Friday, March 21, 2014

I have returned!!!!!....with The Hunchback of Notre Dame!

Hey everyone! I'm back!!!!!! It's been a month and a half long hiatus, and for those of you who have thoroughly enjoyed my weekly posts, I deeply and sincerely apologize for my absence and idle status. I hope that it won't happen again. But it's safe to say that I'm back, and my writer's block has been cured! *insert cheering here* But let's not focus on that difficult time period and focus on something fun and finally sparked my inspiration to write again. Let's focus on a topic that's close to home: Disney. But it's not about Disney princesses this time. It's not a criticism blog post, so you Disney fanatics can relax and not get all freaked out over my opinions about them that happen to be different than most. It's about something different than most Disney movies...where the hero or heroine gets the dream girl or guy and they live a happily ever after, but a movie that has more adult and mature topics are discussed throughout it's duration! I'm talking about The Hunchback of Notre Dame!
In 1996, Disney released The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where hundreds of kids in my general age group went with their parents and saw it in theaters. Now, up until the end of January when I watched it with Eddie and Brendan, I never thought about this movie, nor do I remember much about it since I was five or six years old when it came out in theaters. But after watching it, I never realized how dark and mature it was for a children's animated movie! I mean, most Disney movies have adult references in there so the parents can enjoy the youthful film as well. But this one has more adult-themed content than the typical light-hearted family themed movie.

Let's look at it from the beginning. A group of gypsies illegally sneak into Paris, and are caught by Judge Claude Frollo, the minister of justice. As one of the gypsies attempts to escape Frollo's wrath with her baby(Quasimodo), he MURDERS her by shoving her down and she cracks her head on the stone steps, killing her instantly. Now, in most Disney films I've seen, the only on-screen deaths I've seen were bad guys at the end of said film (minus Mufasa in The Lion King). But this was literally a nameless and harmless character that was killed off right then and there. Frollo then attempts to drown her baby after seeing how "hideous" he is. But then the bishop of the Notre Dame, who witnessed the murder, would not arrest him or damn him to hell unless he takes care of the baby. That's pretty heavy, I must say. I feel most conservative parents would be appalled and horrified that their child saw what just happened in that scene. They would shelter them and would turn it off, or walk out. The thought or attempt of killing an innocent baby is completely unacceptable. But there are some really sick people in this world that would actually commit such a thing. Most Disney films focus on fantasies and fictional situations, but this scene alludes to real-life tragedies. I understand keeping the innocence of a child is the most important thing to do, but keeping them sheltered and not allowing them to learn about the real world is a sad thing to do. Let's move on, shall we?

And this is Quasimodo, a kind but extremely isolated guy who has never once stepped foot outside of the Notre Dame, and would love to see the world from outside, but Frollo forbids it. He wants to protect Quasimodo from ridicule and constant bullying due to his hunchback and hideous appearance. His only friends are three anthropomorphic Gargoyles, who watch Paris from the Notre Dame above, and turn to stone when Frollo enters the room. They then begin to discuss the upcoming "Festival of Fools," and encourage Quasimodo to attend, but Frollo forbids it.

He sneaks out of the Notre Dame and attends the festival, and subsequently meets the beautiful Esmeralda, a kind gypsy who also longs to be accepted by society as well. As the festivities commence, Quasimodo's appearance is exposed, initially ridiculed, but then celebrated, as he is crowned "the king of fools." However, Frollo's men publicly humiliate him by tying him up, and allowing the haters to throw garbage at him, despite Quasimodo's cry for help. When I saw this, my heart ached for Quasimodo! The poor guy just wanted to fit in and be accepted by others despite his ugly appearance. I've seen the way people treat others because of traits that they were born with, and Disney acknowledged that there are, once again, hateful and closed-minded people in this world. Job well, done, Disney.

The torture comes to an end as Esmeralda frees Quasimodo, confronts Frollo, and subsequently escapes arrest after performing a magic trick. Quasimodo is escorted back to the Notre Dame and is harshly reprimanded by Frollo, and vows to never disobey him again. Esmeralda ends up following Quasimodo to the Notre Dame, who is followed by Captain Phoebus, Frollo's guard. Frollo then enters the cathedral and attempts to arrest Esmeralda. To protect Esmeralda, Phoebus tells Frollo that she claims sanctuary, so no outsiders can harm her. After they leave, she then gets to know Quasimodo, where he starts to have romantic feelings towards her, because no one has ever treated him so kindly in his whole life. She was the only one who didn't look down on him or run away from him. Because Esmeralda took care of him during the Festival of Fools, he returned the favor by setting her free. When Frollo finds out about Esmeralda's escape, he essentially turns into Hitler and burns down all homes that would potentially shelter gypsies, like how the Nazis destroyed all homes who hid Jews during the Holocaust. Let's look at this again. Disney made an allusion to the Holocaust in a children's movie. Talk about mature content in a scene like this! I didn't learn about the Holocaust until I was maybe eleven or twelve years old, that really says something. Most children wouldn't understand adult-themed content until they essentially reached the age of enlightenment. (I'm talking about literally being enlightened by a topic, not spiritual enlightenment!) So, was this movie truly targeted towards children, or targeted towards the parents of the children?


Despite Quasimodo's romantic feelings for Esmeralda, that love is ultimately unrequited. Esmeralda and Phoebus have fallen for each other instead! The lead girl falls for a secondary character instead of the main protagonistDespite the not-so-positive encounter in the cathedral and they initially don't get along due to Phoebus's distate for gypsies, they fall for one another; breaking the typical "lead guy of the movie gets the lead girl of the movie" cliché in most Disney movies. I love it. It teaches children about heartbreak and you won't always start a relationship with the person you have a crush on.

Although Hunchback is extremely different, it doesn't break away from all Disney movies. Evil always gets conquered, and Frollo falls to his death as everyone celebrates in the end. Instead of winning the girl, Quasimodo is accepted by society, and is no longer considered "a monster," and accepts Esmeralda and Phoebus as a couple. Alough the hero doesn't get the girl in the end, gaining acceptance by others is, personally, even better than winning the girl. 


All I can say, is that when I have kids one day, I will definitely show this to them. It's a Disney movie, but it's almost like a "coming-of-age" film as well because it focuses on a lot of life events. Death, heartbreak, bullying, violence; all of those things happen in real life. It's so unique and so different from all of the other Disney movies that involve some form of romance, so Hunchback truly is one the most unique Disney movies I have ever seen. I can watch this movie over and over again because of how beautifully written everything was. The themes, the character development, the allusions to real-life, it's a true movie for today's youth, and shows truth to the real world for young viewers.

Well, everyone. Thank you so much for reading and I cannot wait to write another blog post soon. Have a great weekend, everyone!