Friday, September 4, 2015

WBI: Judge Claude Frollo (Disney)

An anonymous commenter asked me if I would review Frollo on Hades’ WBI (sorry for my lateness, anonymous), and here I am to deliver.

(In other news, it took me a little over eighteen years to realize that “Notre Dame” just means “Our Lady” in French. My adventures in Google Translate a few months ago shamed my skills with cognates.)

via Tumblr
Frollo obsesses over the unholy number of gypsies invading Paris, and does everything in his power to crush their numbers. In a moment of guilt, he takes charge of a deformed gypsy child, whom he names “Quasimodo,” and saves for a potential use someday. In the meantime, he fights against the gypsies’ growing numbers and his own lustful heart as he sacrifices Paris, and lets it burn.

WBI Profile


Classification :: ΞΔ12357#
Role :: Avenger (“righteous” gypsy killer), Politician (judge)
Motivation :: evil (gypsy/personal action), idealism (virtue), psychology (lust for Esmerelda), lifestyle (occupation), personal/material gain (brownie points with God and Paris)
Bonus :: minions (Phoebus, Quasimodo, etc.)


A Study


devout—I use this term loosely, but he is devoted to his idea of what God should be (key words: his idea)

powerful—as a judge, Frollo’s position of power and respect allows him the freedom to act cruelly without an equal to temper his actions

misguided—Frollo is terrifying, in part because he is convinced of his personal blamelessness, as opposed to the gypsies, whose mere existence is damnable

blind—likewise, his lack of self-knowledge and responsibility gives him tunnel vision, and he acts without contemplating or regretting the consequences

condemnable—despite his “perfection” the Archbishop indicates to Frollo that his actions are still under moral scrutiny

committed—despite his hatred for the gypsies, Frollo technically commits to his atonement; he won’t be getting a parent of the year award, but he never abandoned Quasimodo

**speaking of Quasimodo, does it bother anyone else that his parents were dark-brown gypsies but his skin is the color of cream cheese?

lusty—Frollo becomes attracted to Esmerelda (ironic, huh?) and those emotions, not his morals, control him

demanding—in “Hellfire,” he orders that God either cater to his sexual desires or let him kill her (so much for those good conflict management skills)

justified—note that, despite his obvious immorality, Frollo always finds some way to spin “self-serving” so it seems “God-serving”

just—therefore, regardless of what we think, Frollo will never regret his actions because he believed himself morally right

A Study


he is the monster—though Frollo condemns gypsies as demons that must be cast into hell, he is the one who falls from Notre Dame under a demonic persona. Though he could lie to himself and his minions, he never did manage lying to the eyes of Notre-Dame.

bossman—Frollo isn’t likeable. His virtues and villain song don’t redeem the vices he carries, and yet we’re conditioned to respect his authority and give credence to his character. Because that’s how authority works.

avenger and politician—not that I’m an expert in French politics, but I assume that Frollo’s job and goals were of a shared political and religious nature. Likewise, the issue of gypsies falls into both categories as well. Although Frollo avenges society through law and justice, he does it as a political force, hence the double category.

via Tumblr
Frollo may be best known for his villain song, “Hellfire,” but you should remember it shares a track with Quasimodo’s song, “Heaven’s Light.” These juxtapose the monster and man theme you are meant to think about during the movie—heaven and hell, fire and light. Though Quasimodo considers himself sinful and unworthy of love, Esmerelda’s presence is redeeming; though Frollo considers himself a saint entitled to love, Esmerelda’s presence corrupts him (more than usual).

It’s really quite artful, when you think about it. Take a listen!


What do you think are some of Frollo’s most important traits? How do you think he compares to his characterization in Hugo’s novel?


6 comments :

  1. AH! It is good to see a shoutout to my favorite ever Disney movie. The music is indeed beautiful and well... just plain GENIUS. Many people skip over his song because it is, admittedly, a bit creepy. Perhaps that is a good idea if you are watching with kids. If not, don't miss it. Frollo is (in my humble opinion) one of Disney's most interesting and complex characters.

    For me, trying to compare the Victor Hugo novel to the Disney adaption of the Hunchback of Notre Dame is akin to comparing thyme with time, they my sound like they have the same name but they are really two very different things (each wonderful in their own right, but not extremely related to each other).

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    1. It is a great movie, right? I've never heard of anyone skipping over the song before, though. That's a little helicoptery. Anyway, Frollo is TOTALLY interesting and complex and awesome. :)

      And that's good to know—even today we're always complaining about poor book-to-movie translations, so it's good to know that that's the same.

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  2. Grr. Frollo. I don't remember much about the movie, because I haven't watched it in at least a decade, I think. But I read the book last summer, and man, I hated that dude. So. Much. I was a little bit too unchristianly pleased when he died. He really is a monster--I hate self righteous villains who use God to justify what they do. Men like him are so sick and twisted. (And consequently, really great bad guys--if by great, you mean someone you would strangle if you could).

    Also, I hadn't remembered how the songs juxtapose heaven and hell, so that was cool. Thanks for pointing it out! :)

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    1. He was a jerk, right? I have a lot of unchristian pleasure when villains I don't like die, though, especially when they justify their actions with religion. It's terrible. (But, you're right, it makes him an awesome villain.)

      It's a great song! I love it. :) Glad you enjoyed it!

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  3. This is an awesome commentary! I remember watching Hunchback when I was really young, and I didn't like the movie because I didn't really understand everything that was going on. When I was older and watched it again, the heaven vs hell and man vs monster theme is actually what made me like it again. That and it definitely has good music :)

    This is actually a fun one to watch in Danish --- the vocab in most of the songs is easy enough that I could actually understand it all after only a few months studying abroad in Denmark, and the darker toned songs sound really cool in that language.

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    1. It's definitely a confusing movie for someone who doesn't understand the concepts being used there. But I too became enamored with those themes as I got older, and the music. Such good music.

      That's interesting! I don't know anything about Danish, I'm afraid, but it's cool that it was easy for you! :)

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