Okay, not quite true. I do feel a little bad that she had to lose her husbands, since she did seem to love them. But Cruella? Hoo boy. She starts out the episode saying “You will learn to heel.” Like a dog. Because, ya know, treating children like dogs has always led to them being functioning and empathetic adults, right?
She locks her up, controls her with dogs. She seems to feed her and all, but there’s hardly any quality in that life.
Would her life have been better in an institution? Given the time, maybe not. However, they seem to be in a different realm than ours (one existing outside of time altogether), so who knows? Would life have been worse? Cruella is isolated from society, highly restricted, and we see no compassion from her mother for her (yes, even after the “reveal.”). She tells us (because she’s so reliable amirite?) that she felt for her daughter and “did what was best,” but you know what? Cora gave the whole “doing what’s best for your kid” speech before murdering Daniel, so I’m not handing out any cookies to mothers who control their children’s lives “for their own good,” and I’m not taking their word for it.
But if we can’t take Cruella’s word for it, doesn’t that mean we have to take her mother’s word for it? Because there’s no such thing as nuance or multiple people being unreliable at the same time and painting themselves in the best possible light apparently? Yeah, I don’t think so.
I know, I know, I’m not supposed to sympathize with her at all, because she was evil as a child too and wanted to “splash around in it” and all that jazz. But Cruella’s mom did nothing to help the situation.
And I get that psychopathy/sociopathy (technically not medical terms currently: it’s Antisocial Personality Disorder officially) is complicated and probably the least sympathetic of mental disorders. But it is a mental disorder.
And mental disorders have a long history of being conflated with psychopathy regardless of whether they actually have anything to do with it (autism’s perceived “lack of empathy,” people assuming schizophrenia means they’ll probably kill or hurt you at some point, Borderline people being conflated with manipulative abusers because their emotions don’t work the way a neurotypical’s does and it can be hard to take, etc, etc), as a way to dehumanize them and justify terrible treatment of them. The use of the word “disturbed” is often used to describe neurodivergent children that neurotypical parents don’t want to deal with, that disobey them.
Because words like “disturbed” and “psychopath” make them inhuman, make them inherently evil, and turn them into a burden, and their neurotypical parent is often forgiven for “not knowing how to deal with them.” Any abuse the neurotypical parent does is seen as necessary, and they are always, always believed over the child.
I liked the twist that Cruella didn’t start out as an innocent snowflake. I honestly do. But the fact that people are interpreting this twist to mean that what Cruella’s mom did was magically an okay thing to do… no. And my problem is also with the show, because in their efforts to subvert their normal pattern and come off all clever, they sort of end up undermining their own messages here. “Evil isn’t born it’s made… except when it’s not. Good luck figuring that out
because we’ll probably never talk about it ever again!” “Snow is not all good and Regina is not all bad, and Saviors can be corrupted and have potential for darkness… but let’s take her abuser’s word for it when she says she’s 100% evil and locking her up is the absolute best thing to do. Then it will be proven that she’s 100% evil when she kills her abuser and the very dogs that her abuser used to keep her in line, that threatened her and chased her down, and when she hurts the author’s precious fee-fees because she didn’t fall in love with him in one night.”
Again, it’s not the idea that she was just evil for the fun of it that I hate inherently. My problem is with the execution. My problem is with the perpetuating of the idea that some children deserve to be isolated from society, that some parents can do whatever they damn well please with their kids because… well look how awful this child is! Look how evil they are! Their mind isn’t like ours. It’s different. It’s evil. It’s disturbed. Because that is the exact mentality that so many neurodivergent people, who aren’t “psychopaths,” who don’t kill people, who aren’t even dangerous, are dealing with. The exact mentality that leads to their systematic abuse, and that exact mentality is why the institutions were so bad in the first place. And to condone that, with a handwave of, “well at least they weren’t in an institution; those places are abusive,” without even addressing the abuse that was faced? It’s sickening, and it makes me reluctant to trust anyone who tries to explain her actions away this way.