Cruella: The Long and Short of It

Critics of Cruella describe the screenplay as a “mess” and the character as “confusing”; still, fans everywhere are wearing half-blond and half-black hairdos in honor of the film. The fashion-shows charms us; the rags to riches tale keeps our attention. A series of engaging storylines about Cruella and her revolutionary style sweep us up and lead us to a long story arc that feels a little cold.

The Short Delights 

The episodes start with a Dickens-like tale and move into comedic sketches while Cruella works at getting into the fashion industry. The main story resumes when Estella learns that the Baroness is stealing her creations. The fall of the champagne glasses during her power struggle with the Baroness foreshadows the end of a regime and marks the onset of her fashion revolution.

In the music video, we love the way Cruella sticks it to the elites, spray painting her name on their buildings, disrupting press conferences, and insulting the Baroness. While on the truck, Cruella takes the dress away and leaves the garbage behind, communicating the notion that the Baroness’ fashion sense is “trash”.  Cruella promises audiences a future revolution as she drapes a red, royal train that reads “the past” over the Baroness’ car.

Cruella expresses the angst of working-class society with the punk music, the French Revolution-like petticoats, and the long, dress trains. In light of the upper-class oppression, the audience supports Cruella and the smacks of her poking stick as she fights for justice.

And then, she becomes the very thing that she fought against. 

The Lost Long Story Arc 

Voices yelling “Viva the Revolution” suddenly go silent when Cruella becomes an elitist herself and stands, not as representing the people, but as its ruling Queen. Personally, I felt betrayed when learning of Estella’s “royal blood”. Convinced that she expressed the will of the people, I criticized the writers for abandoning their “middle-class audience”. Now, I’m beginning to respect the choice as reflecting the sad realities that often follow great leaders.

The example of Rudi Guiliani comes to mind.

In the wake of 9/11, Rudy Guiliani reached out to an audience of grief-stricken New Yorkers. With kind, encouraging words, he gave them hope and comfort. On its Twentieth Anniversary, Guiliani’s speech rattled on endlessly; he appeared drunk and offered New York City nothing of substance. The shift in plot at the end of Cruella may demonstrate the fall from greatness that we often see from leaders. 

What do you think?  Is Cruella-as-aristocrat at the end – a letdown or a reality-check?  Should the writers have made another choice or do we respect the realism interjected into the fantasy? 

Read the discussion on Reddit.

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