Though more groundbreaking than other Disney live-action remakes, Cruella still runs into a classic Disney stumbling block when it comes to deceased parents.

Cruella Disney’s live-action reinvention of the infamous One hundred and one dalmatians The villain Cruella De Vil, suffers from an unfortunate characterization problem common to many Disney protagonists: rubbing her parents. It has been a constant theme of Disney movies that an alarmingly high proportion of main characters in Disney stories are orphans. While the removal of these characters (parents, loved ones, etc.) is a convenient method of simplifying the narratives of these films, the prevalence of killing or otherwise disempowering them falls into a broader and more troubling problem of placing certain groups “in refrigerators”, so -speaking. And as haunting as this trope is, Cruella achieves an interesting twist on the formula.

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“Women in Refrigerators” was first coined by Gail Simone to describe the prevailing trope in comics where female characters are stripped of their powers – hurt, raped, killed, etc. – in order to further the story. of the protagonist, usually a man. The term originated from Green Lantern # 54 in which the girlfriend of the titular hero is murdered and stuffed into his fridge. This trend is well documented and extends beyond the mere medium of comics or the genre of superhero stories. Too often, women and minorities are “ignored” in the media to inspire protective or other motivational qualities in white male protagonists. Examples can be found in stories from disparate media, including, but not limited to, The Killing Joke (1988), I remember (2000), game of Thrones (the books and the HBO series), and even this year during The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

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Related: Why Are So Many Disney Princess Mothers Dead?

Disney has long practiced mocking the parents of its protagonists for practical reasons. Firing a young character’s parents at the end of Act I not only cuts out the added narrative dressing of involving their actions during runtime, but also forces them to grow up, the central thrust of Disney classics like Bambi, The Lion King, Y Frozen, among others. Cruella She wastes little time doing the deed, as Estella’s mother barely appears on screen ten minutes before those wicked Dalmatians push her off a cliff, propelling young Estella on her own journey shaped by tragedy and giving Cruella a comprehensive story. But despite what those first few minutes would have viewers believe, Cruella he has another trick up his sleeve.

Weather Cruella Fridges the woman that Estella has always known as her mother from the beginning, it is later revealed that the Baroness is, in fact, Estella’s true biological mother. Does this remove the cold in the refrigerator from the film? Well not exactly. Functionally, Estella’s mother, though not biological, had yet to die to define her daughter’s character arc. Also, whether or not she was related by blood to Estella does not change the fact that the story takes advantage of a dead woman’s body to aid the protagonist as a mere plot device, adding to the ever-increasing tally. of women and minorities written like that. finely in fiction. While Emma Stone’s version of Cruella is not the typical straight white male who benefits from this, it can bring back some points from feminist theory, Cruella continues to earn the “fridge” badge.

The typical matricide twist that often accompanies Disney stories in no way makes Cruella a problematic movie overall, nor does it discredit the fairly creative version of Disney’s existing intellectual property. Compared to recent live-action remakes of the studio’s animated classics, this follows the path of Pernicious (2014) to open up new narrative paths rather than retreading old material beat by beat. Rubbing Estella’s mother is no more lazy than convenient, and while it may be excusable on a case-by-case basis, it does contribute to a broader troublesome tendency.

Next: All Live-Action Disney Remakes In Development

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