I love nothing if not a challenge. One of the main reasons I chose to write this blog is so that I can try to support the unsupportable, defend the undefendable, and so on and so forth. Today I will attempt to convince you, the reader, that Judge Claude Frollo, easily considered the most evil and despicable of all Disney villains, is in fact not so evil after all. Now, I am not claiming that he did nothing wrong, just that he acted justifiably given the world he lived in and his own motivations and reasoning.
Now, as with any Disney ?children?s? movie ( and i put children?s in quotes because this movie is one of the gutsiest and most adult themed movie Disney has made), the songs tend to provide the most relevant information, and as such it is these songs which we must examine to find the truth of the matter. To start, I present the song ?Out There?.
Now there are a few important things to notice in this song, but the most important is actually the smallest. If you look closely at around 2:33 in the video, you?ll notice Belle from Beauty and the Beast walking around in the bottom corner. This makes sense; after all, both movies take place in France and they appear to take place in the same time period. This little Easter egg of sorts just confirms it, and it actually has huge implications. Claude Frollo fears witchcraft and magic. At first, this just seems like evidence of his pride and growing insanity. However, in this world, fear of witches is completely justified. One turned a royal prince into a monstrous beast, and that is most likely far from the only instance of magic being used. Frollo is perfectly reasonable in fearing witchcraft. Also, if we learned anything from Beauty and the Beast, its that most French people in this world seem to be incapable of sympathy for people who look ugly and monstrous. Again, we see Frollo is justified in telling Quasi Modo that the outside world will fear and revile him. While he could certainly be nicer about it, he isn?t wrong in what he says.
This song, apart from being objectively epic and amazing, is the most revealing as to the character of Judge Claude Frollo. We see that Frollo at least considers himself to be a righteous Catholic man. In fact, he is aware that his sexual urges are not a good thing. When the hooded choir appears in the song, they are chanting ?mea culpa?, which is Latin for ?It is my fault?. He knows he is in the wrong, something that few villains can claim. Again we also see a fear of witchcraft, which we have established is a valid fear. And when he finally does give in, it is still in a somewhat noble manner given his religious background. As seen when he does attempt to burn Esmeralda at the stake, he wishes to save her ?from the fires of this life and the next.? He figures that if he loves her, he should at least try to convert her to his religion and offer her a chance at life before condemning her for the very real crime of witchcraft. Not to mention, even if she is not a witch, the gypsies are certainly to be feared.
This entire song is about how the gypsies will randomly murder anyone who crosses their path, no questions asked. So, in summary: Judge Claude Frollo spends the entire movie hunting murderous gypsies, trying to defeat witchcraft which is very real, protecting Quasi Modo from a world which definitely hates and reviles him, and offering a chance at life to the criminals he does apprehend. Is he perfect? Just ask the priest that saw him try to drown a baby. Is he evil? Surprisingly, no. Not really. It just goes to show you that, more often than not, the world contains a lot more grey than black and white.