“God help the outcasts, hungry from birth
Show them the mercy they don’t find on earth
God help my people, we look to you still
God help the outcasts, or nobody will”
Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame is my favorite movie of all time, for a number of reasons. The unusually dark but realistic themes the producers wrote into the movie, the well-written characters, and it’s beautiful portrayal of faith have made this a permanent staple for me.
And perhaps more than anything else, I think it’s the music in this movie that enabled The Hunchback to secure the highest ranking in my heart.
This movie is filled with uplifting songs such as “Out There”, Quasimodo’s soulful anthem about wising he could enjoy life like the people outside the cathedral do daily, and “Heaven’s Light”, in which he yearns for his own chance at love. One of the most powerful songs in the soundtrack, sung by the courageous heroine Esmerelda, is “God Help the Outcasts”, her humble prayer to God about the injustice she sees around her.
After seeing how Quasimodo, the physically deformed boy with a heart of gold, is cruelly mistreated by Frollo and the rest of Paris simply because of his appearance, Esmerelda wishes in this ballad for God to show mercy where others refuse to. As an outcast herself, she understands on some level Quasimodo’s pain, and yearns for people like them to be cherished as God’s children.
It’s easy enough for anybody of any minority to imagine themselves singing this song in Esmerelda’s place. After all, when you’re a minority person, because of the prejudice that society carries daily, you’re unfortunately bound to encounter a form of hatred similar to the malice Quasimodo and Esmerelda faced.
To me, the song is an important reminder for LGBTQ+ individuals that even if the world hates us, and refuses to let go of its petty cruelty, God will give us the compassion we need. Of course, it’s hard facing people in your daily life who treat you like scum for something that you were merely born with, but it’s important to remember that not all the world’s hatred can overwhelm God’s love.
We all are the children of God, no matter what the world says, no matter how the world treats us, and “God Help the Outcasts” is a beautiful reminder of that truth.