Hi everyone! I am so happy to be on Alexia’s blog today for her guest post Disney series. This post will include some spoilers for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tangled and Frozen, so if you haven’t seen them, you may not want to read this post. 😉
I am going to be discussing a topic that I’ve thought about for years and never really gotten the chance to discuss beforehand! I was inspired about this topic in college when I was in my Interpersonal Communications class when we discussed feral children and the effects of isolation or neglectful behavior in children.
Today I am going to talk about Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Rapunzel from Tangled, and Elsa from Frozen. All three of these characters have been isolated for one reason or another and I wanted to discuss the effects this had on them and how they compared.
Hunchback of Notre Dame:
In the beginning of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, we meet a gypsy woman who is traveling with others illegally into Paris. Frollo, a judge of justice had trapped them. He finds a baby with the gypsy woman, presumably the baby’s mother. After discovering the baby is ugly, he almost kills it until the archdeacon comes and confronts him. Frollo then decides he will raise the child. Frollo named the child Quasimodo which means half-formed. Quasi has a hunchback and is basically sentenced to the bell tower and his job is to ring the bells.
The story begins roughly 18-20 years later when Quasimodo is grown. Our first scene is seeing him encourage a baby bird to fly, “no one wants to be cooped up here forever” he tells it. The bird flies away and three gargoyles come to life. One of the effects that extreme isolation can have on a person is hallucinations. It’s been talked about that these gargoyles really never talked to Quasi and he just imagined it.
Another effect of his isolation and upbringing is the sad perspective that he has on himself. This is due to Frollo making Quasi memorize his “alphabet” where A is for abomination, B is for blasphemy, C is for Contrition, D is for damnation, E is for Eternal damnation and F is for Forgiveness. Hearing these words, we can only imagine what the rest of the alphabet was. He teaches Quasi that gypsies are evil and that he, himself, is a monster.
Frollo convinces Quasi that he’s better off in the tower. When Quasi leaves the tower, he ends up being crowned the Pope of Fools.
He spirals out of control and soon the crowd realizing he’s not wearing a mask begin to throw things at him. Frollo sits by as he waits for him to learn his lesson.
Frollo is just an awful person. He convinces Quasi that he just belongs in the bell tower and that he’s the only one that will take care of him. The effects Quasi faced are easy to see, his views on gypsies are distorted and he doesn’t like himself much. Esmerelda tells Quasi that maybe they’re both not how Frollo sees them.
It’s really amazing he didn’t have worse issues than he had. In real life, there would be years of therapy trying to go against what Frollo taught him about himself. After Quasi meets Esmerelda and is put in a position where he has to save her, does Quasi realize he’s not really a monster.
Rapunzel, much like Quasimodo, ultimately has a positive view on life. In the beginning of Tangled, we see her playing hide and seek with Pascal, her chameleon friend. When Pascal doesn’t want to come in, she says “It’s not that bad” and begins her opening number, a classic “I Want” song. Rapunzel wonders when her life will begin and hopes she’ll be able to leave the tower soon.
Another similarity between Rapunzel and Quasimodo was the fact that they weren’t completely alone, but they had toxic parent figures to “take care of them”. Gothel steals Rapunzel and Frollo after presumably killing Quasi’s mother, decides to take Quasimodo. Gothel scares Rapunzel into not wanting to leave despite her wanting to go.
Long periods of isolation can cause a number of emotional, mental and psychological problems, including depression and bipolar disorder. In Tangled, when Rapunzel leaves the tower for the first time, we see her say it’s the “best day ever” then she goes through a series of drastically switching her mind about how she feels. In addition to her isolation, Rapunzel also dealt with Gothel making fun of her and saying she was just “teasing”. Gothel tries to keep Rapunzel trapped by saying the world’s full of dark things like ruffians, thugs and the plague. She tells Rapunzel she’s the only one that can keep her safe.
Although Rapunzel was constantly alone, she had outlets, much like Quasi did. She read, baked, painted, sewed and played with Pascal. When she meets new people in the village, after leaving with Flynn Rider, a wanted thief, she isn’t socially awkward or worried about it.
An affect of isolation is that people will have trouble with social interaction. This definitely isn’t the case as Rapunzel is very warm to people in the Snuggly Duckling (a pub) and the village. Most likely this is due to the flower used to save her mother and from the magical powers she has. Since the flower came from the sun, it would make sense for Rapunzel to be very happy and kind to people. In the beginning though, Rapunzel doesn’t know quite how to get around the village with so many people. When she first meets Flynn she checks to see if he has sharp teeth.
When Gothel discovers Rapunzel’s left with Flynn, she’s furious. While Flynn’s away from Rapunzel, Gothel shows up to tell her she needs to go with her. Rapunzel tells Gothel that she thinks Flynn likes her and Gothel immediately tells her she’s wrong and why would he like her.
Whether or not Gothel really does care for Rapunzel is up for debate. Before Rapunzel is born, Gothel stalks this flower that basically makes her ageless. When she discovers Rapunzel has the power, she steals her.
After Rapunzel’s journey with Flynn, she realizes that there are people that aren’t dark or scary. She sees that there are people who have her best interests, like Flynn. This gives Rapunzel the strength to stand up against Gothel.
Without a doubt the saddest and most heartbreaking isolation experience is felt by Elsa who is isolated for years. Unlike Rapunzel and Quasimodo, Elsa’s isolation was entirely self imposed. As a child, Elsa had ice powers that she injured her sister with. This lead to Elsa becoming afraid of her powers and keeping herself in her room. Elsa and her father tell her “Conceal it, don’t feel it, don’t let it show”
When the powers grow stronger, she becomes afraid she’ll hurt her parents and in turn, completely leaves herself alone in her room. When Anna knocks on her door, Elsa tells her to just go away which leads to the song “Do You Want To Build A Snowman”. At the end of the song, we see Elsa in her room that’s completely surrounded by ice.The fact that Elsa isolated HERSELF is the saddest thing I’ve ever heard in a Disney movie.
The effects for Elsa are very clear to see:
1. Fear- She’s terrified of hurting anyone again.
2. Bottling up emotions.
3. She gets used to the isolation.
Since she was young, Elsa’s trained herself to bottle everything up. Bottle up her powers and ultimately, I believe, bottling up how she feels. Her family doesn’t understand these ice powers anymore that up until she hurt Anna, seemed to be okay. They don’t try to teach her to control it, it’s just like “Hide it”. I think had her parents encouraged her in a gentler way to control her powers by helping her, it would have worked out better for her. Elsa doesn’t see herself in a nice a way, she’s just a person with these powers that she can’t control and will ultimately hurt everyone. Her anxiety and stress over the powers keep her from becoming close with her sister.
Elsa’s personality is very quiet. She’s definitely an introvert from what we see, becoming much more free in her new ice palace after Let It Go. One of the clearest effects that isolation had on Elsa was her anxiety that she faces. We see anxiety in play when it’s time for her Coronation and she’s just trying to get through that one day.
At the ball that night, Anna tells Elsa she’s getting married and Elsa tells Anna she’s not. This leads to the two girls arguing ultimately about Elsa shutting the world out and Elsa freezing everything. Now that Elsa’s worst fear has come true, she’s hurt people (her sister, emotionally) and she’s turned the town to ice, she runs away.
After being alone for so many years, Elsa’s convinced that she just belongs alone because she’ll hurt everyone. When Anna tries to convince Elsa to go home with her, Elsa tells her she’s better alone and that Anna belongs there where it’s nice. Anna tells her that the entire town is covered in ice, this causes Elsa to again freak out about what she’s done. Toward the end of the scene, Elsa gets flashbacks when she’s close to Anna and ends up having her thrown out.
Elsa’s ultimate break free from this isolation is when her sister saves her and they hug. It seems from this one touch Elsa has with Anna, she’s not afraid to hurt anyone anymore. She’s able to finally embrace her powers.
In typical Disney fashion, each of these movies have a happy ending for the main characters. However, they each have a very important message in them and showcase mental illness at least a little.
I hope you enjoyed this post! I didn’t get as in depth as I would have liked, but hopefully you took something from it. Thank you so much, Alexia for having me!