Cruella got a redemption story. Shouldn’t these villains, too?

By Samantha Selinger-Morris

We saw a new side to Cruella de Vil, played by Emma Stone, in Disney’s new movie Cruella.Credit:AP

The reviews are in. Cruella de Vil isn’t the nightmare we always thought she was. The bloodthirsty wannabe puppy scalper from 101 Dalmatians actually once adored dogs. That is, until a run-in with some hectic Dalmatians led to her mother toppling over a cliff.

We know this now because, 65 years after de Vil first appeared in Dodie Smith’s novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, and 60 years after Disney’s adaptation of the book, the new movie Cruella is shedding light on the iconic villain’s backstory. It makes us wonder: which other controversial characters could do with a bit of revisionism? Here are some ways their reputations could be saved.

There’s more to Cruella than great style and a penchant for Dalmatians. Credit:Disney

Miss Hannigan, Annie
You thought Miss Hannigan, the alcoholic, slave-driving sloth who runs the orphanage where Annie lives was the baddie? That’s what the 1982 film led us to believe. But it never explained why Miss Hannigan hated children so much.

We find out in an upcoming imagined prequel. Turns out, Annie was an attention seeker. Who do you think was spiking Miss Hannigan’s cocktails from the age of three?

Captain Ahab, Moby Dick
Ahab’s year-long revenge tour of the Pacific Ocean to hunt down the big white whale that once bit off his leg – leading to many a crew member’s watery grave – makes him look bad.

A follow-up novel reveals that Ahab blamed himself for his mother’s death. At one, he knocked over her goldfish bowl, the fish died, and she went cuckoo before having a heart attack.

Chef Jonah Robert Skinner, Ratatouille
The former sous-chef of the famous Gusteau’s restaurant did it all. Blackmail, theft, kidnapping, psychological and culinary torture: he threatened to kill our hero, the wunder-rat, Remy – creator of the titular dish that wows everyone – if he didn’t make burritos and corn dogs.

What the original film never told us? Skinner suffered a tongue burn as a child that forever warped his taste buds, leading him to prefer dreck. In Paris. The bullying got dark.

Ratatouille’s chef Jonah Robert Skinner isn’t cruel, he’s just misunderstood. Credit:

Livia Soprano, The Sopranos
As American country singer Wynonna Judd once said, “If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.” Indeed, Livia once told her mafia don son, Tony: “If you want my advice, Anthony, don’t expect happiness. You won’t get it, people let you down… It’s all a bit nothing. What makes you think you’re so special?”

Was it her fault that Tony became a hideously insecure cold-blooded sociopath fond of piano wires and coercing innocents to murder? Not exactly. A new miniseries lets us in on the true evil behind it all: Livia’s mother. Tony’s grandmother makes his mum look like Shirley Temple.

Sheldon J Plankton, SpongeBob SquarePants
Trying to turn all the fishy residents of Bikini Bottom into cannibals by serving up fish heads and guts in his burgers at the Chum Bucket is some Ted Bundy-level stuff. But now we find out the root of Sheldon’s bitterness. He and wife Karen never had a honeymoon.

A new TV spin-off series shows how Plankton blossoms after the cute couple – a crustacean with a monobrow and a computer screen with a neon green line for a mouth – enjoy a couples massage and go-karting.

Willy Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Belle, Beauty and the Beast
Remember these jerks? The child murderer, insufferable gloat, and braggart who boasts of her ability to read in a town of illiterates? In a new film mash-up, they team up to prove they didn’t mean to gaslight the world into thinking they were heroes. They were just born that way. Picture heartwarming scenes in which each learns to be a team player by competing in an egg and spoon race in the literal centre of the universe.

Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, the chocolate king who gaslit his way into our hearts. Credit:

Charles Montgomery Burns, The Simpsons
The Grinch, Draco Malfoy, Magneto: what villain hasn’t been motivated by a desiccated emotional life? We’ve always known that Springfield’s nuclear power plant titan gave them a run for their money: one fiancee, Gertrude, died of rabies before they made it down the aisle, and 10 of Burns’ siblings died in horrible circumstances (one was impaled on the Chrysler Building).

Now we discover that Burns’ penchant for child labour, kidnapping and hit-and-runs actually stems from what happened before the rabies incident. Burns torched the only known copy of Shakespeare’s poem Venus and Adonis, so he could be the last person on earth to read Gertrude the words, “Love comforteth like sunshine after rain” from its initial source. Enter stage left: one infected coyote.

Jack Torrance, The Shining
A frustrated writer, played by Jack Nicholson, Torrance takes a job as an off-season caretaker in an isolated hotel in the Rocky Mountains. He’s told that the previous caretaker went insane and killed himself and his family – maybe the hotel is possessed? – but hey, he doesn’t believe in superstition. And then… Torrance tries to murder his wife and young son with an axe.

Turns out, as a child, Torrance’s older sister once took all his good luck charms – rabbit’s foot, four-leaf clover and fluffy pink dice – and threw them into a bonfire, to show him how ridiculous he was for believing in superstition. Whoops.

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