July 23, 2018
The Queen of Darkness
Monsters engulf our society. They haunt us in our dreams and follow us throughout our day. We encounter these monsters at times we are supposed to be happiest; at the movie theater with your friends on a Friday night, on T-shirts at the mall, on the streets in your neighborhood on Halloween, and even at Disneyland, the happiest place on earth. The dictionary defines a monster as, “any creature so ugly or monstrous as to frighten people.”(dictionary.com). However, as society has grown and expanded so has the definition of a monster. Monsters are no longer entirely gruesome. In fact, nowadays monsters can be perceived as appealing and even human. The Monster Theory book by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen suggests, “We live in an age that has rightly given up on Unified Theory, an age when we realize that history is composed of a multitude of fragments, rather than of smooth epistemological wholes.”(Cohen, 3). This quote by Cohen nearly skims the surface of critically analyzing monsters. He continues to explore and depict the idea of monsters through seven theses he created. Monsters can compare to one or more of these seven theses.
Common monsters include vampires, zombies, werewolfs, ghosts, etc. These monsters may appear extremely different but what they all have in common is that they are all imaginary. Some forms of monsters that people overlook include criminals such as rapists, murderers, and burglars. According to the dictionary, a burglar is “a person who commits a felony of breaking into and entering the house of another at night with intent to steal, extended by statute to cover the breaking into and entering of any of various buildings, by night or day.”(dictionary.com). Although burglars are based on violent human actions, burglars can be imaginary as well. For example, the monster in the fictional Disney movie Hundred and One Dalmations is a wretched burglar named Cruella De Vil. The film Hundred and One Dalmations tells the story of a litter of Dalmatian puppies who are kidnapped by the villainous Cruella, who wants to use their fur to make into coats. The puppies parents, Pongo and Perdita, set out to save their children from the clutches of Cruella, all the while rescuing 84 additional puppies, bringing the total of Dalmatians to 101.
Cruella De Vil is a petrifying burglar character in the popular children’s Disney movie, Hundred and One Dalmations. The movie was created in 1956 by Dodie Smith, an English children’s novelist, after World War II. Dodie explained how the idea for the film arose, “She drew on personal experience, owning up to nine Dalmatian dogs at the same time herself.”(Smith,Dodie). This quote gives us background information on the formation of the movie, but not any information on how the monster Cruella De Vil was created. The best way to understand how the fictional, villain Cruella was brought to life is through seven theses Jeffrey Jerome Cohen wrote. Cohen, author of Monster Theory, claims, “Monsters are our children. These monsters ask us how we perceive the world, and how we have misrepresented what we have attempted to place. They ask us to reevaluate our cultural assumptions about race, gender, sexuality, our perception of difference, our tolerance toward its expression. They ask us why we have created them.”(Cohen, 20). Cohen is proposing that humans in society are responsible for creating monsters. The same people who tremble in their skin when seeing, thinking, or hearing about a monster are the same people responsible for these creations.
Walt Disney can be held accountable for the creation of over a dozen monsters and villains. Walt was an incredible film-maker and became a popular topic of academic inquiry. In the scholarly article, The ‘Dark Prince’ and Dream Women: Walt Disney and Mid-Twentieth Century Feminism, American animation teacher Amy Davis explains, “certain misconceptions about Walt persist in terms of his attitudes towards race, religion, politics, and sexual equality. Even in more recent—and ostensibly more scholarly—works such as Janet Wasko’s Understanding Disney, there are numerous quotes, purportedly from Walt, which express his attitudes towards women. Certainly, as a lecturer who teaches a final-year module on American Animation history in a Media Studies department, I can attest that a number of my students picked up on Wasko’s claim that, at one point, Walt is said to have stated that ‘Girls bored me. They still do.(Davis, 213). This quote suggests a reason for the commonalty of female villains in Disney movies. Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, The Evil Queen from Snow White, Ursula from The Little Mermaid, the Queen of Hearts from Alice in wonderland and Cruella De Vil from Hundred and One Dalmations are all popular female villains in Disney movies.
Cruella De Vil may have been a fictional monster in Hundred and One Dalmations, but she is a real monster in the eyes of innocent children. Children are assumed to be vulnerable, impressionable, and in need of protection from scary media. Despite this, numerous horror films intended specifically for children have been made since the 1980’s. Author of The Children’s Horror Film scholarly article, Catherine Lester, declares “Drawing from the work of William Paul, Heffernan ties this motif to contemporaneous social anxiety concerning a loss of control of children and in defining the so-called culture of childhood, an anxiety that is similarly seen in the work of psychiatrist Frederic Wertham. In Seduction of the Innocent, his 1954 criticism of comic books, Wertham feared that the “corrupting influence” of horror comics would transform child readers into juvenile delinquents.”(Lester 23). Lester is shedding light on the fact that despite attempts to restrict children’s access to such material, these anxieties continue to procreate in Hollywood children movies like Hundred and One Dalmations.
The monster Cruella De Vil was created in 1956, but her villainous legacy lives on in the popular television series Once Upon A Time. According to ABC, Once Upon A Time is an American fantasy drama television series on ABC which debuted on October 23, 2011, and concluded on May 18, 2018. ABC’s brief overview of the series states, “For the first six seasons, the series originally took place in the fictional seaside town of Storybrooke, Maine, in which the residents are actually characters from various fairs tales and other stories that were transported to the real world town and robbed of their original memories by the Evil Queen Regina who used a powerful curse obtained from Rumpelstiltskin. The residents of Storybrooke, where Regina is mayor, have lived an unchanging existence for 28 years, unaware of their own lack of aging. The town’s only hope lies with a bail-bonds person named Emma Swan, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, who was transported from the Enchanted Forest to the real world via a magic tree as an infant before she could be cursed. As such, she is the only person who can break the curse and restore the characters’ lost memories.”(ABC). Cruella De Vil was first featured in season 4 of the series as part of a group called ‘queens of darkness’. The ‘queens of darkness’ ` include the charachters Cruella, Maleficent, and Ursula. Their plan is to rewrite the fates of all heroes and villains in the villains favor and steal all of the so-called happy endings from the heroes. Similarly to Hundred and One Dalmations, Cruella appears to have some of the same attributes in the movie and television series. These attributes are the way Cruella dresses, in large black and white fur coats, the same car she had in the movie with the license plate “De Vil” across the front bumper, and the same awful tendency to steal what is not rightfully hers. Cohen’s book Monster Culture explains in his first thesis, “The monster is born only at this metaphoric crossroads, as an embodiment of a certain cultural movement- of a time, a feeling, and a place. The monster’s body quite literally incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy, giving them life and an uncanny independence. The monstrous body is pure culture… it is always a displacement, always inhabits the gap between the time of upheaval that created it and the moment into which it is received, to be born again.(Cohen, 4). He is advising that society resurrects past monsters with at least one or more of the initial monster’s characteristics while adding to the new monster’s identity based on society’s ideals at the time. Therefore Cruella attains her original fur coats, car, and poor morals, but both her wardrobe style, vehicle, and diabolical plan have been enhanced to be more eloquent because of the time gap.
Furthermore, Disney did not stop there. Selena Gomez covered a song for the Disneymania 6 album titled Cruella De Vil. Fandom reveals, “Cruella de Vil” is a song featured in the 1961 Disney-produced animated film One Hundred and One Dalmatians and performed by Bill Lee as the singing voice of Roger Radcliffe, a character from the movie. It has been re-recorded by Lalaine, Hayden Panettiere, and Selena Gomez for various releases in the Disneymania album series.”(Fandom). This song re-recorded by pop star Selena Gomez was released in 2008 and is often sung by children all over the world. The lyrics from the song paint an accurate and scary picture of Cruella, “The curl of her lips The ice in her stare All innocent children had better beware She’s like a spider waiting for the kill Look out for Cruella De Vil… Cruella, Cruella De Vil If she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will Cruella, Cruella De Vil To see her is to take a sudden chill Cruella De Vil…This vampire bat This inhumane beast She ‘outta be locked up and never released This world was such a wholesome place until Cruella, Cruella De Vil”.(Fandom). This song also coincides with Cohen’s first monster theory that The Monster’s Body Is a Cultural Body. The television series Once Upon a Time and Selena Gomez’s song Cruella De Vil were created around the same time period so therefore share the new additional monster qualities. Both the television series and the song also share the revealing truth that the villain Cruella De Vil will continue to live on in society.
Monsters like Cruella De Vil are everywhere we look. We can not escape the fact that we live amongst them every day. However, it is important that we are properly informed about monsters so we can decipher who the real monsters are. Without a doubt, burglars terrify the average human and Cruella is one of the worst. Anyone who can steal innocent dalmatian puppies with intent to murder them in cold blood just to make a few coats in a monster. Nothing is ever as it seems. There is a reason people do not trust each other like they used to. My tip of advice, try not to be so naive.
LESTER, CATHERINE. “The Children’s Horror Film.” Velvet Light Trap: A Critical Journal of Film & Television, no. 78, Fall2016, pp. 22-37. EBSCOhost, doi:10.7560/VLT7803.
This is a scholarly article about how children and horror is fraught with tension, with children being assumed to be so vulnerable, horrific media corrupts them. This article describes the children’s horror genre and addresses the key issues that its existence raises. In my essay I will use this article to show my audience the audacity of the problem. This article is credible because it is in the Crafton Hills database and has references as well.
Davis, Amy M. “The ‘Dark Prince’ and Dream Women: Walt Disney and Mid-Twentieth Century American Feminism.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television, vol. 25, no. 2, June 2005, pp. 213-230. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/01439680500137987.
This is a scholarly article about the life and work of Walt Disney in terms of his relationships with and attitudes toward women. Many Disney classics show two highly contradictory notions of women: as a source of love and goodness and as a source of danger and duplicity.nin my essay I will use the article to show how many villains in Disney movies are girls and the affect that has on children. This article is credible because it was found on the Crafton Hills website and had references cited at the end.
“Smith, Dodie (1896 – 1990).” The Penguin Biographical Dictionary of Women, edited by Market House Books Ltd., Penguin, 1st edition, 1998. Credo Reference, https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/penbdw/smith_dodie_1896_1990/0?institutionId=5312. Accessed 18 Jul. 2018.
This is an article reference about Dorothy Gladys Smith, the young women who wrote the first 101 Dalmations and how the character Cruella De Vil came to be. It gives a little background on the authors life and describes that she too had an abundant amount of dalmatians. I will use this reference in my essay to give the audience a background of the original Cruella De Vil character and compares it to her more new identities in the movie 101 Dalmatians and the Netflix series Once Upon a Time. This is a credible source because I found it on the Crafton Hills database and it was written by a professional British writer.
Network, A. (2018). About Once Upon A Time TV Show Series. [online] ABC. Available at: https://abc.go.com/shows/once-upon-a-time/about-the-show [Accessed 18 Jul. 2018].
This website is about the Netflix show called Once Upon a Time. It describes how the show is a story about hope and tells about how the residents of the Enchanted Forest face their greatest challenge yet as The Evil Queen, Captain Hook and Rumpelstiltskin join forces with a grown-up Henry Mills and his daughter, Lucy, on an epic quest to bring hope to their world and ours. New fairy tale characters and old search for true love, find adventure and take sides in the ongoing struggle of good against evil. I will use this website to quote scenes from the movie with the villain Cruella De Vil. This is a credible source because it accurately describes the Netflix series and is a world renowned news network.
Cohen, J. (n.d.). Monster Culture (Seven Theses). [online] englishwithtuttle.com.
This is an article about critically analyzing monsters and the different cultures they come from. It provides sufficient background information that can connect monsters to both the past, present, and future. I will use this article to connect my monster to critical realizations in the world. This is a credible source because it is a scholarly journal and has multiple scientists cited.
Selena Gomez Fandom. (2018). Cruella de Vil. [online] Available at: http://selenagomez.Fandom.com/wiki/Cruella_de_Vil [Accessed 27 Jul. 2018].
This is an article about Selena Gomez’s song about Cruella De Vil. It provides the lyrics and a little insight on the song and music video. I will use this website in my essay when I compare Selena’s song to the evolution of Cruella and chiefs in society today. This is a credible source because it states the same lyrics as the legal song released.