Attention: contains spoilers
A baby with half white hair and the other black color in the 60s is a monster in the eyes of people except for the mother of the child. “From the beginning I have always expressed my originality. Not everyone knew how to appreciate it, ”says the voice-over of a young Cruella de Vil. Portrayed by Emma Stone. Cruella, directed by Craig Gillespie and released on Disney Plus, comes to cleanse the sins of the animal fur lover. Turn the villain into a heroine. But at what cost? The director presents the protagonist as a strange person because he makes clothes for his teddy bear that does not follow a pattern. Her real name is Estella, but she claims her name is Cruella. The mother challenges her, tries to make her daughter fit into the supposed concept of normality. He enrolls her in a school from which she will be expelled for hitting her classmates in self-defense. She is not strange, she just acts like a girl who does mischief. One of them apparently causes a tragedy: the death of his mother. Cruella now only has the company of guilt. Two street children will become his new family, they will cleverly rob buses and trains like in the novel Oliver Twist. They are, above all, simulators. As is Disney with this film before the LGBTIQ collective.
Estella (or Cruella) no longer wears her bicolor hair, she hides it dyed or with a mahogany wig. Make costumes for the sophisticated hoaxes as you wish to succeed in the world of fashion. It won’t take long for her to work in the place of her dreams and be discovered by a star designer: the Baroness (Emma Thompson). The (only) villain in this story. Between dress and dress, an androgynous and extravagant couturier will appear on the scene, Artie (John McCrea): “I say that being normal has to be the cruelest insult, and they have never told me,” he says. However, not all that glitters is glitter. Does the introduction of a mannered character make a movie queer? Beyond the good intentions or the shameless pink washing of some entertainment companies Cruella It is still a traditionalist work in the most conventional Disney style. Outside of the soundtrack or the fleeting presence of a couturier, gay? (no bun, of course), the story traces a conservative path. An orphan girl who craves revenge and ends up discovering that she actually belongs to the nobility.
Cruella it fails in the attempt to be a modern, current work, by resorting to the most conservative resource of classical melodrama which consists in that everything, good and bad, is inherited. For director Craig Gillespie only bloodline matters. Cruella confronts the fearsome Baroness to discover that her own talent for fashion and her own madness / evil inherits from her, who is her biological mother. Nothing is less queer than being marked by destiny and tradition. In this film the protagonist does not choose, she is swept away by her family tragedy. It’s not even your decision that two-colored hair is a birthmark. What Cruella does not choose is dissent: everything she does and has is for her mother. That’s why it’s not queer. Tradition is not dissent.
In the race to renew franchises, and update them to the current times, the Disney princess factory does not stop regurgitating products with less or greater fortune. 101 Dalmatians / The Night of the Cold Noses / Cruella de Vil had already had their update in the 1996 live action, with Glenn Close. For these times and to be able to make Cruella (almost) a princess they looked for a more classically beautiful actress to interpret the character. Young, cute and not murderous sells more. Beyond the controversy, due to the aesthetic change of the character, the original 1961 Disney animated film was based on a novel by Dodie Smith, where the character of Cruella de Vil is described as a beautiful woman. The idea of making it grotesque came from Ken Anderson and the Disney animation team who felt that a woman of classic beauty did not work well as a villain in an animated film. The idea of telling the story of Cruella de Vil in a punk / queer / feminist key is not necessarily a bad thing, just as it was not a bad thing to tell the story of Maleficent from the point of view of the villain. But that an operation is logical, that an intention is positive, does not guarantee a satisfactory result.
Like other Disney villains, Cruella was already a queer icon. Overwhelmed, threatening normality with her show image and, above all, because of her ideology of life: she is not interested in marrying a man and having children. What she wants is to have a fur coat to be the Queen of the party. For decades Cruella has been a role model when it comes to dredging, without the need for Disney to authorize that with washed and shy versions. The LGBTIQ collective decides what to do with characters from popular literature, cinema and animation. And what it does is much more played and intense than what Craig Gillespie’s Cruella offers.