[Editor’s Note: We want to thoughtfully explore what is worth discussing in movies and shows. Spiritual and gospel themes are often embedded in what we’re already watching. By talking about something, Power to Change – Students is not giving an official endorsement, nor are we giving a ranking or judgment of overall quality. We simply desire to join the conversations that people are already having about #movies+shows.]
When I heard Emma Stone was cast to play the role of Cruella, I was excited. I also was a little bit curious, possibly concerned, about how this movie would go. I mean, based on the cartoon version of 101 Dalmatians I watched while growing up, there didn’t seem to be any redeemable qualities within the character of Cruella.
I had watched Disney’s backstory of Sleeping Beauty’s villain, Maleficent, and throughout that movie, I experienced feelings of compassion. I gained a better understanding of not just who she is, but why Maleficent is the way she is. Maybe she’s not so evil after all, but just misunderstood. I confess that although I experienced some of those feelings while watching Cruella, I did not feel it to the same level. I felt a lot more conflicted. More times than not, I was left thinking: Maybe there is no way to redeem this character. I’ll let you watch it and decide for yourself though. I happen to love spoilers, but I will not do that to you, dear reader!
As I reflect on why I enjoy watching villain origin movies, I think there are a few reasons. My rebellious teenager side comes out, wanting to watch something where maybe once, the bad wins out (#confessions––hopefully that’s not too scandalous).
Another reason though, the bigger reason, is that I have a strong belief that there are reasons behind how we act, which is true even for the villains of movies. And so I appreciate watching Cruella, not just to see the backstory of a villain, but also to grow in my compassion for people in general.
The driver who cuts me off suddenly.
The rude customer at the store.
The friend who snaps at me for no perceived reason.
What’s their story? What in their day made them act meanly or selfishly? What in their past made them inconsiderate, or act in a way that I don’t understand?
What’s their story?
We live in a broken world, in need of Jesus’ restorative message, and so sometimes the simple answer is that humans are choosing to go their own way, regardless of who’s around them. We act selfishly, and don’t care about what harm we do. But other times, there are reasons behind our actions. Does that mean we ignore the hurt or pain that’s been caused? No. But I think it does mean we can choose to believe the best of people. We can take time to hear and listen to their story, and learn about where they are coming from.
I know I was once like Cruella. I was broken, selfish and without hope––stuck in my own brokenness and sin. Thanks to Jesus, through faith I am experiencing redemption, restoration, and continued growth and grace. I can trust God to bring justice in my life, community, and world.
We don’t see that with Cruella’s story, but I’ve seen it with my own. And for that I’m grateful.