“I Know You Killed My Mother”: The Good Stepmother and the Serial Killer in Disney’s Cruella (2021)

Claudia Schwabe (Utah State University)

In 2021 Disney’s Cruella, based on the character Cruella de Vil from Dodie Smith’s 1956 children’s novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, premiered in Los Angeles. I argue that Disney’s Cruella presents a powerful counter-narrative to the hegemonic trope of the wicked stepmother in traditional fairy tales and its contemporary adaptations. However, Cruella also lacks a more complex depiction of the stepmother character and does little to challenge the portrayal of motherhood as static, conventional binary of all evil versus all good. Thus, it is problematic that stepmothers continue to be either villainized or martyred, which undermines other messages of equality in the film.

Part of 09-14 Examining Folk and Fairy Tales, Saturday, October 15, 2:30 pm–4:30 pm