In classic superhero origin story form, the titular character for the new Disney film “Cruella,” played by Emma Stone, begins her tale as an orphan, with the added guilt of having inadvertently caused her mother’s death. With no family in the world, she ends up on her own, with some petty thieves and her dog. It’s got the classic Disney fairytale feel, but as Disney has chosen to center girls’ stories, they continue to decenter what is important to most women.
Our superhero stories for women, the new stories for girls to tell them how to achieve their dreams, come with a very apparent deletion: Love and morality are not part of the new female advancement story. Instead, both are cast aside in favor of aggressive power. It’s as though these girls have already begun the testosterone treatments to turn them into the men they know they can be to succeed in a man’s world.
Such is the story presented in the latest Disney live-action release, “Cruella.” Propelled by her talent and sheer moxie, Cruella—or Estella, her given name—takes a job with a fashion designer, the Baroness (Emma Thompson). While designing clothes is Cruella’s dream, working for the Baroness is grueling. She is demanding and exacting, a narcissistic perfectionist.
“You can’t care about anyone else,” the Baroness tells her assistant Cruella. “Everyone else is an obstacle. You care what an obstacle wants or feels, you’re dead. If I cared about anyone or thing I might have died like so many brilliant women with a drawer full of unseen genius and a heart full of sad bitterness. You have the talent for your own label. Whether you have the killer instinct is the big question.”
“I hope I do,” Cruella replies.
If Hollywood has taught us anything about fashion, it’s that it’s a cutthroat industry. Beauty is not for the faint of heart, nor for anyone who wants to maintain healthy personal relationships, if we can believe “The Devil Wears Prada.” That cutthroat mentality comes into play quite literally in “Cruella,” because the title character has a penchant for vengeance. After
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