Critiquing Critics #1: One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

Also known as Criticizing Critics, or Judging the Judges, or in some cases just being a dick. I miss being able to comment on other’s comments, because they get too butthurt over it, and aren’t willing to stand their ground and defend their position (’cause they know they’re foundations are shaky, and if they didn’t before they certainly will when I’m done with them). I also miss taking criticism. Because as film critics, those who judge the merits of film, our profession/hobby entirely negates the defense of, “Judge not, lest ye yourself be judged.” The moment we make a statement on how good or bad or mediocre a film is, we’ve already opened our opinions up to judgement. Get personal about it, then more than just the film will be judged. After all, what better way is there to show the influence of films and how they affect us, or help shape our worldviews, or demonstrate our biases in how we interpret what we see (and how our interpretations vary with age) than to get into a war of words with others? What better way to gain more insight into a film you thought you knew enough about to decide if you’ve given it enough appreciation (or lack thereof)?

I don’t plan on making another account on Letterboxd, that would just be a waste of time. Plus they’ve already made it clear that they have a strong dislike for white nationalists (even those who don’t bring propaganda for it into their discussions), or anything that could be deemed supportive of it (every other nationalism is A-OK), even when they’re right. Make no mistake, just because I’m for white nationalism doesn’t mean they’re right on everything. Criticism should be applied to everything, not necessarily to strike it down, but to encourage improvement of it. After all, is that not the purpose of criticism, to encourage change for the better? Should one not take criticism from all sides, because they may know something valid that you don’t? Isn’t silencing one political/religious/philosophical/racial sect depriving one of the ability to critique them back (silencing them is not a critique)? Don’t we all want to have our worldviews challenged so we can be better at defending them, and improve our critical thinking (even if the latter may result in changing our views)? And if someone wants to remain unreasonable and closed off, and be beyond all hope of becoming a great critical thinker, shouldn’t they be pointed out to be foolish and stupid like their mother?

Let the low blows and other blows commence (including mentioning how a film or one’s opinion of it blows)! Will make emphasized bold at my discretion, and delete certain portions for the sake of condensing, when necessary, to make this a faster read. Link to their review (should it still exist) will be made at the start of the quote.

Atom of letterboxd:

Re-watching it again, it’s possibly Disney’s most overrated, worst-looking, and unfocused “classic.” 

• First off, who is the protagonist of this movie? Pongo? Roger? The dalmatian puppies? There are long stretches of time where none of these characters are on screen. Name another Disney movie in which the protagonist isn’t clear. 

• Also, what’s with all the television shows? Especially the game show in which inmates are quizzed in exchange for time off jail.

• Cruella De Ville, often cited as one of Disney’s greatest villains, is only in five scenes, rants and waves her cigarette holder, and never once gets her way. How great can an antagonist be who only wants a fur coat and can’t even get it? 

• Let’s talk about the real villain here: Anita, who a) befriended a woman like Cruella in college (?), b) asked no questions as to why she wanted a full litter of puppies, and c) named her dog Perdita, which is obnoxiously close to her own name.

• Also, is it fucked up for dogs to suckle the teets of cows? I’m not positive it is, but it feels fucked up. Fucked up enough to note it here. 

• What about all the dogs going in blackface? Can we not all agree that’s fucked up?

Ahah! I knew it! I knew someone who had a portion of his sense of humor replaced with outrage over petty shit was going to make a deal out of this (especially post-2014)! Though I will admit he’s right about this film being unfocused (at least for various portions). But unfocused does not equal non-entertaining. 2001: A Space Odyssey can be argued to be an unfocused film, yet it’s considered a masterpiece. United 93 is a great film despite not having a protagonist. It depends on the context and what is meant by unfocused.

I do have to wonder though, what if the film was about a bunch of black dogs who had to disguise themselves as white to fool their pursuers? Guess that would mean they’d have to hide at some police station in the evidence room where they have a bunch of seized cocaine stored, roll around in that, then they get all red-eyed and high as fuck and die from overdose.

Speaking of alternate outcomes, that whole getting offended at sucking on cow titties. Have to admit, that’s one I didn’t think of, in terms of finding it offensive or fucked up. It’s ok for use to squeeze the milk out of them and drink it, but puppies suckling on them, that’s just going to far. Guess that makes for another alternate ending:

“We’re starving, we can’t go on, we need something to eat.”

“There’s some cows with milk over there.”

“Ew! That’s disgusting! I’d rather die!”

Then all the puppies died, and the parents followed suit feeling guilty about not having their puppies suck on cow tits.

There is that argument regarding how it focused for too long on the Canine Crunchies commercial, counting the pups as they left the room, and, of course, the television shows. Which begs the question: why did it focus so much on the television and commercials on those 2-3 difference scenes? What is being shown at those various points in times?

Making the “K” kool before Mortal Kombat.

Scene #1: The dog sheriff chasing the bandit. Obviously foreshadowing what the parents will do later on. But it also shows how “into it” the puppies are, and how they are making the dog Thunder out to be their role-model, and sometimes comparing him to their father Pongo. How the television serves to entertain, and to influence children and their expectations. Then it segues into a commercial, utilizing Thunder to advertise for canine treats. Merchandising, promotion of consumerism. Influencing children to respect the product endorsed by their role-model, which in-turn would influence their parents to purchase it for them. You’ll also notice Pongo and Perdie want to have a change of scenery when the commercial pops up; possibly a coincidence, but maybe because they recognize it for what it is and want to do something more constructive and less distracting. And we notice that Lucky is the one who remains distracted for the majority of the time, up until the very end of the scene.

Scene #2: Horace and Jasper and the 15 puppies are watching some dancing flowers. Doesn’t seem to indicate much with regard to what the cartoon show itself is saying (though I suppose I could try reading into it more). But it does show how the television distracts both animals and humans alike. Sometimes it’s needed to cure boredom. Other times it promotes procrastination, and distracts one too much from reality. In the case of Horace and Jasper, it distracts them from noticing a dog stealing bits of food from a sandwich, and the cat just being there.

Scene #3: The consequences of television distraction (and thus procrastination) become more pronounced, with Horace and Jasper not noticing the puppies making their escape. Plus you’ll notice Lucky, once again, remains distracted by the television until near the very end, even while the rescue operation was underway. Plus, and I’m unsure if I’m reading too much into this or not, the host of the show on the TV has a similar long nose as Jasper and Horace. Not sure of the connection, just something I noticed. I suppose the other intention is to have even the audience somewhat distracted by it, to be curious about the individual on the television Horace and Jasper recognize, wondering what crime he actually committed (Old Meathead).

Perhaps the tv within a tv is meant as a warning to the audiences actually watching the movie?

matt lynch of letterboxd:

So much weird texture here, all bound up in those gorgeous Xeroxed inks, everything has a dusty coating of toner. And what’s with the vague anti-capitalist vibe? There’s a whole middle section here that takes place in this decrepit mansion, sort of a crumbling bourgeois symbol ruled over by Cruella, a vicious one-percenter who lives only to consume conspicuously. While the puppies escape, two henchmen watch a bizarre game show called “What’s My Crime?” in which convicted criminals are offered a vacation for stumping a panel. Plus the dogs are all black and white, hello?! Ok, so it’s not actually coherent in the slightest, but it is pretty loaded.

Well ok, I guess the De Vil mansion is meant to be more along the lines of symbolism rather than raising some insight into her backstory. Regardless, the questions are still raised.

Back to Atom’s statement regarding Cruella not being a great protagonist because she never actually succeeds at anything (aside from hiring Jasper and Horace to successfully steal the puppies). I guess that proves the point that an antagonist doesn’t need to be “successful” or entirely threatening (subjective opinion) in order to be great. What they need is a great endearing personality, which she has in spades. I mean, Jack Torrance (The Shining) didn’t really succeed at his main objective (unless you count killing the black guy at the hotel), yet he’s considered an all-time great antagonist. Better yet, what about Dr. Evil from Austin Powers? A villain doesn’t have to be completely threatening or “successful” in order to be great. It depends on the movie. I say they either have to be successful or threatening as fuck (as much as I don’t care for these films, Doomed Megalopolis had a really great threatening villain because, well, he actually wins in the first couple movies, and we aren’t even sure if he’s capable of being defeated), or have a very fun personality. If they can manage both, then you have a fantastic villain (example: The Joker, if he’s done right, something more akin to the Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, or Heath Ledger style). In Cruella’s case, she’s more along the lines of having a personality that’s impossible to forget/ignore (as any annoying Karen would).

celinembaum from Letterboxd:

I don’t appreciate the “stupid woman driver” comment.

Well I did.

The Amazing Ace from Letterboxd:

The fact that Pongo and Perdita don’t try to find the other Dalmations’ parents make them bigger monsters than Cruella De Vil! Yes, Cruella wanted to turn them into coats, but at least she wears her evilness on her sleeve (literally). Pongo and Perdita are two faced!

Guess you missed the part where one of the pups stated they were “bought and paid for.”

Erica Acevedo-Ontiveros from Letterboxd:

I would argue you can put this in the list of Disney films that has not aged well. It is not too egregious but it is enough to turn me off to the film. The gender dynamics are tired and worn thin. The violence towards the villains is over the top an unfunny to my taste and Cruella de Ville is seen as a disfigured tantrummy non-person by the film’s end. Also the female lead and Perdy are also portrayed as whiny and helpless.

Spoken like a true (post) millennial. It’s the gender dynamics of today that are tired and worn thin, the whole thing of (white) men being more along the whiny and helpless side (and that’s primarily if they’re portrayed as decent people). At least back then it was more honest, because women are biologically designed to be more like that, to need strong men around to care for them. Even then though, during that time period, I wouldn’t exactly say all women were portrayed as whiny and helpless. Hell, even in this movie they’re not completely portrayed as helpless. For example, when Pongo and Perdie both jump through and shatter the window like hounds out of a Resident Evil game, and how they snarl at Jasper and Horace. Really feeling the whiny and helpless femininity there, gotta tell ya. And that mother in Old Yeller, that’s a whiny bitch right there (but in all honesty, you can remove the whiny part). The mother in Bambi, she sure whined a lot and never did anything constructive and survival-related. The mother in Dumbo, guess her throwing a tantrum in the tent made her out to be helpless and subservient. The villain in Sleeping Beauty, there’s a helpless broad right there. How about that chicken in Robin Hood who clearly makes a case that women can play football?

The only dynamic more thin than that is having a straight white heterosexual couple where the man of the house isn’t an asshole (a decent guy), isn’t lesser than the women, has his moments to shine, they both love each other, are happy together, and we see all that. When’s the last time that tired and worn trend has been shown in any film?

Well anyway, that’s all the statements others made I really care to comment on. Quite frankly, I’m surprised no one brought up how all the puppies seem to be boys, and call this film out from being chauvinist for that reason or something. Considering the trend today is to have the main children in movies be daughters rather than sons (again, primarily pertains to white couples). Like what they did in Uncharted 4, or Bill & Ted 3, or that other Ghostbusters reboot no one gives a shit about.

Some also bring up the inferior animation quality compared to previous Disney animated films (primarily because of their shift in technology and form due to the financial failure of Sleeping Beauty). While it is a pity that Disney went for the more cost-effective method at the expense of better-looking films, it’s nothing so bad as to bother me. I still enjoy the animation, and sure as hell prefer it to the more computer-assisted methods of today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s