The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Watched As an Adult
by Angela Dahl (@AngelaDahling)
The last time I watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame, it was on VHS and I had a Quasimodo doll that I got from Burger King. While I liked it as a kid, I didn’t go out of my way to watch it over and over again, so here’s what I noticed while watching it again on blu-ray for the first time in at least ten years.
1) Frollo is the creepiest Disney villain… ever.
Judge Claude Frollo is terrifying to me now because he’s not an evil witch or gigantic demon; he’s a powerful man full of hatred and hypocrisy. That’s a dangerous combination of character attributes. In his first scene, he chases and kills a Gypsy woman in front of Notre Dame and attempts to drown her baby (who ends up being Quasimodo). The archdeacon stops him from drowning the baby and makes Frollo adopt Quasimodo to atone for killing the woman. He does, but it’s hardly a healthy relationship. He makes his “son” call him master. He teaches Quasimodo the ABCs using words like “abomination, blasphemy, contrition,” etc. I will say this though: I learned some major vocabulary words when I watched this as a kid, I’m sure.
Frollo at one point says Gypsies “live outside the normal order” and “their heathen ways inflame the people’s lowest instincts.” This is basically the line of thought of anyone who opposes any human rights, from woman’s rights to African-American’s rights to the gay marriage controversy today. And speaking of women, Frollo hates women. He lusts after Esmeralda, the pretty Gypsy dancer, and decides that if he can’t have her she must burn to death. And he likes it when people get whipped in the most painful way possible. So, future parents of America, please teach your sons and daughters that the real villains, the ones you should fear and want to fight against, are the ones like Frollo who represent everything that is wrong with humanity.
2) Quasimodo is adorable
He’s no prince, but Quasi’s the hunchback of my heart. His misshapen face beams with goodness and innocence. If Disney decided to do a live-action version of this movie, they’d need to cast Nicholas Hoult because that guy’s face could pull off adorable goodness even in slightly monstrous make-up. Quasi even kinda walks like R in Warm Bodies. Make it happen, Disney. Quasimodo’s not just a good guy; he’s THE good guy. Animals trust him, and Disney animals always know which character is good or not (Snow White will never make that mistake again). He sees the woman he loves make out with someone else and gets his heart broken, and literally minutes later he rushes to help her. He doesn’t even pause for a pint of ice cream or a lap dance. That’s a good guy.
3) Quasimodo is Rapunzel
Has anyone else ever noticed the similarities between these two characters? Both are stuck in towers and turn to art as a creative outlet for loneliness. Both have one authoritative parental figure that lies about their origins and about people’s motivations. Both have friends that only they can talk to and who are their only companions in their captivity. Both befriend trickster characters and fall in love with them. Quasimodo’s love life doesn’t work out quite the same as Rapunzel’s, but at least he’s got good company with the three gargoyles that are essentially Sophia Petrillo, Curly, and Frasier. He’ll be all right until the sequel (in which he apparently gets a love interest? I’m usually wary of Disney sequels, but I may have to watch it).
4) No matter what you do, “Out There” will get stuck in your head.
Alan Menken did the music for The Hunchback of Notre Dame (the packaging for the blu-ray makes sure you’re aware of this), and his music always manages to burrow its way into your brain. “Out There,” Quasimodo’s I-want-adventure-in-the-great-
5) The Hunchback and the Last Crusade
There’s a lot of commentary about religion in this movie, which is surprising considering this came out during the Disney renaissance with The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast, none of which had as dark tones as this movie. To start, Quasimodo’s plain wooden cup looks like the Holy Grail from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Does that make him a savior/Jesus-type figure? He does save Esmeralda by superhumanly breaking his chains and knocking down pillars and then holds her over his head yelling “SANCTUARYYYY!” This may be more Hulk than Jesus, but Quasimodo’s personality, I think, has some comparable qualities. He’s kind, helps others, and loves other people who may hate him. That’s kind of Jesus-y, right? The “God Help the Outcasts” song sung by Esmeralda urges people to be unselfish and tolerant as seen by the last line, “Please help my people, the poor and downtrodden/ I thought we all were the children of God.” Frollo’s fiery fall to his death clutching a stone gargoyle head is also pretty biblical. And well-deserved (see point 1).
One final thing that I forgot about until I rewatched it is this gem of a gag.