Category Archives: the hunchback of notre dame

10 Animated Women That Inspire Us to Epicness: Mic Edition


To piggyback on the theme Mel started this week, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite animated women. I hope these picks bring back some feels from the past. Let’s go!

Oh, Anastasia, how do I list all the ways I love you? I’m having a hard time trying to figure out how to even describe Anya. I loved the way she carried herself. I loved her rundown clothes, but she was never rundown, no matter what happened. She left the orphanage determined to uncover the mystery of her past and when the chance arose to take a risk and follow a leap of faith, she did.

I loved how she and Dimitri could take turns being the hero. Anastasia is a beautiful film that I will never forget. She got to have flaws and be biased and then have to overcome them to see the real person. She could be afraid and cry and then also be a badass that took out Rasputin.

The Powerpuff Girls—The Powerpuff Girls
This cartoon was one of my favorites. How perfect was it? Three amazing girls kicking ass with sugar, spice, and everything nice. Girls could be physically strong and also be feminine. Girls could be anything they wanted. Blossom was my favorite since she was the leader and I was obsessed with being the leader as a kid (yes, I was called bossy).




3 guesses and the first two don’t count 🙂





Everything that needs to be said about this show is right here.

Sabrina—Sabrina the Animated Series
I wanted to be Sabrina so much as a little girl. She had awesome hair, a great family, and magical powers! She was the coolest ever. Like the Powerpuff Girls, Sabrina was strong and also feminine, frequently sporting pink unabashedly.


Reggie—Rocket Power
We’re gonna stick with TV shows a tad longer. Reggie was also one of my personal heroes. She was the only girl in a squad of boys and just as awesome as them. Her purple hair was just amazing. She was the oldest and the smartest and in control and cool. “It’s not worth winning if you have to cheat,” she once said. Reggie was spouting wisdom and being awesome on a surf board or rollerblades or skateboard with her sunglasses and baggy pants like a boss.



Esmeralda—The Hunchback of Notre Dame
I feel like we’re following a trend of highlighting women that are both powerful, vulnerable, feminine, and flawed. Esmeralda, like the other women I’ve talked about, is brave and courageous and like Anya, initially lets her prejudice get the best of her. She also has to strip back the layers and look at people in new ways. But on the other hand, she also sees clearly that which others vilify.

hunchback injustice

She misjudged Phoebus, the handsome man most people probably flocked to, but not Quasi, the different looking and mistreated boy. Her song God Help the Outcasts just tells you everything you need to know about.

hunchback i ask for nothing

She cares for others above herself and she’s caught in a world that is supposed to be equal and claims it is, but isn’t. And she fights to make it a reality.

hunchback end

As a comment pointed out on Mel’s post, Mulan deserves to be on this list. We adore Mulan here at Animated Meta and once I knew Mel left her off her list, I knew she would be on mine. I’ve talked about Mulan before and I could talk about her for all eternity. Just… perfect movie. Mulan is fierce. Mulan shares many qualities with all the women we’ve talked about. I just love that symbolism at the end of the film when she fights the leader of the Huns as a woman, with the fan, uses both her brains and her fighting skills and wins.


Marina and Eris—Sinbad and the Legend of the Seven Seas
I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about the film Sinbad and the Legend of the Seven Seas. Now, Sinbad is very much about Sinbad and also his buddy Proteus. Proteus and Sinbad were friends, but their relationship suddenly ended when Marina arrived as Proteus’ betrothed. Sinbad took one look at her, fell in love, and fled to a life of piracy to avoid screwing anything up. Marina eventually ends up traveling with Sinbad to save Proteus’ life after Eris causes trouble. Everything make sense? I hope so.

So, Marina? Awesome.


She’s this princess that, like most of our well-known Disney ladies, wants way more. Before I get into that, I just want to talk about her physically. She’s got short hair and wears pants. How awesome is that? I think basically every princess except like Snow White and Cinderella have had long, luscious locks. And pants on a female character? Like, that’s sadly pretty rare. So right away, Marina’s design pawns all, I think.

She holds her own against a crew of pirates and saves their butts numerous times.

She also gets them into some sticky situations, but she’s not dead weight on this mission. She also acts as Sinbad’s conscience, generally just being smart and amazing and telling him he’s being a cowardly asshole.

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On the flip side, we have Eris, the goddess of chaos and discord.


I was thinking about my favorite female villains and knew I wanted one on this list. My first thought was Maleficent and she and Eris actually do have some stuff in common. They’re both evil just for the pleasure of it. Eris loves causing trouble. She’s just so wicked and voiced by Michelle Pfeiffer, so yeah, chills.




I loved her design as a kid, her sleek, dark long hair. I loved how she could grow really tall and then be human size and she was so twisted.

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Just look at her movements, I can’t get enough of it. She’s so creepy.


And really, I think the climax of Sinbad is like no other. Eris could not go down easy and she doesn’t. I don’t want to spoil because it’s just a great fun film and really should be seen by more people. Anyway, Sinbad loses, Eris wins and there’s actually a legit amount of time that passes where Sinbad tries to atone for what he’s done. What leads to Eris’ downfall is unexpected.


Did I sell this movie enough for you?

A shout out to Dreamworks for giving us Fiona, Astrid, Chel and the great crop of different female characters we’ve gotten. Really, great work.


Sarah—Liberty’s Kids

Liberty’s Kids was the bomb! Sarah was my favorite because she was really the only woman on the show and had awesome hair (and I had a thing for animated hair, clearly). She went through such a great journey on the show, going from a firm English loyalist to supporting the plight of the colonists. She was such an amazing character, a woman with a voice, and the freedom to explore the world and be shaped by it. She was a reporter and always spoke her mind and was amazing.

Pokemon! Ah, my favorite. Misty, following another trend, was pretty much the one woman among a group of men and was fabulous. Between the original trio, each had a specialization and Misty’s was water pokemon.


Like, she first saves Ash’s life and then follows him around demanding he fix her bike that his pokemon ruined. Misty is not here for your crap.


And clearly she has a temper, as Mel put it to me, which may feed into the redhead stereotype if we want to look closely at that.


Misty also suffered from a lack of confidence in regard to her older sisters and feeling left out but their synchronized swimming group. But the show also had a nice arc for her where we saw her overcome that she felt more secure in her relationships with Ash and Brock and bonds with her sisters. And who can forget the epic ear pulling whenever Brock whenever he got all OMG I LURVE YOU about girls. Best ever.


Spring Sprite—Fantasia 2000


Perhaps an unconventional pick, but I could talk for hours about this film and the final selection, Firebird Suite, changed my life. I legit used to run around with a shawl as my wings to be the Spring Sprite and bring the forest back to life.


I loved her because she was naive and vulnerable and became depressed when the volcano destroyed the forest,


but then found the power to restore the beauty, to create life again. I loved her strength and her curiosity. She’s a bit like Ariel, now that I think about it. The way she goes to explore the volcano and awakens it.


She shares that spirit, the excitement to discover something new. The Spring Sprite was so important to me on so many levels.


Who are your favorite animated women? Do you agree with my list? Who would be on your list? What makes an animated woman “epic?” What qualities do you admire in a character?

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Response: How Disney Stereotypes Hurt Men


On Thursday, Laci Green and MTV put out a video called How Disney Stereotypes Hurt Men. Unsurprisingly Mel and I had a lot of thoughts and decided to write a response. Watch the video below and then read our thoughts on body type in animation, physically empowered women, the way masculinity is presented in the princes and villains, and men fighting over women.

Body Types in Animation

One of the biggest and most obvious gripes about animation is the way people are drawn. Laci points this out very aptly when she says all the men are drawn the same. They’re big, tall, muscular, and generally white, as the video says. This is true. Men are pressured the same way women are to look a certain way. Men are encouraged to be physically fit, have six packs, and be big strong men.

beauty and the beast fabulous reaction

However, women in animation are not drawn any better. Women often times have a tiny waist, a decent chest, and huge wide eyes. Hell, recent Disney films have faced criticism for having Rapunzel, Elsa, and Anna drawn with the exact same face.


This is a problem that goes both ways. Animated characters enforce gender stereotypes and uphold unattainable standards of beauty.

Disney and other animation houses need to recognize they are not drawing actual human beings. But this is also a problem that extends outside of animation to Hollywood and the media as a whole. Actors and actresses face extreme levels of pressure and then are ridiculed when they cave and get plastic surgery. It even extends to normal people that are not in the public eye. Eating disorders and low self-esteem are real life consequences that have wide reaching effects.

Now, Disney also draws its villains and heroes a certain way. While princes and princesses are both extraordinarily beautiful, Laci makes another point about men that are not everything a prince should be according to the standards of animation: “Men who aren’t tall and muscular are often portrayed as outcasts or subservient and weak.” I agree and disagree.

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Let me explain.

Men that do not look like a prince are treated differently, but the only one I can think of that is an outcast for it is Quasi in Hunchback. But the point of that film is that it is wrong to discriminate based on how people look. Frollo emotionally abuses Quasi and even tried to murder him as a baby. Quasi is the hero of the film despite not looking or being a prince and his film sends the message it is wrong to mistreat him because he looks different.

Another character that is an outcast in their film is Hercules. Hercules is super strong and tall and an awkward teenager. He hasn’t yet developed his muscles, which he does by training and actually working hard. But he does have this gifted insane amount of strength from childhood and is ostracized for it.

Often times, men that don’t fit the “big, tall, muscular” mold are actually villains. Look at Lawrence in Princess and the Frog. He wants power and is jealous of Naveen and so throws his lot in with Dr. Facilier. Lawrence, physically, is a short, plump, balding dude. He is one of the villains of the film. He’s not handsome in the conventional sense. The Huntsman in Snow White, who we are supposed to fear, is a big, also plump dude. He has a big nose and a scary, angry face. Smee, Hook’s right hand man, looks a lot like Lawrence. Cruella’s henchmen also have the big noses, while one is plump and short and the other skinny and tall. The Butler in Aristocats also doesn’t fit the prince mold. My point here is, these men don’t become outcasts. They are villains.

bitch i'm fabulous reaction lion king

An exception to this is Jasmine’s dad. He is drawn similarly to Lawrence (rather, Lawrence is drawn similar to him) and is kinda/sorta/not really a villain, but he is standing in the way of Jasmine being able to make her own choices. However, he is not the antagonist of the film and is ultimately a figure we sympathize with. He’s blinded by tradition and only wants Jasmine to be provided for once he dies. Jasmine could probably provide for herself quite fine, as could all women, if not held back by this archaic way of thinking. The sultan is a powerful figure though small in stature. He does not fit the prince mold, despite have been one before he became sultan.

Generally, though, beauty is equated with goodness, while villains are the opposite.

The same can be said for female villains. Ursula isn’t supermodel skinny and when she turns herself into Vanessa to tempt Eric, she has a totally different body type. Lady Medusa in The Rescuers has saggy boobs and buckteeth and looks certifiably insane. So do Cruella and Yzma. Disney is totally guilty of the way it draws its characters and the messages it sends. But this damage goes both ways.

Prince = “Savior”

As the video progresses, Laci tells us that princesses need saving and a prince has to be there do it. While this seems true at first glance, it’s not really so. The older films, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc are definitely guilty of this. But Disney has evolved from those films.

Let’s start with The Little Mermaid, the beginning of the Disney Renaissance. Ariel saves Eric from drowning the very first time they meet. He would have died during the storm. But Ariel was there and she grabbed him and carried him to safety. But it does not end there. When Ariel finds out Eric is about to marry Ursula in disguise, she jumps into action. Literally.

little mermaid dramatic entry 10 points reaction crack

She can’t swim and relies on her friends to save her. I love The Little Mermaid for this reason. Everyone depends on each other. Ariel saves Eric, Eric saves Ariel, Ariel saves Flounder (the shark sequence in the opening), Flounder and Sebastian save Ariel (Sebastian cuts the barrels loose and Flounder tows her), etc. No one is the hero all the time. Everyone needs help.

little mermaid i hope you appreciate what i go through for you

Anyway, back to Ariel saving Eric. She’s not about to let Eric get trapped in a fake marriage. Sebastian and Scuttle do a lot of the legwork for that scene, but Ariel’s presence matters, too. Saving does not always have to be literal. We’ll return to that notion later. Let’s stay with TLM a bit longer.

When Ursula captures Ariel and takes her home, Eric stops Ursula from hurting Ariel after Ariel protected her father. The Little Mermaid is very cyclical, as I mentioned, and it plays itself that way to the end of the film. Ariel evades Ursula in the whirlpool of doom and Eric is able to spear her with his ship. But the film does not end with Eric saving the day. The film ends when Ariel and her father finally find common ground. They reach an understanding. It’s not about Eric saving the day because everyone in The Little Mermaid has saved someone else at some point. It’s about Ariel—the little mermaid—and her relationship with her father. Triton gives Ariel legs and the Part of Your World reprise plays. Part of Your World was the moment the plot really kicked off, when we knew Ariel was going to go for what she wanted. She has her father’s blessing now; all is well between them. The final line of the film is “I love you, daddy,” emphasizing this.

little mermaid i love you, daddy

Another example where Disney bashes the notion of a prince having to save the day and the princess being useless is Mulan. To me, every female character in Disney is a princess. I know that’s technically untrue since Esmeralda’s not, etc, but to me they are. So I’m going to talk about Mulan now. Mulan, as I’ve talked about in other metas, is an amazing movie steeped in gender roles and seeks to overcome that beautifully.

Mulan totally saves herself and all of China and also her boyfriend.

hercules like a boss reaction crack

After Mulan confronts the Huns and shoots her arrow into the mountains to create an avalanche, Shang gets caught in the disaster. Mulan saves him from going off a cliff all while injured, herself! At the end of the film, when she fights Shan-Yu, she fights him as a woman. The gender roles are even emphasized more when Mulan has her friends dress as women to break into the palace because they would not be seen as a legitimate threat that way. The guards instead were interested if they could get some action. Disney throws that right in our faces! Disney is straight up showing us the gender roles, that women are weak and submissive and men won’t take them seriously.

And then badass Mulan goes and fights the leader of the Huns. She’s not pretending to be a man. She’s wearing feminine clothes. She’s herself. She even uses a fan to defeat Shan-Yu, something seen in Asian culture as a feminine practice. Disney subverts every single gender role and challenges them in Mulan. Mulan wins. She beats him. And again, the focus of the film is not on the romance. Mulan goes home to see her family and her dad. She makes peace with them before she essentially gets Shang as a “prize.” Eric and Shang are just bonuses in Ariel and Mulan’s stories. The men don’t win anyone.

Tangled also has the princess saving the prince—err, Flynn. She heals him at the end of the film, even though he is the one that came to rescue her. She saves him, literally. But now I want to look at the ways Disney has their female heroes saving men in not so obvious ways. The best example of this is Pocahontas. John Smith is a pretty arrogant guy when he meets Pocahontas. And it is through her that he becomes a better person. She teaches him about the importance of the land and also that judging people and fearing them is wrong. She changes his total world view. Colors of the Wind is the turning point. She challenges his assumptions that the English way is the best one, the “civilized” way. She does not overtly go charging into battle wielding a weapon, but she saves him nonetheless. She left a mark on him.

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Okay, so we covered the fact that princesses frequently save their princesses and saving does not always have to be so black and white. I also want to talk about physically empowered women that Disney has given us. These ladies aren’t necessarily saving anyone, maybe they’re protecting themselves, just surviving, or playing.

Esmeralda is always the first person I think of because of her epic escape scene after she protects Quasi. She counts how many guards there are and does the amazing, “10 of you and only 1 of me. What’s a poor girl to do?” And then POOF, she is gone! But, wait, there she is! And now watch her outsmart all of you. Then she meets Phoebus officially in Notre Dame has no qualms about fighting her future hubby with a candlestick. She’s smart, she’s sassy, and she knows how to fight. Esmeralda is a boss, okay.

I think I’ve already covered how perfect Mulan and Ariel are.

Nala always pawns Simba in a fight.

Jasmine is a fast learner, jumping over rooftops like she’s been doing it her whole life.

frozen punch hans

Disney has plenty of physically empowered women. It’s not all about the prince saving the day. In fact, it hasn’t really been about the prince saving anyone since the early Disney films. In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast needs Belle to save him from his curse. Aladdin beats Jafar at the end of the film, but Jasmine’s words are “I choose you, Aladdin.”

Men Fighting for Women and Domineering, Masculine Men

Laci mentions at one point how many Disney movies have a battle between two guys, with the winner winning pride, respect and a woman. Now I can see where people would see male antagonist vs. male hero and think the fight is about a woman, but in most cases, it’s really not. Even in cases where we have a possessive villain (Gaston, Jafar) who wants the princess for himself, the fight itself is more about power than it is about the woman at hand. We do have one fight that’s sort of about a woman in Hercules, between Hercules and Hades, and Hercules does get pride/respect/becomes a god. HOWEVER, that means losing out on Meg, because he can’t be with her if he’s not mortal, and Hercules gives up that pride and power for a chance to be with the woman he loves. On the flip side, Aladdin believes he can’t be with Jasmine without wealth and status, but she doesn’t care about that and chooses him after he sets the genie free instead of wishing to be a prince again.

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Disney proves to us time and time again that love is so much greater than status or power by showing us antagonists so consumed with getting that power and status that it destroys them. Gaston dies when he stabs the Beast after the Beast saves his life instead of just moving on with his life like a normal person. Jafar gets trapped in the lamp because he’s so obsessed with power that he doesn’t realize power always comes with a price. Hades underestimates Hercules’ strength and power, and more importantly, his love for Meg, which ends up screwing him over.

I also find the assumption that women are viewed as prizes to be won to be offensive, because they’re really not.

aladdin done w your shit reaction

A lot of these Disney movies are female-led, and if anything, the prince is their bonus prize achieved in the midst of their goal, mainly because princess/prince connect and share some commonality. (Ex: Aladdin and Jasmine, who both wish that the world would see them for who they really are, and feel trapped by everyone’s expectations and opinions.)

Jasmine actually has this really amazing quote that I love: “I am not a prize to be won.” These ladies do not put up with men who view them as prizes or commodities. Jasmine side-eyes Jafar and her rich suitors who are after the money/status that comes with marrying the Sultan’s daughter, and even side-eyes Aladdin for a while there when he’s pretending to be Prince Ali, because he’s acting like all of the idiots she’s dealt with before. It’s only when he shows her who he really is that she starts to respect him. Another great example: Belle and Gaston. Gaston is domineering and pushy and tries to harass Belle into dating him, because he feels as though he deserves her, and Belle rejects him time and time again, because his lack of respect for her and her boundaries means she has zero respect for him in return. She also doesn’t fall in love with the Beast until the Beast gets his shit together and starts treating her with the respect and kindness she deserves, and makes an effort to change his ways.

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At one point, Laci mentions that Disney tries to show us that “domination is central to being a real man” which I respectfully disagree with. Does Disney have men who are dominating and aggressive? Yes, they definitely do. But, those men are not the princes/heroes that the ladies in the Disney world fall for. In fact, the domineering aggressive dudes in Disney are often the antagonists. Radcliffe, Gaston, Jafar, Scar, Frollo: these are all dudes that feel entitled to women and power and status.

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And these aggressive entitled dudes are the ones that end up alone, imprisoned or dead at the end. They’re not rewarded for being domineering or aggressive: they’re punished for it.

Meanwhile, most of our Disney heroes, the ones that end up with the girl at the end, are guys who are respectful toward women. They don’t treat women as prizes; they aren’t aggressive toward them or make them feel uncomfortable. They listen. They respect their feelings. They fight for them, and their women fight for them, and what we end up with are these wonderful, equal relationships that set a great example for women.

Passive Women/Gender Roles

Okay, so I love tearing apart gender roles as much as anyone, and while Disney does leave me unsatisfied in some regards, I really don’t think gender roles is a big issue for them. Passive/domesticated women and active/aggressive men are not how Disney relationships tend to balance out on-screen.

First of all, while I agree with Laci about the earlier Pre-Renaissance films (Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty), I strongly disagree that the women in the Renaissance era and beyond are portrayed as passive. They don’t need men to save them. They aren’t sitting around in their castle waiting for a man to pop up and complete them. No, these princesses are out following their dreams, and if they happen to find the man of their dreams along the way, awesome.

The Renaissance (and beyond) Princesses have way more to do.

Ariel seems to get the most flack, so I’ll start with her. Ariel is our first princess who is incredibly active and adventurous and progressive. She’s the one who sets the entire plot into motion. She saves Eric from drowning. She battles sharks. She’s the one who goes to Ursula for the deal so she can explore land (which she’s always wanted to do) and also meet Eric. Notice how Eric is the straw that broke the camel’s back here. Ariel always wanted to go to land. (Remember “Part of Your World?” That takes place before Ariel even meets Eric.) Even when Ariel’s voiceless on land, she’s still the one initiating the relationship. She doesn’t sit around and hope Eric realizes she’s awesome: she’s actively hanging out with Eric and uses her body language and personality to show him that she’s into him. Like Mic mentioned, we get this wonderful relationship balance between the two of them, where Eric saves Ariel in return. She saves him, he saves her – it’s all balanced out.

But it isn’t just Ariel. The Disney Princess films revolve around the princesses, and thus we get women who actively go out and pursue their dreams. Disney does explore gender roles, but does something truly revolutionary. It sets our heroines in a world with so many biases and expectations for them, and then they proceed to break through those roles and debunk them entirely. Mulan runs off to join the army to bring honor to her family and break free of the gender roles confining her. Belle wants much more than her provincial life and definitely doesn’t want to be “Madam Gaston, his little wife” so she rejects the expectations fostered on her and finds that adventure she was looking for.

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Pocahontas doesn’t settle for the smoothest course, and ends up uniting her tribe and the settlers. Tiana fights her way to her happy ending and her dream to open that restaurant, ignoring the naysayers. Jasmine says “screw the law” and finds the true love and the freedom she wanted with Aladdin, and then ends up getting her dad to nix the laws that restrain her, which gives her the agency she’s desired. Rapunzel is just awesome, and takes charge of her destiny when she makes that deal with Flynn, and grows into herself and sees the lights and finds a new dream in him.

Also, men aren’t always the ones chasing the women. Most of these women are chasing those guys right back.

little mermaid take your dreams into your own hands

There’s so much mutual attraction and respect built into Disney relationships, where both sides pursue each other and take things at their own pace. A lot of the relationships build up over time as the movie goes on, and the characters get to know one another. Respect and trust is fostered throughout, which leads to love.

As times change and grow, our heroines grow with them, and become more revolutionary and break through more and more gender walls. Even the men do this.

We often forget that in the majority of these Disney films, we have a female lead, and thus the prince/love interest supplements the movie. In the past, this meant we got love interests like Prince Charming and Snow White’s prince, who weren’t as developed and were more confined to gender roles. They didn’t get as much of a role in the movies: they just appeared to save the princess. But as time has gone by, Disney has built up the love interests, giving them their own character arcs and roles and strong personalities that contrast and blend with the princesses in a wonderful way that ends up resulting in some great, balanced relationships. We don’t just get a prince saving a princess. Both sides save each other and look out for each other, because they care for and respect one another. A great example of this would be Flynn and Rapunzel, who both share character arcs and have their own quests and goals. They each save one another from danger, and are assets to each other in a great way.

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I talked a lot about gender roles for guys already, but there are a few more things I want to add. The Disney guys don’t tend to conform to gender roles, unless they’re villains and represent a hyper masculinity that’s very harmful. Most of our Disney dudes are not aggressive or domineering, or even stoic and cold. In fact, we get as much emotional expression from the dudes as we do from the ladies, which is pretty equal and awesome to me. Guys in Disney movies are not afraid to talk about their feelings, or love, or admit if they messed up, or even cry and feel sad or angry. They don’t hold back their emotions, and when they do, or when they try and be something they’re not, it usually ends badly for them. Examples:

  • Hercules: No one likes me. I don’t think I belong here. Something is wrong with me. WHERE DO I BELONG?
  • Aladdin: I AM NOT A STREET RAT. I’m pretty awesome, just give me a chance. I want Jasmine to love me. She’s so pretty and smart. *makes heart eyes*
  • Beast: is just a mess, okay? He’s all NO ONE WILL LOVE ME. I AM DOOMED.
  • Tarzan: Who am I? Why do they look like me? Am I supposed to be like them? WHO ARE THESE STRANGERS?
  • Kuzco: HELP I’M A LLAMA! I don’t want to be a llama. Llamas are lame. I want to be a badass rich emperor dude.
  • Naveen: I NEED MONEYYYYYYY. And women. And my status. Oh, Tiana, hiii. I ‘m gonna make you dinner and gaze up at the stars with you.
  • Flynn: Be cool, dude. I’m actually a wounded orphan on the inside pretending to be a swashbuckling rogue. Let me tell Rapunzel my whole life story. *heart eyes*
  • Eric: I want to marry the girl of my dreams. It’ll hit me, LIKE LIGHTNING. Or my ship exploding and sending me straight into her arms. Let me just stare at the water all moody and play my flute until she shows up. WHAT IS LOVE? IT IS HER. Alas!
  • Phoebus: I love my horse. Like, I really love my horse. We have a bromance. Also, I’m a soldier that follows my heart, not orders. I won’t burn down innocent people’s homes.

I also disagree that Disney men are portrayed as being dopey/incompetent, because our heroes are not, and our villains definitely are not (since most of them are creepily savvy). I think some of the older men in Disney (Maurice, the Sultan, Prince Charming’s dad) fall prey to this trope, mainly through how they’re viewed by other characters. Maurice is written off as a crackpot/crazy by half the town, when he’s actually a pretty brilliant guy despite his absent-minded nature. Charming’s dad and the Sultan are both a little childish and silly, but they prove that they’re worthy kings to lead their land, and have a good head on their shoulders. So I don’t think the dopey thing has much merit, to be honest. Even in the earlier films, most of the guys aren’t portrayed that way, and as time goes on, it comes up less and less.

Conclusion: For the Most Part, Disney Stereotypes Aren’t Affecting Men Adversely

While the physical appearance of both Disney princesses and princes is a negative issue that needs some reworking, since it sets up unrealistic body standards, for the most part, Disney Stereotypes don’t seem to be hurting men too badly. Disney breaks away from the typical norm of gender roles for men by having its male leads be open with their emotions and letting them break out of the typical “knight in shining armor” role.

They also portray more domineering, aggressive men as a negative thing, as most of these men in Disney movies happen to be the antagonists. Disney stereotypes don’t seem to hurt women too badly either: instead of the more passive damsels of the past, Disney’s female leads are active, determined, and generally awesome role models. They initiate their plots and don’t wait around for a guy to save them; they save themselves. They don’t put up with men who don’t respect them or treat them like trophies.

The relationships they end up in are equally balanced and filled with respect and love on both sides of the equation. While Disney fails in some aspects, it definitely does not in regards to gender roles and its portrayal of their later princesses and princes. Instead, Disney challenges gender roles and allows both its female and male characters to break free from them in a way that is wonderfully creative and sets a great example for children.

Do do you think Disney Stereotypes hurt men? Are Disney princesses just damsels in distress that need men to come save them? Do you think body images in animation is a problem?

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Lust, Adoration and Love: Breaking Down Esmeralda’s Shipping Options


I ship Esmeralda/Phoebus like nobody’s business. They are one of my OTPs. So nothing gets me madder than when I hear that Esmeralda should have picked Quasi. Okay, let’s be real, there are plenty of things that make me angrier–I do have a life–but for the sake of argument, NOTHING MAKES ME MADDER.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame features three dudes that are madly “in love” with Esmeralda. It’s time to break down each three of these guys, their feelings, and why Esmeralda was meant to with the Sun God. *eye roll*


For obvious reasons, Frollo is a psychopath and no one should ever be with him. Ever, ever, ever!

hunchback frollo witchcraft

Frollo is manipulative, evil, and just crazy. He obsesses over Esmeralda, he professes to hate her and her people, and he’s interest in her is purely unhealthy. He fantasizes about her and takes his obsession to a whole new level by burning Paris to the ground. He’s just not a good, dude.


  • Frollo tells Quasi that gypsies are evil
  • Frollo takes pleasure in trapping Esmeralda in the cathedral and then has his very creepy scene where he “imagines a rope around that beautiful neck,” though that’s actually a crappy euphemism
  • Umm… all of Hellfire
  • When he tells Esmeralda she can still “choose him” as she’s tied to a poll and about to BURN

hunchback me or the fire

Frollo is literally the definition of an entitled, misogynistic dude. Esmeralda rejected him so he tried to have her put to death. Her and everyone she cared about. Worse, he blamed her for everything he was doing. She tempted me, she’s evil, she shouldn’t have danced that way, she shouldn’t BREATHE that way.

I don’t think much time really needs to be given to outlining reasons why Frollo is actually the worst.


Here we have a victim of Frollo’s abuse. Because of Frollo, Quasi has grown up isolated and lonely. He was manipulated his entire life into fearing the world and its inhabitants. Frollo made Quasi uncomfortable in his own skin, ashamed of how he looked. Like I said, Frollo is just the worst.

hunchback heaven-s-light-o

Esmeralda is the first decent person Quasi meets. She is kind to him, unafraid of his looks (though she first assumes he’s wearing a mask), and pretty. Let’s be honest, Esmeralda being pretty is a big part of why he likes her—at least at first. He falls into her tent while she’s changing and is stunned into silence when he sees her, despite the fact she’s scolding him. But then she stands up for him, the only person in a crowd to do so. Then it becomes her kindness that infatuates him because, again, she’s the first decent person he’s ever met.

hunchback esmeralda saves quasi

Quasi is craving love. He’s been denied it his whole life. Esmeralda could have been anyone for him, it just happened to be her. Evidence: after Quasi helps her escape and is confronted by Frollo, Quasi says, “She was kind to me, master.”

Quasi would love anyone that shows him an ounce of kindness.

But Quasi doesn’t know how to love since no one has ever loved him and taught him what it means. Instead, Quasi idolizes her. “Heaven’s Light,” as beautiful as it is, is about Esmeralda saving Quasi, making her an angel. Before we get to some of the lyrics, I just want to mention a quote by John Green: What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person. People are people, with good parts and bad parts, and no one has the power to save another. Okay, onto the lyrics:

But suddenly an angel has smiled at me
And kissed my cheek without a trace of fright

Esmeralda is actually called an angel in the narrative, that’s not just me giving her the status to prove a point. Quasi sees her as an angel that’s come to change his life.

So many times out here
I’ve watched a happy pair
Of lovers walking in the night
They had a kind of glow around them
It almost looked like heaven’s light

hunchback bells heaven's light

Quasi has been longing for love his whole life. He’s been watching Paris from his bell tower and been able to create his own stories for everyone. He even makes models of the familiar faces for his mini-town. The point is, Quasi is craving for it, desperate.

I knew I’d never know
That warm and loving glow
Though I might wish with all my might

Love is not meant for him. Frollo brainwashed him. But then he meets Esmeralda and she shows him kindness and with that first inkling, he is hooked. He latches onto her because she’s the first person to ever look past his exterior.

His gargoyle friends fill his mind with romance stories, despite Esmeralda treating him as a friend and confidant. She opens up to him, gives him her necklace and actually calls him “my friend,” at one point.

Both Quasi and Esmeralda need friends. Esmeralda dances on the streets to get by and her community is being persecuted. Quasi has seriously damaged self-esteem issues and is “cared” for by an abusive “parent.” They both need support systems. Their friendship is important to both of their welfare.

hunchback end

Their friendship is so important to Quasi moving forward. She and Phoebus are the first positive relationships in his life. They give him confidence, help rebuild his self-esteem. Of course he has a long road to go before he’s in a healthy place, but you can never love until you love yourself. Quasi was not able to love when he met Esmeralda, but her friendship was instrumental in getting him to a good place after years of mistreatment.


MY BABY! I mean *cough*


Like Quasi, Phoebus is drawn to Esmeralda because of her looks. He sees her dancing and is all, “Oh, yeah, hellooooo.” But then he sees her getting harassed by Frollo’s guards and steps in, totally reeled in as she defends herself and then slips away. Phoebus likes his strong ladies that take no shit from authority. When he returns her coins, Esmeralda and Djali are both taken aback, and here my friends is the start of a beautiful ship.

hunchback seeing him

But let’s backtrack a little. Phoebus is different from Frollo and Quasi for a number of reasons. Phoebus is an accomplished soldier. He’s got a career. He’s relatively stable, not like Quasi that has no control over his life, or Frollo that, well… is not stable in any sense of the word. He has seen the world, or some of it, I’m assuming. He’s got opinions. He clearly doesn’t see anything to fear in the gypsies since he questions Frollo’s decision to remove him from the front lines to police Paris. He’s tolerant.

Now back to my ship. The next time he sees her, yes, he’s probably drawn to her looks since she’s dancing. But like Esmeralda, he wants to stop the harassment happening to Quasi. Because he’s a soldier, he feels bound to obey Frollo’s orders and doesn’t intervene. However, when Esmeralda does, fearless, his attraction is cemented.

hunchback kindnesshunchback fight end

Their first conversation happens in the cathedral and oh my gosh, it is full of my favorite things: wit, banter, initial dislike on one party’s side. I can’t help but grin like an idiot watching it.

hunchback banter1hunchback banter2

hunchback banter3

Where Phoebus liked Esmeralda’s courage at the festival, Esmeralda is thrown by his refusal to arrest her. They both see qualities in each other they hadn’t expected to.

hunchback my ship5

Switching gears a bit, Phoebus isn’t threatened by Quasi, while Quasi is of Phoebus. It’s definitely not because Phoebus doesn’t see him as a rival because of how he looks or anything shallow like that. Phoebus recognizes that Quasi is her friend and he’s glad for that. He’s not one of those guys that gets insecure if his girlfriend so much as looks at another man. He’s not even angry when Quasi treats him with the same contempt that Esmeralda did because he’s a soldier. He’s just happy Esmeralda has people in her life that care about her safety that much. *SWOON*

thats love bitch reaction

And then, of course, there is a scene that melts my heart: when Phoebus refuses to burn the home of an innocent family.

hunchback phoebus saves family

Frollo’s just batshit crazy at this point and Phoebus has already witnessed him torturing gypsies and throwing their caravans into the Siene while they’re locked inside. The montage pans to his face a few times, his disagreement evident on his face. His conditioning as a soldier is hard to break, but he finally does.

He’s not doing it to impress Esmeralda. He doesn’t even know she’s there. He’s ready to die for his insubordination and still has his sass even facing his own death. But then Esmeralda saves her bf, because duh.

sobbing reaction

Phoebus continues to prove himself by trying to warn Esmeralda and the gypsies about Frollo’s plan and wants Quasi to come with him since he’s her friend and she needs him. Again, he’s not one of those possessive, domineering men. He respects Esmeralda and the people she chooses as friends.

hunchback my ship4hunchback my ship6

And that’s why this ship is the best ship.

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Disney Villain Songs: Part Two


Welcome back to the Disney Villain Songs Meta. We tackled five songs last week and this time we have four more, plus some other films to discuss.

Last week I told you that Villain Songs didn’t really become a thing until the Renaissance era films, when the storytelling took a shift. The post-Renaissance films have been an odd mix. Some of them sway more Renaissance, while others lean back to more traditional Disney films, where the villain is a deeper theme.

After Pocahontas in 1995, we got The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, Tarzan, The Emperor’s New Groove, Lilo & Stitch, The Princess & The Frog, Tangled, and Frozen. Out of those films only Hunchback, Emperor, Frog, and Tangled have Villain Songs.

Hades is definitely a villain of Hercules, constantly trying to keep the son of Zeus from regaining his god status. But the true villain of the film is Hercules’ isolation. He grows up believing he’s a human, where his extreme strength distances him from everyone—dude, he’s like the original Elsa!

hercules alone no one can hurt you

Meg is, too!

When he finds out who he is, that’s when things begin to change and he wants to regain his place among the gods, where he thinks he will belong. The immediate threat to this plan is Hades, so he becomes the physical villain. It’s not until Hercules rescues Meg from the underworld that he truly wins and becomes a hero and realizes he belongs with her and with his friends.

hercules punch hades

You can’t give isolation a song (though Frozen certainly tried, I guess).

Hercules’ need to belong is what is given a song. He gets an I Want song! “Sometimes I feel like I really don’t belong here, like I’m supposed to be someplace else,” he says, just before the song begins. This is the true threat to him. It makes him leave home (“You’re the greatest parents anyone can have, but I gotta know.”) And once he thinks knows where he belongs, he succeeds. He trains and he beats every monster Hades throws at him, trying to fulfill his role as a god. But when Meg gets hurt and is ripped away from him, he knows he belongs with her. That is when he really wins and even attains the status he was looking for.

In Mulan, the physical villain is the army of Huns and their leader. But really, Mulan is about gender roles and what a woman should and shouldn’t do.

mulan reflection

The Huns are always the background threat, driving the plot. Mulan’s storyline is deeper, its villains a society, a way of thinking. Even when Mulan saves the day and is confronted the emperor, she is afraid of his reaction, expecting to be berated for her heroism. I mean, and her destruction of the palace, but details.

mulan fuck you mulan reaction

When Mulan is the sole person that knows the Huns were not defeated, she is scoffed at because she brings the news as a woman. The antagonist of Mulan was never solely the Huns and that is why there is no Villain song.

Tarzan! I love the music in this film so much. I used to play Son of Man on repeat for hours. I loved the growing up montage; it amused me to no end. There’s no Villain Song here since it’s kind of a re-vamp of The Jungle Book. Both films are about boys that grew up away from humanity and are more comfortable with animals. While Mowgli had little interest in man, Tarzan is fascinated with the strangers that look like him.

tarzan man

I’m not sure what I’d call the villain of this film. Kerchak is an obstacle to Tarzan. Clayton is definitely a piece of work and his hunting of the gorillas is horrible. The message is, of course, pro-nature, but I think there’s also something to be said about the notion of home. Once Tarzan learns he’s human and there’s a whole world out there he should be in, he thinks he should leave the jungle. He’s in love, so that also plays a part in his decision. But as Jane finds out, home does not have to be what society expects. Home can be the jungle. I don’t know that I’d call Tarzan a film about finding the strength to be yourself and be open to change, but it certainly plays itself that way.

tarzan and jane swinging

Lilo & Stitch, precious film that it is, is not a musical, though it has some lovely songs in it. So there’s no Villain Song here because of its structure. But if it was a musical, it could easily devote a comedic song to Jumba and Pleakley attempting to catch Stitch. However, as you’re probably tired of hearing, the deeper villain here ties very closely into Tarzan. Stitch finds a home on earth with Lilo. Lilo also aligns very much with Hercules, struggling to figure out where she belongs, feeling isolated from the other girls in her hula class. Nani and Lilo are also grieving for their parents and trying to find a way to relate to each other.

lilo and stich hands

There’s so much more at play beneath the surface of silly alien hunting.

Frozen is erm… we all know Frozen is really about isolation and fear and not loving yourself. I don’t need to spell that out for you. Hence, Hans and his treachery don’t get a song. As Mel eloquently put it to me once, Let it Go is an odd Villain/Empowerment Song.

frozen strugglebus reaction

It speaks to Elsa’s fears and seeks to overcome them, but it really doesn’t since she’s still not in control of her powers. If everything was solved then, we wouldn’t have a movie. Frozen is hard for me to talk about because as I was watching it the first time, I adored it. But the more I think about it, there are things that don’t quite work, didn’t need to be there, etc. Hans is one of them. But the deeper themes of Frozen do not need to be contested and thus, there is no true Villain Song.

Now, onto the films that DO have Villain Songs!


Mel already did an analysis of Hellfire when she wrote about Hunchback and Religion. Let’s switch gears and look at it through the lens of villainy. It’s similar to Gaston, where Frollo sees himself as having done no wrong. Like Ursula did in Poor Unfortunate Souls, he tries to present himself as a saint.

Beata Maria
You know I am a righteous man
Of my virtue I am justly proud

Sorry, Frollo. You are not a righteous dude. And you should not be proud.

peter pan no me gusta reaction

You know I’m so much purer than
The common, vulgar, weak, licentious crowd

You’re also not in a place to be insulting people.

Hellfire is Frollo’s confession. He’s torn between his… urges for Esmeralda (I could not say “feelings” because that feels too innocent) and the strict doctrine of his religion. He tries to justify his actions, his burning of Paris to apprehend her. Villains hardly ever see themselves as in the wrong, a case made clear here.

hunchback me or the fire

Frollo has a lot of internal conflict to deal with, perhaps more so than any other Disney villain. His journey is as complex as a hero’s. His beliefs are challenged and instead of shedding his ignorance and hatred, he does not. If Frollo had, he could have easily become the protagonist of this film. Hunchback could have been about a man finding mercy within himself, about seeing how his negative interpretation of religion led to so many horrible crimes. Two roads were set before Frollo in a way no other villain has gotten. Frollo chose wrong.

Like fire
This fire in my skin
This burning
Is turning me to sin
It’s not my fault

Frollo cannot accept blame or responsibility. If he admits he wants Esmeralda, a sinner, then what does that make him? He is no longer a righteous man (he never was, but whatever). So it becomes Esmeralda’s crime. She is the villain. She IS the devil, tempting him.

hunchback frollo witchcraft

Protect me, Maria
Don’t let this siren cast her spell
Don’t let her fire sear my flesh and bone
Destroy Esmeralda
And let her taste the fires of hell
Or else let her be mine and mine alone
Dark fire
Now gypsy, it’s your turn
Choose me or
Your pyre
Be mine or you will burn

Frollo turns to his beliefs for strength. He also turns to them for justification of what he’s about to do.

hunchback hellfire, dark fire

Hellfire is so interesting because it again questions sexism by placing the responsibility on the woman. If a man wants a woman, she has no choice. And if she tempts him, that’s her fault, too. It also represents a deep-rooted inner conflict none of the villains ever had to contend with. Frollo here is clearly torn between what he wants to do. He’s in distress, a quality we’ve never witnessed before. His inner conflict makes him so compelling to watch.

Snuff out the Light

I wouldn’t be surprised if most of you didn’t know The Emperor’s New Groove had a Villain Song in it. That’s because it was deleted and what a mistake! I know why they did—the song is so freakishly amazing and deep it would change the tone of the film. The Emperor’s New Groove is not deep. Snuff out the Light is. I wanted to include this deleted song in the meta because it is wonderful and it’s my meta, so I can.

follow your dreams reactiong

Yzma wants power, like Scar and many villains before her. Unlike most villains, though, Yzma is old, a fact Kuzco can never forget. It seems to diminish her in his eyes. His voiceover when the audience meets her is, “This is Yzma… living proof that dinosaurs once roamed the earth.” Later: “Wow, look at these wrinkles. What is holding this woman together?”
Oh, and here’s the best. When he fires her:

Yzma: But your highness, I have been nothing if not loyal to the empire for many, many years.
Kuzco: Hey everybody hits their stride. You just hit yours fifty years ago.


Kuzco is vain (remember when he had potential wives line up for him?) and Yzma is old and not pretty, so she has to go. Ageism at its finest, folks! Sure, she wasn’t doing a good job, evidenced by her having zero compassion for the peasant that comes to lament about the lack of food, but that is not why she was fired.

With that in mind, lets turn to Snuff out the Light. Listen HERE.

When a woman acquires a certain age
And the men who adored you no longer swoon
It pays to avoid the sunlit days
And live by the light of the kindly moon
But the moon grows old
Just like us all
And her beautiful years are done
So now she prays through endless days
To take her revenge on the sun

This is a song about beauty, the importance of looks, and revenge.

In similar fashion to Villain Songs before, Snuff out the Light provides backstory.

When I was a girl at my daddy’s side
Papa, the royal mortician
Revealed to me in secret signs
The mark of a magician

Yzma’s father was an intelligent man and she learned from him. She prided herself on her knowledge, seeking to one day discover a way to stay young and pretty.

I studied well I learnt the trade
I thought my looks would never fade
If I could find that recipe
To give eternal youth to me

It was always my ambition
To use Papa’s tuition
And gain some small remission
From the vagaries of time

But clearly that has failed her now. She never found it and Kuzco fired her because she reached “a certain age.” She is no longer adored. Like Poor Unfortunate Souls, a woman’s role is again questioned. Is her worth defined by her beauty?

little mermaid the human world is a mess

I’ve really stopped at nothing
Murder, treachery, and lying
Whatever it takes to keep my looks
You really can’t blame a girl for trying

To Yzma, it is. Beauty is everything. I love how Disney always presents these false, negative, and pervasive ideas of womanhood to us in a Villain Song. Ursula thinks it, and as we’ll see, Mother Gothel thinks it. Gaston certainly cares about beauty, it’s the main reason he fixated on Belle (“The most beautiful girl in town! That makes her the best.”). The Evil Queen is obsessed with being the fairest of them all and once a mirror tells her that someone else is the fairest in the land, she flies into a jealous rage.

This song also touches on something I mentioned in Hellfire. Villains don’t see themselves as such. They’re not self-aware. Yzma is very self-aware here. She admits that she’s murdered and lied, so she can’t go back now. She’s in too deep and does not see a way out. That’s such an interesting facet of her character that’s lost by cutting this song.

Friends on the Other Side

This song from The Princess and the Frog reminds me most of Poor Unfortunate Souls. It’s manipulative, meant to coax someone into doing exactly what Dr. Facilier wants.

On you little man, I don’t want to waste much time
You been pushed around all your life
You been pushed around by your mother and your sister and your brother.
And if you was married…
You’d be pushed around by your wife
But in your future, the you I see
Is exactly the man you always wanted to be!

Just like Ariel was putty in Ursula’s hands, Lawrence can’t resist. It’s also interesting to see Lawrence be the one to fall for it since he was staunchly against Naveen going for a reading. Whereas, in The Little Mermaid, Ariel was fully intending to get help from Ursula from the start.

Perhaps one reason The Princess & The Frog isn’t quite as loved is because it feels too safe. We’ve already seen this ploy before. Every previous song has changed the game in some way. Ursula’s was the first, Gaston’s introduced victim-blaming, Jafar’s was a victory song, Scar’s was a plotting song, Ratcliffe’s set up the eventual conflict of the film and featured a cameo by someone considered a hero, Frollo’s was just fucked up, and Yzma’s calls out ageism and those obsessed with beauty. Friends on the Other Side is an intimidation song.

princess and the frog reaction i will end you

Sit down at my table
Put your minds at ease
If you relax it will enable me to do anything I please
I can read your future
I can change it ’round some, too
I’ll look deep into your heart and soul
(you do have a soul, don’t you, Lawrence?)
Make your wildest dreams come true!

I got voodoo
I got hoodoo
I got things I ain’t even tried!
And I got friends on the other side

Massive Ursula vibes, okay! This is basically the male Poor Unfortunate Souls.

And I fortunately know a little magic
It’s a talent that I always have possessed
And here lately, please don’t laugh
I use it on behalf
Of the miserable, lonely, and depressed pathetic

Poor unfortunate souls
In pain, in need
This one longing to be thinner
That one wants to get the girl
And do I help them?
Yes, indeed

Dr. Facilier and Ursula both prattling about their magic? Check.
Dr. Facilier and Ursula both talking up their skills? Check.
Dr. Facilier and Ursula both promising to help? Check.

little mermaid ursula lips

Both villains are trying to coerce someone into doing something. They both follow the same structure and involve a transformation, coincidentally. If you’ve noticed Villain Songs have not followed this pattern. They usually involve the villain alone or with their minions lamenting some crime that has been done to them. As a result, Friends on the Other Side is stale and not as memorable as its predecessors.

Mother Knows Best

Finally we come to the last Villain Song. I’m kinda sad, guys. Lets meta the shit out of it.

This song also has lots in common with Poor Unfortunate Souls. It’s a manipulation and an intimidation song, but it stands apart simply because of who the characters are. We have our first abusive parent relationship here. There’s a history between these characters that hasn’t been seen since Frollo and Quasi (the parent/child relationship except the “parent” totally lied to them their whole lives and is not their real parent).

The manipulation tactic here is different, too. Where Ursula and Dr. Facilier both talked up themselves, Mother Gothel talks down to Rapunzel.

Look at you, as fragile as a flower
Still a little sapling, just a sprout
You know why we stay up in this tower
(I know but)
That’s right, to keep you safe and sound, dear

She makes Rapunzel fear her own supposed inability.

tangled fear

She makes Rapunzel feel vulnerable, like she needs Mother Gothel for her own protection.

Mother’s right here
Mother will protect you

Mother is the source of all your problems—I mean—

She uses her position of authority over Rapunzel. There’s an imbalance in the power dynamic between them. Gothel, as the parent, should be seen as a source of love and protection, and she abuses that. Rapunzel trusts her. And like all parent relationships, sometimes guilt is an easy tactic to use to discourage an action:

Go ahead, get mugged and left for dead
Me, I’m just your mother, what do I know?
I only bathed and changed and nursed you

Go ahead and leave me, I deserve it
Let me die alone here, be my guest
When it’s too late, you’ll see, just wait
Mother knows best

She talks down to Rapunzel and then also uses a guilt trip. I think we know who deserves an award for Mum of the Year.

tangled gothel

Where Pocahontas made a daring move and included John Smith in Ratcliffe’s song, Tangled goes ahead and gives Mother Knows Best a reprise! TWO VILLAIN SONGS PEOPLE. TWO. IT ONLY TOOK 9 MOVIES TO DO IT.

Gothel tries to use the same tactics here:

This is why you never should have left
Dear, this whole romance that you’ve invented
Just proves you’re too naive to be here

Again she tries to make Rapunzel doubt herself and talks down to her. But when Rapunzel recoils, she drops the charade.

Oh, I see;
Rapunzel knows best,
Rapunzel’s so mature now,
Such a clever grown-up miss

If we saw her as patronizing before, man, that’s nothing on how she acts now. Her demeanor is haughty, and she’s done talking sweet. She pats her on the head like a pet, spins her around harshly, snaps at her, invades her personal space. The mothering pretense is gone, and now Mother Gothel is just angry that she’s lost control of Rapunzel.

If he’s lying
Don’t come crying
Mother knows best…

Deep down, Gothel is not a mother. She’s not equipped to raise a child, shown here when Rapunzel takes her first steps into independence. Like Gaston, she sees Rapunzel as on object she can possess.

mine reaction


Over the last two posts we’ve looked at a myriad of films. I loved looking at each song and seeing how the Villain Song grew and changed. Even the nature of villains, really, evolved with every film. There were lots of similarities between them, common elements that Disney holds onto, which is why these songs have become classics.

What’s your favorite Disney villain? Do you have a favorite Villain Song? What do you think about villains being people vs ideas? Do you think one is stronger than the other?

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Disney Princess “I Want” Songs: Part 1


Today, I’m talking about one of the fun aspects of the Disney Princess movies: the music. More specifically, I’m going to talk about each princess’s “I Want” song. That means that this post (and next Tuesday’s; I’ll explain in a moment) are going to be about what exactly an “I Want” song is, what the common trends are among them, and then I’m going to analyze those songs.

I’ve wanted to do this for a really, really long time, so I’m super excited to get started. But first, a few notes. I composed my Disney Princess list based on Disney’s considerations of what a Disney princess is, so that means Mulan, who technically isn’t royalty, makes it onto the list, while Eilonwy, Nala, Kiara, and others, who could be considered princesses in their own right, are not on the list. Maybe I’ll come back to them at some point later on.

Since there are 11 princesses with “I Want” songs, I’m going to be splitting this post right down the middle. Sorry guys; you’ll get the other half next Tuesday. I could do all 11 at once, but honestly, the word count would be really, really huge, and our eyes would all burn trying to read it, so it’s better to split it somewhere in the middle and save us both the pain. (Plus, it gives you something to anticipate! And isn’t that fun?)

I know that Merida counts as a Disney princess, but Merida is also a unique circumstance because she was created by Pixar, and does not have an “I Want” song in the tradition of the other princesses. She has an “I Want” speech, as my lovely blogging partner Mic pointed out, but that is not a song, so alas, she is not on the list. I also did not include Elsa on the list, because Elsa is a queen, and she’s also not a primary protagonist in the way that Anna is.

What On Earth is an “I Want” Song?
So what is an “I Want” song? If you’ve seen a Disney movie before, you’ve most likely heard one. According to TV Tropes, the purpose of the ‘I Want’ song is to “[establish] the character of the protagonist and their one burning desire that will motivate their actions from here on” (“I Want” Song). Basically, it tells you what on earth the character wants, and tells us a little something about the character as well. And since this is Disney and the majority of these movies end happily, the protagonist gets exactly what they wanted in the end.

A non-princess example: in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which I just talked about recently), Quasimodo’s “I Want” song would be Out There. His want is to just have one day out in the open, just like everyone else. And what do you know? He gets that at the end of the movie, after some mishaps. 😉
So now that you know what the song is, you probably want to know why I chose this topic. Well, because 1) I love Disney music so much, and 2) because the last time I was on a Disney listening spree, I noticed patterns between all of the “I Want” songs.

The Top Three Wants
After a lot of listening, I’ve discovered a pattern…or rather, a few patterns. In general, there are three top wants that Disney characters tend to have:

1) Adventure
2) Acceptance
3) Love

Now, those all seem like pretty common wants, yes? That’s because they’re core human wants. Some of us long for adventure in the great wide somewhere, like Belle and Ariel. Some of us long for people to accept who we are deep down inside, like Mulan. And some of us have that deep-seated longing for love, like Snow White and Aurora.

Today, I’m only talking about five princesses to start with, which means we’ll get through the pre-Renaissance (the start of the princesses) and begin digging into the Disney Renaissance (which contains some of my absolute favorite Disney movies). And where better to start than the beginning of the princesses?

Pre-Renaissance Princesses
If you want to be technical, the pre-renaissance era at Disney is considered 1977-1988, which is way after all three of these movies were released. But I’ve always considered these pre-Renaissance because they take place before the Disney Renaissance, and thus are the beginning of Disney’s animated history. These all came out at least 50 years ago: Snow White came out in 1937, Cinderella came out more than a dozen years later in 1950, and Sleeping Beauty came out just before the 60s in 1959. Thus, these three often come off as the most dated to us, because they come from a very different time in history, with a very different set of values. However, I think the “I Want” songs still carry a lot of desires that we have today.

So let’s start with the original Disney Princess: the lovely Snow White.

Snow White: I’m Wishing

snow white i'm wishing
Snow White’s “I Want” song is the pretty (if slightly piercing) “I’m Wishing.” Snow’s song is sweet, simple, and to the point: she wants someone to love, and she wants him to love her too. She dreams of him complimenting her as well, which makes sense, since she and the Evil Queen obviously doesn’t see eye to eye. From what little we can infer, it’s obvious Snow doesn’t have much of a social life early on in the movie.

So does Snow get her wish? Well, the second her song ends, the prince shows up, with his own song to sing for her (“One Song”) and then it seems like our lovebirds are all set. However, it takes a little longer than that for Snow and him to find one another again, especially since Snow’s busy hiding from the Evil Queen for the majority of the movie. However, in the end, her prince wakes her with true love’s kiss, and together they ride off to the castle. So it looks like that wishing well did Snow White some good after all.


Cinderella: A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

cinderella no matter how your heart is grieving
Okay, I’ll admit it: as a little girl, Cinderella was my absolute favorite Disney princess, so nostalgia clouds me whenever I think about this glorious movie. Even without my nostalgia lens though, her song is probably the best Pre-Renaissance princess song. “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” is pretty and hopeful, and I love it so much.

While Cinderella’s song doesn’t specifically say what she wants, I think it’s pretty obvious that Cinderella’s major want is to get out of her situation, mainly. She does her work without complaint, but it’s clear she would really rather be elsewhere – and who wouldn’t want to be elsewhere if they were her? All she does all day is work. She barely has time for anything else. She cleans, cooks, takes care of the animals…the works, basically. She doesn’t even have time to make her own dress for the ball; the mice have to do it for her, because she’s drowning in chores. And when Cinderella gets that magical night out, she paves the way to getting exactly what she wants. She meets the prince, has a romantic night with him, the shoe fits when he finds her, and happily ever after ensues. Another princess want achieved.

cinderella happy ending


Aurora: I Wonder

sleeping beauty i wonder

Similar to Snow’s short song, Aurora has a tiny song of her own. It’s one I think we often forget about, since “Once Upon a Dream” is the more celebrated Sleeping Beauty song, but her “I Want” song, “I Wonder,” is very pretty and heartfelt. Just look at these pretty lyrics:

I wonder, I wonder
If my heart keeps singing
Will my song go winging
To someone who’ll find me
And bring back a love song to me?

Can’t you feel the longing? Like Snow, Aurora wants somebody to love. She wants someone to sing a love song to her, and viola, in the next scene, Prince Phillip appears, and they have that adorable romantic moment when they sing “Once Upon a Dream”.

sleeping beauty once upon a dream

In a twist of irony, Aurora is horrified when she later finds out she’s betrothed (not realizing it’s to Phillip, of course) and she’s sad, because she’s worried she’ll lose out on a chance at love with him.

sleeping beauty sad aurora

But despite the mishaps and problems along the way, at the end of the day, Prince Phillip’s the one to wake her with his kiss, and Aurora gets her wish: her prince to sing love songs with forevermore.
One more princess wish accomplished.


Disney Renaissance Princesses
Ah, the Disney Renaissance: a time of glory, gorgeous movies, and the best musical numbers in history (in my opinion, anyway). The Disney Renaissance Princesses are some of my absolute favorites, and I’m really excited to talk about them and their songs. For now though, I’ll be handling two of them: Ariel and Belle. You’ll have to come back for the rest next Tuesday. 😉


Ariel: Part of Your World

little mermaid 3
Okay, Part of Your World might actually be my favorite “I Want” song of them all. Ariel gets so much undeserving flack, which she shouldn’t, but you can’t deny that her song is amazing.

Ariel’s song is all about adventure; she’s the first adventurous princess, actually, and in “Part of Your World”, she talks about her desire to travel to the human world and explore. People tend to misconstrue Ariel’s desire to go on land as being about Eric, but if you look at the song, it’s really not. It’s about her wanting to experience the things others don’t, and get the freedom she feels she’s lacking under the sea.

The proof is in the lyrics:
Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wanderin’ free – wish I could be
Part of that world

What would I give if I could live out of these waters?
What would I pay to spend a day warm on the sand?

Ariel’s all about adventure and exploring. Love only factors into her deal to stay human, and what’s so awesome to me about Ariel’s tale is that she gets all three of the core wants I mentioned:
1) She gets the adventure she craves on Earth.
2) She gets love in the form of Eric.
3) She gains acceptance from her father, and they finally learn to understand each other a little more.
For that reason, Ariel is probably one of the luckier Disney princesses endings-wise. She gets everything she wanted and more. Pretty awesome, huh?

Finally (for now, anyway), let’s move onto the Disney Princess that is pretty much me: Belle.


Belle: Belle (Reprise)

beauty and the beast belle

Belle’s case is really interesting when it comes to her “I Want” song. Unlike most of the princesses, Belle’s “I Want” song is actually a reprise. When you look at the songs, you would think that “Belle” would be her song, considering that it’s her name and all. But in an interesting twist, “Belle,” while it is about our heroine, is actually about how everyone else views Belle and what they want. We get a little bit of Belle in the song, and we get a hint of her wants (“There must be more than this provincial life!”). However, we don’t really dig deep into that. “Belle” is mostly spent with the townspeople musing about Belle’s strangeness, and Gaston musing about how he wants to marry Belle.

beauty and the beast there must be more

And as we find out in the “Belle Reprise”, Belle is not too keen on Gaston’s plans for the future:
“Madame Gaston!”
Can’t you just see it?
“Madame Gaston!”
His “little wife”
No sir! Not me!
I guarantee it
I want much more than this provincial life

Here we bridge into the unique musical twist that Beauty and the Beast provides: Belle’s song is actually the “Belle Reprise.” That’s right, Belle’s “I Want” song is the reprise of the song all about her. Pretty cool twist, huh? And what does Belle want? Well, we find out, when she mentions that awesome line that defines pretty much every Disney Renaissance Princess:

I want adventure in the great wide somewhere,
I want much more than I can bear

beauty and the beast belle reprise

Belle wants adventure. She wants to see the world and get out of the tiny, judgmental little town she lives in. She wants much more than anyone in this town has planned for her, because she knows that she’s worth more. And although she doesn’t get it in the way she expected, Belle gets that adventure when she goes to find her father and meets the Beast. She also finds unexpected love with him.

Alas, unlike Ariel, Belle doesn’t get acceptance from the town, but honestly, she doesn’t really need it. Plus, she has it from the people who really matter: her father, the Beast, and her new friends. She’s also got a handsome prince, the adventure she wanted, and a pretty sweet library. I’d be cool with that deal too if I was her.

beauty and the beast belle's library

“I Want” Song. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2014, from TV Tropes:
Disney Lyrics. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2014, from ST Lyrics:

Alright, next week we’ll talk about the rest of the Renaissance Princesses and talk the Post-Renaissance Princesses as well! I’m curious to know: who is your favorite Disney princess, and what is your favorite “I Want” song? Let us know in the comments!

Have a happy Tuesday!


The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Religion


In our last post, about People of Color in Media, Mic talked about The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the many awesome topics it covers. Now, I could write a lot of metas about this movie, but ultimately, there’s one topic I really wanted to cover: how The Hunchback of Notre Dame deals with religion. This of course means I’ll be talking about the triad of religious ballads – God Help the Outcasts, Heaven’s Light, and Hellfire. I’m also going to take a look at how two of our central characters, Esmeralda and Frollo, view religion, and how their beliefs shine a light on different aspects of religion.

Okay, there’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started! (Quick note: for clarification, when I talk about religion, I’m talking about religion in terms of the movie, which is very Christian/Catholic.)

The Holy Triad of Ballads
We couldn’t talk about religion and Hunchback without talking about those three ballads: God Help the Outcasts, Heaven’s Light, and Hellfire. [Okay, so maybe Hellfire isn’t a ballad, exactly, but work with me here.]

Now, the interesting thing about these three songs is that in a way, they all qualify as “I Want” songs. Granted, Quasimodo’s “I Want” song actually occurs earlier in the movie (the wonderfully triumphant “Out There”), but in a way, “Heaven’s Light” also qualifies. And Heaven’s Light is our starting point for this discussion.

Heaven’s Light and Quasimodo

hunchback heaven-s-light-o
In Heaven’s Light, Quasi (cute nickname, right?) again deals with his angst and self-loathing, and how he feels about Esmeralda. Basically, he’s got a huge crush on her, and thus, has put her on a pedestal:

But suddenly an angel has smiled at me
And kissed my cheek without a trace of fright

I dare to dream that she
Might even care for me

Now, you’re probably like, okay Mel, that’s cute and all, but where does the religious aspect tie in? And I’m getting to that.

The religious aspect ties in because Quasimodo compares Esmeralda’s presence in his life to “heaven’s light,” and Esmeralda herself to an angel. He can’t comprehend that someone might like him for himself, and thus, Esmeralda is like an angel, a ray of light, because who else would love someone as hideous as he? (His words, not mine.)

Unlike Frollo (who we’ll get to in a bit), Quasimodo sees love and affection in a positive light. Look at how he refers to people in love:

So many times out here
I’ve watched a happy pair
Of lovers walking in the night
They had a kind of glow around them
It almost looked like heaven’s light

He uses positive words and phrases: “glow,” “heaven’s light,” “happy pair.” Him relating love to Heaven’s Light means that he views love as a great thing, something beautiful and glorious. It’s a positive take on religion, and it’s Quasimodo’s endearing positivity, even though he grew up in a life of darkness and cruelty and neglect, that endears us to him.

hunchback bells heaven's light

The visuals for Heaven’s Light match this: it’s nighttime, but the stars are shining brightly above Quasimodo. The color palette is made up of softer, cooler colors. There’s a lot of blue especially. Paired with the gentle music and the soft longing in Quasimodo’s voice, it’s very much the typical Disney love song. It’s sweet and charming, which is exactly the purpose. (It should also be noted that Quasimodo looks to the darkening sky, where Heaven would be located.)

Now let’s move to the other end of the spectrum and talk about Frollo.

Hellfire and Frollo

hunchback hellfire, dark fire
Hellfire is the complete opposite of Heaven’s Light. Instead of being cute and semi-heart-warming, it’s beyond creepy and pretty disturbing. Where Heaven’s Light focuses on a sweet crush, Hellfire focuses on bone-chilling lust. And unlike Heaven’s Light, which is filled with positivity and light, Hellfire is filled with darkness and negativity. They’re what I like to call foil songs.

A foil in literature (or any other media, I suppose, like TV/animated movies) is a character who contrasts with another character in order to highlight particular traits of that character. So in terms of Heaven’s Light and Hellfire, love for Esmeralda is being compared between two characters, and it highlights different aspects of the characters. For Quasimodo, it shows how he crushes on Esmeralda despite knowing that she would probably never go for him, and for Frollo, it shows him lusting after Esmeralda.

The key difference here is intent: Quasimodo isn’t some creep who would force himself on Esmeralda. He’s obviously upset when he finds out Esmeralda doesn’t like him (and don’t we all feel that way, when we had a crush on someone and it turns out they don’t feel the same way?), but he gets over it. He’s even happy for Esmeralda and Phoebus when they get together in the end.

Frollo, on the other hand, does not get over it. Quasi idolizes Esmeralda, which isn’t super healthy, but at least he respects her as a person. Frollo definitely does not. Frollo stalks Esmeralda, tries to force his affections on her, and basically tells her to choose him or he’ll burn her to death. Not exactly the traits of a healthy crush, which is why I file Frollo’s emotions under creepy crush.

hunchback me or the fire

Anyway, back to Hellfire. Like I said before, Hellfire is all about lust and denial. Frollo spends the entire song lusting after Esmeralda and denying both his lust for her and other negative aspects of his life (like his religious persecution, killing Quasimodo’s mother, the fact that he’s a horrible person in general…).

Unlike Quasimodo, who drowns in self-loathing, Frollo completely rejects any negative part of himself. Hellfire is filled with so much denial, made ironic by the Latin chanting of the priests in the background. While Frollo goes on about his virtue and righteousness, the priests are speaking of sin. If you solely highlight the translation of the priests’ Latin during Hellfire, it tells a very interesting story:

Confiteor Deo Omnipotenti (I confess to God almighty)
Beatae Mariae semper Virgini (To blessed Mary ever Virgin)
Beato Michaeli archangelo (To the blessed archangel Michael)
Sanctis apostolis omnibus sanctis (To the holy apostles, to all the saints)
Et tibit Pater (And to you, Father)
Quia peccavi nimis (That I have sinned)
Cogitatione (In thought)
Verbo et opere (In word and deed)

The true irony of the priests’ confessional in the background of Frollo’s song is that the priests’ confession is everything Frollo refuses to say about himself. If we look at the movie, Frollo has sinned in many ways. He’s sinned in thought; just look at his lustful thoughts of Esmeralda, and his thoughts of killing Quasimodo as a baby. He’s sinned in word. He’s lied to Quasimodo and treated him as a monster, which seems petty sinful to me, and he threatened Esmeralda in a place of sanctuary. Most importantly, he’s sinned in deed. At this point of the movie, Frollo hasn’t even done his worst, but already, he’s killed Quasimodo’s mother, nearly drowned baby Quasimodo, let a crowd full of people torment Quasimodo…should I go on?

Despite everything he’s done, Frollo refuses to confess his sins, and even when he admits to his lust for Esmeralda, it still isn’t really his fault, it’s hers, because obviously she was just too tempting and how could he resist?

hunchback frollo witchcraft

(Frollo’s excuse for everything, basically.)

He talks about how her hair “is blazing in [him] out of all control,” and compares her to a siren casting her spell on him, painting himself as the innocent party. It can’t possibly be his fault; she’s so attractive, so she must have enchanted him. Even though Esmeralda herself is disgusted by Frollo and tells him so, more than once, Frollo still thinks it’s HER fault that he is hung up on her. Frollo’s viewpoint has always been chilling to me, because he has this “either you’re mine or you’re dead” mentality, which screams stalker/serial killer. His possessiveness of Esmeralda is super creepy, and rightfully shown in that light. Hellfire is his villain song, as well as his creepy “I Want” song: he wants Esmeralda, and he’ll burn down all of Paris if he has to so that he can have her. The visuals only serve to illustrate this further.

Hellfire has a lot of disturbing visuals. Unlike Heaven’s Light, Hellfire is lit with warm colors: reds and oranges from the fire and the red robes of the apparitions of Frollo’s guilt. There’s also the interesting analogy made with Frollo praying into the flames, since fire is often representative of hell. The fact that he actually uses the word “hellfire” cements this.

hunchback hellfirehunchback red robe dudes

Now onto Esmeralda, whose song is the best of the bunch (in my opinion, anyway).

God Help the Outcasts and Esmeralda

hunchback god help the outcasts

Out of all of three songs, Esmeralda’s gorgeous ballad, God Help the Outcasts, is the most focused on religion. (The word God is even in the title!) God Help the Outcasts isn’t about a crush, or a lustful obsession: it’s about prayer of the purest kind. Esmeralda’s prayer, to be precise.

What’s amazing about Esmeralda’s ballad is that it’s about want, but it’s not about herself at all. Heaven’s Light and Hellfire both have a selfish nature to them, because it’s about two different men who want Esmeralda. But all Esmeralda cares about is her people. She doesn’t want anything for herself. Like she says in the song:

hunchback i ask for nothing

Esmeralda can handle herself (as we can see from how awesome she is in the movie).

hunchback esmeralda

She just wants God to step in and help her people, because no one else will, not with Frollo persecuting them and no one willing to stand against him. Her prayer is for them, not for herself, and it’s really beautiful in a selfless way:

But I know so many
Less lucky than I
Please help my people
The poor and downtrod

Esmeralda is actually a really great example of selflessness, in a story that’s filled with so many selfish actions and people. She cares deeply about her people and the persecution that others deal with, and I’ll talk more about why that matters a little later. The point is, she’s incredibly selfless, in a really awesome way, and that’s why her ballad is the strongest in the entire movie.

The music is also really gorgeous. It’s soft, with a quiet pleading to it, and Esmeralda spends so much of the song walking through the church, at peace while she prays. There’s also a divergent color palette for this song. There’s the bright clothing of those in prayer. There are the beautiful stain glass windows. The church is a mix of blues and browns, soft in contrast to the people around it.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t talked a ton about this song, since I just went on a huge ramble about Hellfire. Well, that’s because part of my discussion ties into my finale: aka, how religion is showcased through two of our central characters, Esmeralda and Frollo.

The Righteous Man and The Outcast: Two Sides to Religion
Now, I could’ve called this section Frollo and Esmeralda, instead of using titles, but those two titles have a lot of importance, especially because they’re the titles that the characters give themselves.

Frollo proclaims himself “a righteous man” in Hellfire, when he speaks with Beata Maria. I’m not exactly sure I agree with him, since I think self-righteous would be a better term for him, but it’s Frollo’s mindset, so it’s what he believes himself to be.

Now, righteous basically means “virtuous” or “good.” Let’s take a look at Frollo, and see if we really think he fits the title he’s given himself.

Is Frollo virtuous? He definitely thinks so. He waxes poetic about his virtue during Hellfire, and he certainly seems to hold himself to high standards, but high moral standards? Not so much.

Has he shown that he’s virtuous in any way? Has he done any good deeds to warm our hearts and make us like him? Not really. There’s a rule in writing, called “show, don’t tell,” and Frollo breaks it. He tells people about his virtue – brags about it, even – but he’s never really shown us any virtuous moments.

“But what about that time he saved Quasi from certain death?” you might say. Well, since he was about to drown Quasimodo until the archdeacon stepped in I’d say that doesn’t really count. The only reason he doesn’t kill Quasimodo is because he doesn’t want to feel guilty about it. It’s not because he’s a genuinely good person – it’s all about avoiding unpleasant feelings. Since that doesn’t count, I’d say no, he is not a virtuous man.

Unlike Frollo, who praises himself pretty heavily during his song, Esmeralda is pretty frank and honest about herself. She calls herself an “outcast”, which is true, since gypsies aren’t really well liked over the course of the movie. She also makes a really interesting comparison, during her prayer:

Yes, I know I’m just an outcast;
I shouldn’t speak to You
Still I see Your face and wonder…
Were You once an outcast too?

If you’ve ever read The Bible, then you’ll know that yes, Jesus didn’t exactly have the best experiences on Earth. Like Esmeralda, he was a bit of an outcast as well, and just like Esmeralda almost does toward the end, Jesus is killed by some pretty righteous people. His death is made a spectacle; crucifixion meant that he would be up on a cross for the world to see, his death on display much like Esmeralda’s was in Hunchback of Notre Dame. Of course, Esmeralda’s story in the movie ends with her surviving, but it’s a pretty close call. The comparisons between the two are pretty interesting, as both were outcasts and scorned by the ruling class.

There’s also the interesting fact that both Esmeralda and Frollo are praying in their ballads. They’re pleading in both prayers (although Esmeralda’s is for her people, while Frollo’s is desperate pleading for himself), and there is a tie to Mary in both.

One of the things that caught my attention listening to Hellfire was that Frollo prays to Beata Maria (which translates to Blessed Mary). Out of anyone to speak to, he speaks to the Virgin Mary. Why? Maybe it’s just Frollo’s creepy obsession with virginal women. Or maybe he thinks that out of anyone, Mary would judge him the least. I’m not sure of the answer myself, but it definitely piqued my interest when I listened.

Then, earlier in the movie, there’s Esmeralda’s lovely moment, when she sings to God. However, while she sings to God, the statue she stands in front of is that of Mary holding Jesus. So not only do we have the Jesus comparison from earlier, but we also have Esmeralda in parallel to Mary.

hunchback esmeralda mary and jesus 1 hunchback esmeralda mary and jesus 2

Esmeralda has a very maternal spirit during the movie. She stands up for her people and has a soft spot for people like Quasimodo who have been persecuted unfairly. Take, for example, her reaction when Quasimodo is tormented at the Festival of Fools. She stands up and unties him, standing up against the angry crowd and Frollo. She could’ve done nothing, but Esmeralda isn’t that kind of person.

hunchback injustice

Esmeralda is someone who acts on her virtue and beliefs. And that is where she and Frollo differ, in terms of religion.

Frollo uses religion as an excuse. He uses it as a shield to excuse his actions and persecute those he doesn’t like, for example: the gypsies. There’s a term for this, called religious persecution, and he embodies it. He also uses it to put down others and boost himself up, calling himself “purer than the common, vulgar, weak, licentious crowd.” Frollo’s uses of religion are incredibly selfish, whereas Esmeralda’s are very selfless. In opposition to Frollo raising himself above others, Esmeralda is the one to point out: “I thought we all were the children of God”. It’s a nice contrast that shows a lot about their character.

To me, religion at its core has always been about finding guidance. It’s about having something to look up to that fills you with hope, even when the world around you is sometimes dark and bleak. Esmeralda’s prayer is her looking to that light for answers and help for her people. She doesn’t need to prove her faith the way Frollo does. She just believes, and stands by her belief. She doesn’t know if He will listen, or if He will hear her prayers.

But what Esmeralda understands – and what Frollo does not understand – is that at the core of it all, religion isn’t just something bound to only those highest in power. God isn’t someone who cares about your wealth or position, or how ‘righteous’ you proclaim yourself to be. His judgment is about your deeds, about what you do to back up all of those claims. And whereas Esmeralda has done some great, selfless things, Frollo has not. It’s why he looks so fearful when he falls to his death, directly into the hellfire raging below. At the end of his life, Frollo is forced to come face to face with his sins, and it’s not pretty.

Meanwhile, Esmeralda, Quasimodo and Phoebus step out into the light, free of persecution, and free to embrace the rest of their lives. A happy ending for all. (Well, except Frollo.)

I’ll end this with one last parallel:

hunchback god help the outcasts end hunchback hellfire end

The difference is striking, isn’t it? An image speaks a thousand words, and I think these both have a lot to say. All I’m going to say about them is that I think they both sum up each character’s soul quite nicely. Esmeralda’s is bright and spirited; Frollo’s is dark, cold and lonely.

Feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions below, whether they’re about those final two images or anything else I discussed today.

[Note: I’ve known I wanted to talk about Hunchback of Notre Dame and religion for a while now, but it wasn’t until I was cruising through YouTube, listening to some old Disney classics, that I thought about tackling the three more religious songs of the movie. And thus, a meta was born.

[Also, my lyrics came from:

[I know a lot of these songs by heart, but in cases like looking at the meanings of the Latin in Hellfire, or trying to remember all the words for Heaven’s Light, lyrics sites come in handy.]

Cheers and have a happy Tuesday!


People of Color in Animation


Today we’re going to talk about people of color (POC) in animation. POC, for our purposes, refers to anyone who is not white.

Here is a compilation of POC characters in animation:

  • Pocahontas [Native American] [Disney]
  • Esmeralda [race not identified] [Disney]
  • Tiana [African American—but not officially identified] [Disney]
  • Little Creek [Native American] [Dreamworks]
  • Chel [a native of Central or South America] [Dreamworks]
  • Lucius/Frozone [presumably African American] [Pixar/Disney]
  • Lilo [Hawaiian] [Disney]
  • Aladdin [Arab] [Disney]
  • Mulan [Asian] [Disney]
  • Kuzco [Incan Empire/Native South American—modern day Peru] [Disney]
  • Tiger Lily [Native American] [Disney]
  • Mowgli [Indian] [Disney]
  • The Prince of Egypt [Dreamworks]

(Note: I’ve included Native Americans and Hispanics in the list because Native Americans are currently a miniscule population due to atrocities committed during the forming of this nation and Hispanics currently face great hardships like immigration laws. I’m also including Lilo because “Hawaiian/Pacific Islander” has its own box on job applications/standardized tests/etc. Also, if I didn’t, there’d be, like, no one on this list.)

(Other note: I’ve not seen Dreamworks’ The Prince of Egypt, so I don’t feel confident talking about it.)

This discussion has been building for a very long time. Disney has faced criticism for their all white casts and the usual defense has been, well, these stories take place in Europe back in the day, so everyone was white.

Yeah, no.

I’m here to burst your bubble because: you can see people of color represented in Medieval European art and considering the Iberian peninsula was conquered by Muslims in the 700s, I’d say Europeans were no stranger to people of color. Marco Polo traveled to Asia in the 1200s. And if you still doubt, my Tudor era professor confirmed that England, namely London, was already a mixed metropolis in the 1500 and 1600s.

To curb this backlash, Disney released The Princess and the Frog. I enjoy this film and the return to 2D, and I love the humor. However, this offering was meant to halt the criticism, but it only spurned more. Our first black princess and she’s a FROG for 70% of the film?

reaction do you feel the judgement

I don’t know if any other animation house has faced as much backlash as Disney. Presumably they are the target because they are the most successful and influential. However, it appears Disney may have the best track record compared to some of the other houses—though there is room for drastic improvement. Tallied from the above list, Disney has 10 characters of color. That’s a minuscule number compared to their collection of 50+ films, but when Disney does utilize diversity, they do so richly and create compelling stories (mostly, we’ll see exceptions below).

In addition to mounting movement in the animation world, this meta was also brought on by the senseless shootings of unarmed black adults and children at the hands of police officers.

From 2006 to 2012 a white police officer killed a black person at least twice a week in this country. [x]

I am saddened and angered by what’s been happening around us. This meta was always coming, so lets get to it.

The most shocking thing I noted was every story featuring a person a color is extremely dated.

  • Pocahontas = Age of Exploration (specifically 1607)
  • Esmeralda = Hugo’s novel was published in the 1800s, though the book is set in the 1400s
  • Tiana = 1912
  • Aladdin = unspecified, but based on the very old One Thousand and One Nights (though the genie loves his pop culture references)
  • Mulan = I really don’t know because the Huns were burning shit since the dawn of time, but Mulan first appeared in poems between the 300s and 600s
  • Kuzco = 16th century
  • Little Creek = Around the time railroads were being built, so 1800s
  • Chel = Age of Exploration (Spanish conquistadors—1519)
  • Lucius/Frozone = CONTEMPORARY (FINALLY)
  • Mowgli = date unknown
  • Tiger Lily = exists in a world where time does not pass, but The Darlings’ interaction with Pan happens in the 1900s

The majority of stories being told here are set in very vivid time periods, as if the only story worth telling of people of color are their trials and tribulations in history, which are clearly over now because we live in a post-racial, globalized world. We know this is untrue. There may not be Jim Crow laws or homelands being overrun by industrialization, but there is still plenty of injustice.

Many Disney films give off old timey feels, but none are really held back by their time period. Beauty and the Beast has no identifying marker of what year it is, nor does the very recent Frozen, or Lady and Tramp, or Cinderella (in my opinion). But when you throw in the Age of Exploration, that dates your film. That sets the story firmly in one universe.

Next, lets look at who the protagonists of these films are:

  • Pocahontas, check
  • Tiana, check
  • Lilo, check
  • Mulan, check
  • Aladdin, check
  • Kuzco, check
  • Mowgli, grey area, but check
  • Tiger Lily, no
  • Esmeralda, no
  • Little Creek, no
  • Chel, no
  • Lucius/Frozone, no

Pocahontas owns her story and while Tiana is a frog for most of it, she does not cease being black (literally, she’s green, fine, but her character does not change). Kuzco is the male Tiana (or a prototype of Naveen, since those two are more similar) where he’s stuck as a llama for the majority of the movie.

emperor's new groove llama face copy

Lilo and her sister Nani are too wonderful for words (best sisters ever–sorry Anna and Elsa) and make me sob, sob, sob.

lilo and stitch sad copy

Aladdin is populated with other people of the same race. And Mulan just needs no introduction.

mulan tea

The fact is, only seven cases can be made for an animated movie led by a person of color. Maybe even four if you don’t want to include The Princess and the Frog, Emperor’s New Groove, or The Jungle Book.

Esmeralda plays an integral role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, for sure, but it’s not her story. Ultimately it is about Quasi learning how to love himself and be confident. Little Creek, likewise, is super important in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, but it’s not his story, either. The film is about Spirit making his way home and becoming a leader. If you catch my drift here, Chel’s role in The Road to El Dorado is one of a love interest and ally to the two main characters. Lucius/Frozone is a wonderful friend and sidekick, but he’s absent for the entire middle portion of The Incredibles.

They are players, but not major players.

Pocahontas, Lilo, Tiana, Aladdin, Kuzco and Mulan: Taking Names and Kicking Butt

pocahontas indignant lookliloprincess and the frog tianaaladdin copyemperor's new groove dancingmulan


Disney gave us six POC leads. Each of them are strong, flawed heroes. We have a very diverse list of races/cultures/ethnicities here: Native American, African American, Hawaiian, and Arabic. In addition, we also have supporting characters to reflect this, too.

It’s clear when Disney sets a story within a particular framework, they usually go all the way to actualize the worlds.

In Pocahontas we see the Powhatan tribe farming the land and praying to spirits for guidance. Healing practices, transportation, customs and homes are all shown to us. Their way of life contrasts with the settlers so starkly. Pocahontas teaches John Smith many things, most importantly that land is not something to own. But she also teaches him about her culture, such as how their tribe says hello and goodbye.

Lilo and Stitch takes us to Hawaii, where we have Lilo, Nani, and David and wonderful world building. The perception is that contemporary stories are easier since there is no fantasy world or past to explain, but that’s not true. Contemporary stories require just as much work to get right and Disney was not afraid of the challenge.

lilo and stitch 2

In addition to our sisters and a couple aliens, we have the social worker, Cobra Bubbles. He is darker skinned than the others and clearly holds a higher position of power (I point this out because of the power structure in Frog). Surfing and hula are all integral to creating Lilo, Nani, and David’s pastimes. David and Nani work at a resort and tourism has the biggest influence on the GDP of Hawaii. I’m sure this movie taught everyone the meaning of Ohana and several other Hawaiian words. Nani also sings a song in Hawaiian when she’s forced to say goodbye to Lilo.

lilo and stich hands

The flowers they send into the wind are also the same flowers shown on leis throughout the film.

Next we move onto The Princess and the Frog, which may have the weakest world building of them all. This is not a surprise if Tiana’s skin was colored just to appease outcries. Mardi Gras really grounds the city as New Orleans and jazz and gumbo tie us back to the African American culture. But that’s really all that can be said, sadly.

princess and the frog exhausted

As for supporting characters, Dr. Facilier is clearly not white and Mama Odie, Tiana’s mom (and dearly departed dad), and Prince Naveen are all dark skinned.

princess and the frog reaction  basic bitch

This is offset by the white characters like Charlotte, her father, and Naveen’s evil minion, Lawrence. We are presented with a diverse New Orleans, brimming with French influence and lively jazz. Frog presents us with the uncomfortable image of an all white power structure: Charlotte’s dad being rich, the two men Tiana wants to buy the restaurant from being white, and Tiana’s mother working as a seamstress. As mentioned above, this is not the case in Lilo and Stitch, a film made before Frog. However, Frog is set about hundred years before Lilo, so that could be one argument in favor of the movie.

Then, we have Aladdin. We open on a desert, which right away sets the story. The marketplace, the sand, the palace, they all present a clear picture. The strength in Aladdin’s world building really comes from visuals: clothes, places, animals. There’s nothing that the characters do that really identify them, besides, to say it again, their clothes. The custom of a princess needing to marry does not differentiate it from other princess films. The art of the movie is really what saves it.

Mulan trumps all in terms of world building.

mulan reflection

The fact that Mulan is Chinese is very important to her story. Mulan, like Pocahontas, is a historical figure so it is not shocking her race matters to the story. Chinese culture is presented to us everywhere: praying to the ancestors, the matchmaker, the clothes, the writing. Gender roles, especially, and honor thy father all influence Mulan’s arc and the story Disney is telling. Mulan and Gender Roles is its own meta, but Disney consciously created a Chinese character and set her in her world, effectively showing us a new culture and race.

Finally, there’s Kuzco. While Aladdin sets us up visually and The Princess and the Frog is relatively weak, but still a decent effort, Kuzco isn’t anything special. Yes, he’s a native South American, but the only cultural addition to the film are llamas. Of course, there’s jungles and nature and the contrast between poorer homes on the hilltops vs Kuzco’s palace. Besides the llamas, though, this film could be set anywhere and it wouldn’t matter. Props to Disney for reimagining Mr. Andersen’s Danish fairy tale in this way, but the world isn’t strong enough.

I haven’t spoken much on The Jungle Book. Mowgli is Indian, but besides his name and the names of all the animals around him, that’s not very obvious. He certainly does not have an Indian accent, nor does he even possess any understanding of the concept of “Indian.” The girl in the village wearing the tilak (or bindi) at the end of the film is the only real connection we have to this culture.

Esmeralda, Little Creek, Chel, Lucius: Lets Be Honest, Taking Names and Kicking Butt, Too

hunchback seeing him spirit little creekel dorado chel idiots face incredibles frozone

Esmeralda is the leading female of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She is one of my all-time favorite characters. She’s idealistic, loyal, brave, kind. As a gypsy, she’s hunted by Frollo and made to feel unworthy.

I don’t know if you would listen to a gypsy’s prayer… Yes, I know I’m just an outcast, I shouldn’t speak to you…
–God Help the Outcasts

She represents discrimination and persecution. She’s hunted for being a gypsy, for being a woman, and for being a person of color. But she’s prepared to become a martyr, to die for what she believes in.

She’s Quasi’s first example of a decent human being and becomes his first human friend (gargoyles, anyone?). She helps bring him out of his shell and quell his fears about being feared. She would know, too, since she’s used to mothers frequently telling their children not to go near her (see: the beginning of the film).

Esmeralda is another example of a Disney woman saving her man, but her and Phoebus may also be the first interracial couple (and they make me swoon)!

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a very brave film. It doesn’t shy away from personal issues like religion and hate and sexual undertones. But it also tackles race and bias and unfair persecution. Esmeralda is an amazing character, she’s strong in the best sense of the word and brings amazing representation to the Disney animated universe.

I’ve been talking about Disney a lot, so lets turn to Dreamworks.

Little Creek is my baby. He’s a Lakota Native American and we first meet him when Spirit is captured by US soldiers. Little Creek was caught trying to free the cavalry’s horses and as the film shows us, Little Creek and his tribe care very much about horses. They don’t want to see them saddled, branded, or whipped. When he and Spirit escape, Spirit is brought back to Little Creek’s tribe and nourished back to health after The Colonel tried to starve him that way he would become milder and easier to tame (spoiler alert: not happening).

Little Creek becomes the most important human Spirit meets. He is the embodiment of kindness and they become good friends. He is the opposite of the regiment’s men, the ones who want to destroy the land and nature and build roads and railways. He wants to train Spirit, but he also is in awe of his power and respects him.

spirit 5

who wouldn’t be in awe of Spirit? look at that pretty horsie

Little Creek’s version of training is of course very different from the soldiers, but when Spirit still resists, he lets go. He does not try to wield power over Spirit. And when Spirit sees that, that is when he lets Little Creek ride him.

spirit 3spirit who could not be broken

In the Road to El Dorado, we meet Chel. She is not a Disney princess, but like most of them she has dreams of going on adventure and discovering something new. In fact, the first time we see her she’s running away from home with some gold she stole.

el dorado chel copy

She’s native to El Dorado, the city of gold, somewhere in Central or South America. Where The Emperor’s New Groove failed, El Dorado excels. El Dorado is a fully real, actualized city. There is an opposing ruling force and tension within the community (the chief vs the high priest), distinct artwork and games that are played. Visually, also, the movie stuns, creating a rich world to contrast with Spain.

Chel’s role is fairly straightforward. If this was Disney, she’d have an “I Want” song and a love song with Tulio. She doesn’t have either of those here, though they are important aspects of her character. As the story goes on, we see her helping Miguel and Tulio pass off their con about being gods. She is vital to their success, filling them in on customs and traditions and getting them out of sticky situations.

el dorado chel idiots face

Chel’s face every time the idiot boys don’t listen to her

And when the chance to leave El Dorado and travel with them to Spain is presented, of course she’s ready to go for it.

el dorado end

Lucius/Frozone is a wonderful bestie in The Incredibles. His scene at the end of the film–

incredibles wheres my super suit

–is one of everyone’s favorites. His wife is never seen, but even she’s legendary (I am the greatest good you are ever gonna get). There’s nothing about him to emphasize his race, but it doesn’t matter because that’s how life is. Your friends are your friends. We know all kinds of different people.

Also, the list of black superheroes is slim. Frozone does have a small role, but he is a splash of diversity in an otherwise all white film.

Do I think this is suitable? Of course not. More can and should be done to bring diverse characters into the mainstream animation houses. As we’ve seen with Mulan and Aladdin and Lilo and Stitch, amazing movies happen!

But, I wanted to highlight the fact that Disney, who largely faces the most criticism for their all white stories, have brought us people of color in their films. They’ve given us the biggest majority of POCs as protagonists, too.

I left out the film Brother Bear by Disney because there’s not much to add–it follows the standard interpretation of Native Americans we’ve seen in Pocahontas and Spirit, plus POC being an animal for most of the film.

brother bear new in town copy

I also left out Ice Age by 20th Century because 1, I forgot about the nomadic tribe, and 2, because they are a tiny facet of the film. But by the nature of the film, it dates itself back millions of years, which ties into a point made above. Also not mentioned are The Croods, which follows the same logic for Ice Age. The Book of Life, I have yet to see, but it seems Hispanic culture plays a bigger role there than Emperor. Big Hero 6 features an Asian protagonist, but I’ve not yet seen it yet, either.

People of color have stories to tell! Historical OR contemporary, their lives matter. Their lives in reality and their lives in art and animation.

If you take anything away from this post I hope it is either:

  • Disney has given us the most diversity of any animation house
  • But: we should still be critical of Disney and encourage more diversity among all animators
  • The majority of stories about POCs focus on historical aspects, which is great, but there needs to be more of a balance between past and present

Leave your thoughts and opinions below! How do you feel about diversity in animation?