February 14, 2012
Lindsay Ellis and the Frollo Problem

A lot of you may have seen Lindsay Ellis’s excellent top ten list of Hottest Animated Guys. Moviebob, a critic I’m also a fan of, gave it a little Colbert Bump of his own, but there’s one particular part of the list that got really controversial real fast, the inclusion of Judge Frollo, from Disney’s The Hunchback Of Notre Dame on this list.

There’s a lot to be said about mansplaining about this list, but rather than attempt to go all out in that direction I’d rather express some kind of man-understanding, or at least TRYING to understand why Frollo made it onto this list compared to the utter shock and horror that men all over the internet reacted with when they saw freaking Frollo on the list, as if it was some unfathomable beast that would sunder their sanity like a sundered veil. First of all, some amendments to what I’ve already said in comments pages on the TGWTG.com forums and such:

It’s not that I don’t understand what women see in Frollo, I’m just saying that what he represents is what a whole lot of men are terrified of becoming/being compared to, since if there’s one accusation a man doesn’t want to hear about himself, it’s “sex offender”. Say what you will about his shoes being wack, or his taste in video game consoles being questionable, but when you’re accused of being a bit “Frollo-ish”… that kind of reputation can harm people’s perception of you.

I totally understand that people like the older, troubled woobie that potentially exists in Frollo, I can get that his obsessive lust can BE a turn on for women.

I’m just pointing out that the reason why men don’t like being compared to him is the same reason why they would like to avoid a rap sheet for sexual harassment.

Goliath I understand why he’s on there, if The Cinema Snob was animated he’d probably be on this list too on the same grounds. Sexy voice I hear does it for a lot of ladies.

I’ve been aware that women like woobies and people they can help and hug because they’re *hurting* for a very long time, that part wasn’t a surprise to me. The signs were all there in various sociological papers I had to read for Society And Culture assignments back in high school when I was studying masculinity in film.

There is nothing wrong with women who have fantasies about Frollo, I’m just pointing out the reasons why a lot of men commenting might have been uncomfortable at the inclusion on the list to begin with. It’s not just who Frollo is as a character, it’s what he REPRESENTS in the scope of male sexuality archetypes.

To explain why I made this exact comment the way I did, I took the liberty of trying to find on Tumblr, the same thing I’m using to make this post, to show you evidence of why some men might be legitimately afraid of women finding Frollo sexy since the last thing they want to become is HIM of all people. Naturally, Tumblr being what it is I found the perfect example of why men might have been so uncomfortable with Frollo being on the list to begin with.

Note that in this Tumblr post by somebody much more qualified to discuss the ethics of rapey-ness than I, that the following notions were brought up:

"explicit verbal consent" used to manipulate people into sex acts

"This is a classic tactic of serial perpetrators: the fault always lies with their victims, and never with them."

This, I’m afraid, is the exact reason why people might have been floored by Frollo’s inclusion in the list. And these are words from what I imagine are far more qualified to talk about this rape stuff than me. They said it better than I could have imagined! Because Frollo, right from the beginning of the Hellfire villain song to his threatening to burn Esmeralda at the stake if she does not bed him… is both of these awful things.

Let’s look at some theories of why women might find Frollo sexy.

1: Number one of these reasons is that Frollo might be possessive and lusty, but the entire Hellfire sequence could be alternatively interpreted as “SMOULDERING: THE MUSICAL”.

In my previous dabblings in sociology back in high school when I was graded well for my social study on Masculinity In The Movies: Fight Club Vs Devdas, I noticed something about men’s reaction to Devdas, a more “effeminate” and “whiney bitch” character by Western standards but hell, he’s played by Shah Rukh Khan, and to millions of Indian women he’s just as or more sexy than Brad Pitt, the star of Fight Club. Australian Queenslander men in the sample study thought Shah Rukh Khan was nothing more than a whiney bitch. Men like this all over the world are why Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion can’t catch a break from Western anime fans when he was designed to be empathised with by an entire generation of Japanese men who really did feel powerless to act and change their world. Cultural differences matter in these kinds of studies.

But essentially Shah Rukh Khan’s main draw is that he’s, well… smouldering. Women love them some smouldering if it hints at some hidden depths, and this fantasy for women isn’t even usually associated with rapey characters like Frollo here. Frollo’s tortured by his desires but his repression hurts him with the inability to channel it in anything but destruction of the thing that causes his confusion. I think Nella in the video Lindsay made explains this better than I can in much shorter words, but yeah.

2: Frollo shares characteristics with dark, gothic characters like The Phantom Of The Opera, who has a fandom far more infamous for idealising a hideous man with a smouldering passion but will take action and seize what he wants for his own, and tempts the woman he chooses to succumb to both his or her desires.

Look, again, I totally understand the gothic romance “Brooding dark, brutally handsome stranger that makes you swoon as you succumb to his mysterious desire” thing. This shit has been going on in romance fiction since Wuthering Heights, and I’m not even sure Wuthering Heights is a proper romance novel. It’s totally okay for women to have sexual fantasies about a tall dark stranger with a smouldering brood about him who’ll sweep you off your feet and be very, very assertive about what he wants from you.

It’s this reason why women who like bondage/restraint that’s safe and fun shouldn’t be stigmatised any more than people who think Rorschach from Watchmen is a woobie in desperate need of a cuddle. This kind of romantic sex fantasy is safe and fun, and it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with a woman’s brain psychologically if she legitimately likes this, no matter how mortified Alan Moore is that Rorschach has fangirls. The problem emerges from the whole “real life coercion” thing where men in RL actually do try and justify “no meaning yes” in the way Frollo and the creeps mentioned in feminist Tumblr posts do.

This is in essence the part where a lot of guys who have never been to Reddit.com in their lives are legitimately confused as how to reconcile the concept of “women’s sexual fantasy” versus “unhealthy justification of rape which is unwanted”. That is what I meant when I said that where some women see a sexy tortured soul yearning to be tamed, a lot of men raised in the internet age where in real life, you have to provide legal documentation in the case of a rape accusation hurled at a man - see a rap sheet for sexual assault and harassment. Remember ladies, there’s a lot of men who have never been to Reddit.com in their lives, and a lot of those men see your Tumblr posts on their dashboards telling them without a doubt that RAPE IS WRONG.

So you can imagine the sheer baffled reaction from Lindsay’s male fanbase when Claude Frollo, the rapiest of all Disney Villains, appear on a Top Ten Hot Animated Men list. It’s not because we don’t want to understand women’s sexuality. It’s because a lot of the time, because of either inexperience or unfamiliarity of what women actually like in their romance… they’ve got a lot to reconcile between sex fantasy of being lusted after by a guy like Frollo and being taken advantage of by actual, flesh and blood sex offenders. Many men might be legitimately confused by this fine line, and it’s up to people more qualified than I am to address how fine that line really is.

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