Cruella is not punk, this should be obvious

Everett Collection from Disney’s “Cruella”

Cruella (2021) was directed by Craig Gillespie and costumed by Jenny Beavan. The story takes place in 1970s punk rock London, before Cruella Deville rises to power and fame. The costumes are magnificent, and the story is enjoyable enough to watch, but as something that is supposed to represent the punk fashion subculture and ideologies, the movie loses all meaning and credibility for its lack of history and misinterpreted points of view.
Punk fashion became extremely popular in the 1970’s and 80’s following through to the falling of the Berlin Wall in the 90’s. Like most alternative subcultures, the fashion started with the music, influential artists like the Sex Pistols, Souxie Sioux and the Banshees, and the Dead Kennedy’s can be pinpointed as godmothers and fathers for the style. The punk rock movement really solidified with East Berlin and the punks there who set the morals for the act. Punk fashion is supposed to reflect the political ideologies of anarchy, free will, and nonconformity. Punks are inherently liberal, anti-facist, and anti-discriminatory (this would mean anti Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia). Although there are some white supremist groups (for example SkinHeads) that hijacked the anti-government movement of punk, these groups are ill reflections of the true meaning of punk.
In the movie, the character Cruella and her designs reflect the works of real life designers like Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. These designers were around during the punk movement, specifically, Vivenne Westwood would dress the Sex Pistols and earned a name for herself in the mainstream world. The problem with comparing Cruella to these great designers is that Cruella is not a punk. Cruella, although she has alternative friends and grand alternatives outfits, is not a punk and her storyline reflects that.
Cruella has a drive to take over the Baroness’ fame, power, and company to avenge her mother and to satisfy herself. The Baroness and her company represent the systematic oppression of the ‘little man’. Cruella is supposed to represent the little man. It almost makes her more evil how she piggybacked the movement to become famous and to overthrow the Baroness, her competitor. What is punk is to overthrow the oppressive source and to build up a new system that serves everyone. Cruella instead wants to become the Baroness, she wants to become the system of oppression, not break it down.
With this in mind, costumes like the royalty inspired gown aren’t as impactful because they seem more narcissistic as if she’s gloating, instead of a rebellious dig at the ego of the Baroness. Her face paint that reads “The Future” becomes more of a threat instead of a progressive statement. Her mini concert and fashion show where she displays dalmatian fur to a crowd while the rock song “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by John McCrea plays in the background, the whole performance feels cheap and like a desperate attempt to appeal to a shallow audience of people who aren’t comfortable with being exposed to real gritty punk art.
The purpose of this article isn’t to rip apart the designs by Jenny Beavan. The amount of hardwork and mad-genius produced objectively stunning and wonderful costumes. For comparison, her work on Harley Quinn’s costume in the movie Birds of Prey is obvious that they still have substance and are still artfully designed and crafted. It becomes clear that the problem is the story, the costumes are lost in translation with the character that wears them and the business that owns them.
It is extremely important to point out the devastating flaw of Disney and this Cruella reboot. Not only is it already the opposite of punk to be paid to create ‘punk’ costumes for a mega-business like Disney, in an attempt to produce the most low effort cash grab movie, but Disney proceeded to stab Beavan in the back. Rag & Bone had announced their line of an “officially licensed Cruella inspired collection” in 2021, Beavan only remembered briefly talking to Disney about co-branded merchandise but had no affiliation with the new line. This disgusting display of exploiting artists is something that punks are meant to fight against. You can support Jenny Beaven by watching the other brilliant movies she has designed, but avoid shopping without any research, and do not look to Disney for a punk history lesson.