"I am woman. Hear me roar," Cruella says in the trailer. And the world went berserk. "Don't pull a Maleficent on this one."
"She's not an icon of empowerment."
"People don't hate her because she's a woman. It's because she skins dogs."
All the mentioned comments are valid. But why does it matter if she's a feminist or not? Let's say, here was a man in a villainous role, preaching about poverty, preaching about life, preaching about manhood, preaching about values a villain must not be associated with, would the world have said, “People don’t hate him because he’s poor. It’s because he’s a murderer”?
And let the record show that murderous men have been revered in film history, while murderous women have only been rendered “bad.”
Every male serial killer is seen as a subject to study. A twisted mind to be explored. A genius hidden behind trauma. Female serial killers? They’re just bad. Scary and bad. No intelligence. No intrigue. Just bad bitches who deserve to be killed.
The world accepts morality coming from the mouths of a male villain. It accepts him as nuanced. So why can’t it accept a female villain making a comment on her own womanhood?
Cruella took a line -- "I am woman. Hear me roar." -- out of an iconic feminist song, and used it in her own twisted context. She views herself as powerful. And maybe she views herself as feminist. But why does it matter?
In the 1996 live-action of 101 Dalmatians, Cruella played by Glenn Close says, "More good women have been lost to marriage, than to war, famine, disease, and disaster. You have talent, darling. Don't squander it."
This is a feminist dialogue. And Cruella may be a feminist. But again, why does it matter? Doesn’t Thanos consider himself a saviour? Doesn’t he view himself as moral, just, wise, and maybe even good? But wasn’t the world able to use its rationality and see him as a villain? It can surely apply its rationality with Cruella too.
Cruella can speak of her experience as a woman and still be a villain. Women aren’t fools to be blinded by the term "feminism", you see. We don't see her as an icon to be placed on placards at marches or used in speeches as an inspiration.
We all are aware that she's a monster who skins puppies. We all can see that. There is no space for a “misunderstood villain” trope here since Cruella is the one narrating her own story, and villains can narrate themselves to be right, to be bold, to be courageous. What she considers herself is her own unreliable narrative.
The creators have clearly, at least according to the trailers, not presented her in a positive light. Every scene, costume, and acting suggests towards an insane, evil woman.
"I guess they were always scared... that I'd be a psycho," she says.
"I was born brilliant. Born bad. And a little bit mad. I'm Cruella."
She, quite literally, puts herself in the villainous position. What's the issue with an insane woman roaring about her womanhood? She is a woman, after all.
The mention of that one dialogue: “I am woman. Hear me roar” made her a subject of hatred, even more than skinning dogs.
If the world can celebrate an abusive, psychopath like Joker as a rebel standing for the poor and still consider him a villain, it can watch Cruella be a feminist and still see her for the monster she is. It shouldn’t matter what she sees herself as.
Finally, and this has to be said, because it's true – If the dialogue was of a male villain saying, "I am man. Hear me roar", the world would've considered it one of the top movie villain quotes of all time.