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The Plugged In Show, Episode 79: Cruella & Disney’s Darker Turn


You know the song, right? “Cruella DeVil, Cruella DeVil/If she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will.”

But how did Cruella get so evil? Or is she actually evil at all? Disney’s newest movie, Cruella, takes a stab at answering both of those questions—and not necessarily in a way that parents would approve of.

Disney has always had its darker side. It’s not as if the wicked Queen in Snow White was a particularly nice woman. But lately, the Mouse House has zeroed in on its collection of memorable villains and, sometimes, asked us whether they’re quite so villainous after all. From Maleficent to its popular Descendants movies, Disney has given its bad guys new breadth, depth and, sometimes, problems.

Our team tackles Cruella and then expands the discussion to Disney villains in general, truly exploring the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s a fun, lively free-for-all that—a little like the villains we talk about—takes some surprising twists.

And if you want to check out anything we talk about on the show, take a look at the links below.

Gift of Any Amount Offer: Burning Bush 2.0 by Paul Asay
Plugged In Review: Cruella

Plugged In Review: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Plugged In blog: “Who’s the Evilest of Them All?”
Plugged In Review: 101 Dalmatians
Plugged In Review: The Jungle Book (2016)
Plugged In Review: Maleficent
Plugged In Review: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Plugged In blog: “Maleficent Manages the Win”
Plugged In blog: “Cinderella: Belle of the Ball”
Plugged In Review: Joker
Plugged In Review: Dumbo (2019)
Plugged In Review: The Lion King (2019)
Plugged In Review: Mulan (2020)
Plugged In Review Pinocchio
Plugged In Review: 102 Dalmatians
Plugged In Review: Cobra Kai

Focus on the Family: Setting Media Standards
Focus on the Family: Making Wise Entertainment Choices
Plugged In: Tech Guide
Focus on the Family: How to Develop Media Intelligence in Your Home

Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

2 Responses

  1. -Having listened to the discussion, I agree on how surprising some elements in older Disney movies are. I think one of the biggest surprises looking through an adult lens is The Great Mouse Detective. I mean yeah, all the others have their surprising dark elements, but just in terms of content, there’s a lot in there. For instance:

    Both Basil and Ratigan smoke, the latter I’d say to look sophisticated, and the former as a way to think.

    Liquor flows pretty freely during Ratigan’s villain song, and we also get a scene at a pub. They don’t even try to disguise they’re drinking. For that matter, during the same scene, we get a mouse showgirl coming on to her audience. That was one that went over my head as a kid, but boy, it takes on a different tone as an adult.

    Ratigan also threatens to kill a little girl, and you know he will do it. He doesn’t succeed, but you know he means business. And he tears Basil up pretty badly during their battle on Big Ben.

    And it was one of my favorite Disney movies growing up. Looking back, it’s kind of surprising my parents let me watch it.

    1. -You’re right, there are a lot of things in old movies that are considered “problematic” today. That’s because they were made in a different time with different norms. As L.P. Hartley said, “The past is a foreign country.”

      I’m disturbed by this recent trend of rewatching old shows and judging them by today’s standards. It seems so pointless and ahistorical. I bet the stuff that’s considered acceptable today will seem appalling in 50 years for reasons we can’t even imagine.