aren't sure, but she sweeps in and out rather importantly, constantly has new clothes, has a luxurious life of comfort and some importance, and doesn't seem to have a husband or any family at all. In that way, she is the self-made woman in a time that these were fairly rare to come by. (That she is the villain is of some concern, but I'll let it go due to the time period.) 
      Not much is known outside of Cruella's great desire for furry luxury. We don't know her backstory, except that she and Anita were 'schoolmates' (although they never looked like they were in the same age bracket to me,) and once she loses the puppies in the end, we assume she just stayed in that snowbank and cursed out her henchmen and cried on her muffler for all eternity. However, I'd like to think that at some point she developed a new fetish. Like maybe leather.
       Cruella as a leather fetishist? That's a whole different story that Disney might should keep its clean hands free of.

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