Cruella and the illusion of genius

Sorry it’s been awhile since I last ranted about something that bothered me, but upon watching JLongbone’s rant about the movie Cruella, I had to talk about it.

Specifically, I had to talk about how… I am not sure how Disney came to the conclusion that Cruella was a genius. The movie is crammed with her referring to herself as a genius, and others talking about her genius, and the narrative acts as if she’s a genius even though she does very little geniusing. The entire movie revolves around the idea that she’s not just an artistic genius, but a criminal mastermind who can dominate and manipulate everyone.

Just… where did this characterization come from?

Because I have seen 101 Dalmations, and she is most assuredly not a genius. She is literally just a rich bitch who hires other people to do minor crimes for her. Even if she did the criminal acts in person, it wouldn’t be genius – it would be breaking into a middle-class London house and stealing baby animals that can be easily stuffed into a sack. That’s not Mission: Impossible. It’s not even Ocean’s 11. Actually, I was never quite sure why Roger and Anita never had the police investigate her, since she was literally the only suspect.

And lest you think that she was a fashion design genius… no, she was a consumer of fashion. There are plenty of bibliophiles who can’t write four coherent words, and there are plenty of fashion enthusiasts who know absolutely nothing about making fashion. They’re called celebrities. Ba-dum-tish.

The point is, wanting a coat made out of spotted dogskin is not the same thing as being a fashion designer of genius caliber. Hell, in the original book, Cruella’s husband was the one with actual fashion knowledge and experience; she just took advantage of his position to get lots of furs. Yes, someone actually married… that.

And of all the Disney villains I can think of off the top of my head, Cruella is arguably the least genius of them all. The closest to her in lack-of-genius is Gaston, and… well, at least Gaston knew how to rile up a crowd and manipulate people. Cruella just screams at them, hits them and throws money at them, and then ends up crashing her vehicle and being outwitted by a pair of dogs.

Who looked at this loony rich skank and thought, “Yes, she is a true genius”?

Maybe its one of those really sad attempts to inspire young girls by telling them that they’re brilliant and brave and talented and all-around glorious when… the majority are not, and likely never will be, and setting them up with big egos and inflated self-image is just going to make things rocky later on. Maybe people think that all girls will be amazing brilliant girlbosses if they have self-confidence, and that’s just not true. Self-confidence is often bestowed on people with nothing to back it up, and they typically make life harder for everyone around them.

And don’t even get me started on how the movie makes Cruella not do evil things. This is a woman that is famous for wanting to skin baby animals – whose bright idea was it to have her be kind to dogs? It’s like Disney wants the edgelord cred of having movies about villains, but they’re too cowardly to have their villains actually… do anything villainous.

Remember that one Justice League episode where the Flash and Lex Luthor switched bodies, and Flash declared that he wasn’t going to wash his hands “cuz I’m evil”? That was more evil than Cruella.

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