So, I wrote this for one of my University modules. I had a pretty good mark on it, so I thought I’d upload it;
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of Disney’s most powerful movies out there. It’s now been released for 21 years, and still, hardly anyone praises it. Either they haven’t seen it, or they just don’t agree with the message it’s sending for some reason. Some people don’t want their kids seeing it because of these representations. However, the representations of certain things aren’t bad; they’re actually pretty realistic, moving and, in some ways, educational. Everyone should watch this film at least once in their life, for the inspiration. They don’t know what they’re missing. Here are some reasons as to why this film is so underrated.
I’ll start off with talking about the message it gives, since I’ve technically already started that point. As most people know, this film is about Quasimodo, a deformed bell ringer who finds difficulty in being accepted in society. He’s treated differently because his appearance isn’t up to everyone’s standards, which could be something that some people can relate to. It’s still relevant to society today; having tolerance and acceptance towards other people, no matter how different they are. It explores this message with such great, emotional detail and depth that it’s hard to not be moved after watching this. You really start to think about the question, “what makes a monster and what makes a man?” which is given to us by our narrator, Clopin.
“You mistreat this poor boy the same way you mistreat my people. You speak of justice yet you are cruel to those most in need of your help.”
Esmerelda is the first one who actually calls out Judge Claude Frollo for his cruel actions. She truly is Disney’s feminist icon! The gypsy Esmerelda isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in, even if she has to do it on her own, and does it with sass. She’s a strong, female protagonist that knows what equality actually means. Her song “God Help the Outcasts” is deep and completes the film; it shows just how much she cares for other people, by praying for them instead of herself. The juxtaposition between her prayer and other people’s prayers helps prove this. They ask for wealth and beauty, and what does Esmerelda ask for? She wants mercy and help to be given to those mistreated and asks the important question; “I thought we all were children of God?” Like Quasimodo, she has also been mistreated, but doesn’t allow it to make her bitter, or hold it against anyone.
Speaking of Quasimodo, he’s an unconventional protagonist. He defies all conventional standards of beauty but still has a big heart, despite being abused and secluded from society his entire life. Our dear Quasimodo doesn’t dream of being rescued or finding his true love. All he really wants is to become part of the society that he has been watching from the Bell Tower.
Quasimodo has been abused by his “master” Judge Claude Frollo his entire life. He keeps Quasimodo in the Bell Tower, so that he’s kept locked away, where no one else can see. While being kept isolated in the Bell Tower of Notre Dame, Frollo mentally abuses Quasimodo. Frollo is a cruel and terrifying, yet brilliant villain, and is a very good reason alone to watch this movie. He’s a man of power who genuinely doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. Like Clopin says, “he saw corruption everywhere except within.” Frollo’s harmless appearance makes him look like everyone else in the movie; this, again, is relevant to our society today because it proves that everyone and anyone is capable of being a villain.
The Bell Tower that Quasimodo is kept in is so beautiful. That, as well as the Cathedral and stained glass windows have so much effort and detail put into it. It’s a shame as to how underappreciated these animations are. There are few films that can live up to the quality of work that this film has. It’s so realistic, that you can see just how dedicated the workers were when doing this. The Cathedral itself is one greatly underappreciated; as well as its appearance, it’s so important to the plot that it may as well be considered a character as well.
Judge Claude Frollo’s ‘villain song’ “Hellfire” is brilliantly juxtaposed with Quasimodo’s beautiful song “Heaven’s Light.” It shows how different their characters and intentions are. While Frollo’s intentions are selfish and are, to him, sinful, Quasimodo’s intentions are innocent and romantic. The other songs and scores featured within the film are just as well-matched to the message, characters and atmosphere. They are catchy and it is clear to see that a lot of dedication has been put into them.
I left this point to last because I thought it would ironically fit here better. And that is because, romance isn’t the end or main goal. With other unconventional features within the movie, this is one of the most important aspects, and is a good message to children. Quasimodo falls for Esmerelda but she ends up with Phoebus. While most characters would be heartbroken and jealous by not being loved in return, Quasimodo is happy for them both. He isn’t bitter and doesn’t try to separate them. Instead, he supports them. Because, for him, finally being accepted in society is more important. He’s so happy to finally be part of them and ‘allowed’ outside. It’s a beautiful and emotional scene. At first, he’s quite shy and uncomfortable about going outside, but Esmerelda helps him. Then, the town’s people start cheering and hugging him, and he starts crying.
It’s hard to not love this movie. It goes into so much depth about so many things, that you simply have to appreciate it. Everything about it is so beautiful, and so I urge you to watch this film now and give it some love!