High School Cancels ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ Production After White Student Cast as Lead

High School Cancels ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ Production After White Student Cast as Lead, by Tom Ciccotta.

A group of students at Ithaca High School has successfully derailed an upcoming production of Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. The students … penned a letter demanding the production be recast or shut down after a white student was cast as Esmerelda:

“Esmerelda is accurately depicted in the Disney musical, and is written for, a young woman of color. Esmerelda is a Roma, part of an oppressed class of people. It is her oppression, and that of her people, which allows her to better understand the perspective of the Hunchback and to ultimately advocate for him. …

The young woman who was cast in this role has hazel eyes, blonde hair, and is the epitome of whiteness. This is an unfair position to put her in. At best, this is cultural appropriation. At worst, it is whitewashing, a racist casting practice which has its roots in minstrelsy.”

The students then explicitly demanded the show be shut down. …

The Ithaca City School District announced last week that the Hunchback production would be shut down. …

Although it shouldn’t matter, the source material for Hunchback, Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, does not specify Esmerelda’s race. “Esmeralda in the book is not 100% Romani (Gypsy). Her mother is a French women (sic) and while her Father could have been a Gypsy, it is never actually mentioned who was her father,” one blog about the novel wrote in a 2011 post.

hat-tip Stephen Neil