Cruella Deville and the Fear of Strong Women

I was watching 101 Dalmatians earlier and something struck me. We all know Cruella Deville, she is completely insane. She wants to skin adorable puppies for their coats. What kind of sick person would do that? Noone! Then I thought about when the movie was made. It came out in 1961 based on a book published in 1956. Then it struck me, Cruella Deville is what people were afraid strong women would be.  Don’t believe me? Let us contrast her with the other women in the movie.

Both of them fulfill typically femine roles: wife and domestic servant. The nanny has some spunk, but she only brings it out at the “appropriate” times. Anita lets Roger handle most everything, because he’s the man and that’s his job. Cruella has no one. The two men she works with are imbeciles so she ends up having to do everything herself. In the live action version, she condemms marriage by saying “More women have been lost to marriage than to war, famine, disease or disaster.” The problem is that she is an exaggeration. Noone (at least I hope noone) is that crazy. Cruella is the monster that people in the 50s and 60s told their kids about at night. They were so afraid of the strong woman that she became Cruella. “Strong, independently wealthy women are dangerous.” “They’ll destroy us all.”

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this.  Is Cruella Deville a paranoid fantasy from a bygone era or have I gone too far? Comment and let me know!

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