There are so many reasons to love beautiful, dancing, kind-hearted, guard-kicking Esmeralda, and yet we don't see much of her at all ever since she was removed from the Disney Princess franchise in 2005. This is a pity, because she's really one of the best role-models Disney's ever had to offer. Think about it...

1) She’s a humanist

When Quasimodo finds himself bound and brutalized by an angry and over-excited mob, Esmeralda alone puts a stop to it.

“I’m sorry,” she says, cleaning the rotten fruit off his face, “this wasn’t supposed to happen.” 

Her compassion for those fellow humans who need it most is a theme that runs throughout the movie. In a scene where all the comfortably privileged around her pray for such things as “wealth”, “fame” and similar blessings, Esmeralda asks for “nothing”. 

Poor as she is, she points out that she “can get by”, and instead asks God to show his compassion to "less lucky" outcasts. 

2) She’s a freedom fighter 

Esmeralda’s life is pretty hellish. She suffers racial discrimination and social injustice, and it’s affected every aspect of her life. While she doesn’t collapse into a puddle of self-pity, she doesn’t accept things as they are either, and fights against them. 

One of the greatest moments in the movie is when she defies Frollo’s authority by cutting Quasimodo loose from his bonds. “You mistreat this poor boy the same way you mistreat my people. You speak of justice, yet you are cruel to those most in need of your help.” 

When Frollo demands her silence, her response is to yell “JUSTICE!” At no point does Esmeralda give in to intimidation from the powerful. 

3) She has complete agency over her body 

Women are often divided into two categories: Madonna and whore. The Madonna is modest and pure; the whore is provocative and will bed anyone. Both are essentially male fantasies. 

Esmeralda is wonderful, because she is neither. 

Esmeralda is one of Disney’s most blatantly sexual characters. She is beautiful and alluring, wears figure-hugging clothes, does not play games of false modesty, and dances provocatively, and none of that makes her available to anyone who wants her. 

4) She is not a prize

At the beginning of the movie, we’re asked “what makes a monster and what makes a man”. 

The comparison is between Quasimodo (looks like the monster, but is the man) and Frollo (looks like the man, but is the monster), so it’s no accident that Quasimodo and Frollo are both attracted to Esmeralda, and that neither of them can have her.

What’s significant is how they differ in the way that they deal with this attraction. This contrast can be seen most strongly in the song "Heaven's Light".

When Quasimodo is rejected, he’s heart-broken, but he accepts her choice. He never tries to force himself on her, or guilt her into liking him. He never whines about the “friendzone”. In fact, he values her friendship highly, as she values his. 

A lot of people complain about Quasimodo not "getting the girl", but it's important that he does not. The fact that the hero, once rejected, does not try to demonize Esmeralda as stupid or heartless, or treat his "nice guy" status as something that makes him entitled to her body, matters. 

The fact that he values her as a person even without being able to date her matters.

Esmeralda, unlike so many princesses, is not treated as an obtainable object that can be won by accomplishing certain goals. Instead, she chooses the person she is interested in for herself.

Frollo, in contrast, blames Esmeralda for his attraction. Like any victim blamer, he refuses to acknowledge responsibility for his own actions, insisting she cast a spell on him. 

He treats the fact that she flaunts her desirability as an open invitation.

He has no interest in her as a person. In fact, he despises her, and will often insult her while simultaneously desiring her. When she refuses him, he tries to force himself on her, using manipulation and even death threats. 

Frollo, the monster, feels entitled to Esmeralda's body. Quasimodo, the man, does not. 

5) She's not a princess

When the Disney Princess franchise was formed, Esmeralda was included, but has since disappeared from the sparkling, smiling line-up.

No official reason has been given, but several possible reasons appear on the Disney Wiki, including her "sultry" pose and the fact that she lives on the streets and is not connected to a "respectable" family.

While I think it's unfair, it does make her, like Merida, stand out.

I love many of the Disney princesses, but the Disney Princess franchise has a habit of thoroughly declawing their girls before they're "crowned".

Merida was nipped, tucked, disarmed and squeezed into the exact dress she hated. Esmeralda, too wild, too in charge of her own sexuality, too outspoken, and too barefoot to ever really look right next to a line of smiling girls in ballgowns, was taken out completely.

It is, I feel, a fact that reflects well on her character.

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