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"Hunchback of Notre Dame" stage production renamed to "Bellringer."
June 28, 2002 11:32 AM   Subscribe

"Hunchback of Notre Dame" stage production renamed to "Bellringer." In other news, I hear they'll be reprinting Melville's Moby Dick as "Moby Richard."
posted by brownpau (41 comments total)

 
We felt it was more descriptive to call it the Bellringer of Notre Dame because it would ring bells in people's minds," said Mackenzie.
Oh, so it's a marketing thing!
posted by ColdChef at 11:42 AM on June 28, 2002


Pavlovian, even.
posted by rushmc at 11:46 AM on June 28, 2002


Next, pachyderms everywhere will be protesting The Elephant Man.
posted by iconomy at 11:48 AM on June 28, 2002


Oh good lord, has political correctness really gotten to this point? This is absurd. Sheesh.
posted by dejah420 at 11:52 AM on June 28, 2002


Man, next thing you know, they'll change the ending so Quasimodo and Esmeralda don't die.

Nah, that's too far-fetched. Nobody would do that.
posted by RylandDotNet at 11:54 AM on June 28, 2002


Great marketing tie-in for us hunched drunks.
posted by Skot at 11:59 AM on June 28, 2002


Man, next thing you know, they'll change the ending so Quasimodo and Esmeralda don't die.
The die?
WHERE WAS YOUR SPOILER WARNING????

:)
posted by matteo at 12:07 PM on June 28, 2002


Shouldn't that be "The Bellringer of Notre Womyn?"
posted by dydecker at 12:23 PM on June 28, 2002


"And what's with this Les Miserables? Victor, baby, sweetie, why're you alway such a downer?"
posted by UnReality at 12:27 PM on June 28, 2002


I think it's interesting to note that Hugo's title for his novel was Notre Dame de Paris. The word "hunchback" is an addition in translation. In my opinion, a good translator should seek to find ways to transform the foreign original into something that can be understood by a contemporary domestic sensibility. This can be a challenging task, since the translator must also seek to maintain as much of the sense and texture of the original as possible.

In this context, we're looking at a decision in translation: the original translator chose to use the work "hunchback" in the title, while the translator for the production in question chose to eliminate this usage. "Bellringer" seems like an appropriate replacement, since Quasimodo is, after all, a bellringer. "Hunchback" is an ugly word anyway, and to the extent that it distracts from the meaning of the work it is right to discard it, much as contemporary translations of Nietzsche replace "superman" with "overman" or something similar to avoid comic book confusion.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:39 PM on June 28, 2002


I'd agree with you, mr_roboto, except that we're supposed to understand that Quasimodo is ugly, too. "Bellringer" doesn't quite capture that.
posted by ColdChef at 12:45 PM on June 28, 2002


I'm assuming, however, that the costumes and makeup will.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:46 PM on June 28, 2002


Excellent point. Domo arrigato.
posted by ColdChef at 12:52 PM on June 28, 2002


"Hunchback" is an ugly word anyway, and to the extent that it distracts from the meaning of the work it is right to discard it

I can't see how "Bellringer" is a more illuminating or appropriate title than "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", though I will give you that they both stray from the original French.

Quasimodo is, after all, a hunchback.

And it seems to me (stating the obvious) that one of the points of the whole dealie was that this deformed pathetic creature was after all a man with a heroic spirit (/stating the obvious) that "hunchback" was a much better audience hook than "bellringer".
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:52 PM on June 28, 2002


What's the big deal? People have been renaming adaptations of things for years. cf., as mr_roboto sagely documents, Notre Dame de Paris. Also see: O, Roxanne, Romeo + Juliet, and countless others.
posted by Marquis at 12:58 PM on June 28, 2002


I don't see why they can't just call it Notre Dame de Paris. I guess it would cause confusion with the excellent, excellent French musical of the same name, though. Which I encourage everyone to listen to, though everyone agrees the English lyrics are terrible.
posted by Charmian at 12:59 PM on June 28, 2002


Just to correct you folks, they're not calling it "Bellringer", like an one-word American musical comedy title ("Bellringer!"), which would be great. They're calling it "The Bellringer of Notre Dame", which is enough like the original title to constantly remind you that what you are getting is the cleaned up, PC version. It's a typical, clunky attempt to accomodate a group who, as far as I can see, didn't protest to begin with. The title change came about after a consultation with a "disability advisor," whatever that is.
posted by Faze at 1:07 PM on June 28, 2002


Sorry, my bad; I abbreviated it to "Bellringer," considering it given that readers would attach the "of Notre Dame" to it.
posted by brownpau at 1:17 PM on June 28, 2002


"Hunchback" is an ugly word anyway

That is certainly a very subjective claim.
posted by rushmc at 1:25 PM on June 28, 2002


"In other news, I hear they'll be reprinting Melville's Moby Dick as 'Moby Richard.'"

I think Moby, the Big Throbbing Cock would be more likely to draw huge audiences, but that's just a hunch...er, bellring...whatever.

Thank you, Norm MacDonald.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:15 PM on June 28, 2002


That is certainly a very subjective claim.

As aesthetic judgements often are. We are discussing the title of a work of art; it is therefore appropriate to base our judgement of this title at least in part on aesthetic criteria. I would argue that there are a couple things about the word "hunchback" that make it ugly. First, the sounds from which the word is composed have a very guttural quality: "u", "ch", "k" are little more than a series of grunts. Second, the word has a certain creepy-quaint quality to it. I wouldn't call anyone today a "hunchback", at least not with a straight face (cf. "Young Frankenstein"). "Hunchback" is, like "mongoloid" or "self-pollution", very awkward in contemporary usage.

Since the work "hunchback" is in no way in Hugo's original title, I don't see anything wrong with eliminating this awkward word in a new translation of the title. You might, however, make the argument that the ugly, awkward sense of word "hunchback" echoes the key physical characteristics of the title character, and is therefore appropriate in the title. That would be a pretty good argument.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:17 PM on June 28, 2002


Big, throbbing cock. I don't have anything new to contribute, I just felt like typing "big, throbbing cock".
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:28 PM on June 28, 2002


We are discussing the title of a work of art; it is therefore appropriate to base our judgement of this title at least in part on aesthetic criteria.

Except that what we were actually discussing was the appropriateness of changing the established (in English, anyway) title of Hugo's work, not proffering our opinions of its inherent quality as a title. What I fail to see is the connection between whether it is appropriate or not and one's subjective opinion of its euphony. Must all things deemed (rightly or wrongly) ugly be hidden from sight?

Since the work "hunchback" is in no way in Hugo's original title, I don't see anything wrong with eliminating this awkward word in a new translation of the title.

Now that is an argument that seems relevant, except for the editorializing with the adjective "awkward." The fact that the word was not part of his original title certainly takes much of the sting out of changing it now; but not entirely, because while it may not be associated with the work for Hugo or French readers, it certainly is profoundly associated for English readers. While I understand your point re: the word itself, I disagree with your assessment--thus, my pointing out its subjective nature. (Primarily, I cry foul at your equating "guttural" words with "ugly" words. Speakers of German and numerous other languages would certainly disagree with you, and I think it's a false parallel in English, as well. Consonants can be beautiful, too.)
posted by rushmc at 2:52 PM on June 28, 2002


Guttural words are ugly words? Scheisshund.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:57 PM on June 28, 2002


if you rub a hunchback's hump, it will bring good luck.
posted by billybob at 3:00 PM on June 28, 2002


Okay, let's all raise our voices for a rousing chorus of "Elderly Man River" ...
posted by chuq at 3:07 PM on June 28, 2002


Except that what we were actually discussing was the appropriateness of changing the established (in English, anyway) title of Hugo's work, not proffering our opinions of its inherent quality as a title.

I was proffering my opinion of its inherent quality as a title, thank you very much. It's a crappy title. That's my opinion. It sounds hopelessly clunky and old-fashioned, familiar though it may be. I say that the word "hunchback" should be ditched not in the interest of avoiding offense so much as in the interest of bringing a newfound sense of vitality to the story.

And what's with all the criticism of my "subjective editorialization" in calling "hunchback" an ugly word? Are you suggesting that "hunchback" is a pretty word, like "ballerina" or "creepy-quaint"? And is my opinion invalid simply because it's an opinion? I've got news for you there: everything is someone's opinion. Personally, I think that your opinion that my opinion is an opinion is unfairly subjective.

Your heartfelt defense of the guttural does strike a chord with me: after all, there's plenty of lovely poetry in German and English. But Mozart wrote operas in Italian for a reason. I'm just saying, is all.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:16 PM on June 28, 2002


I just felt like typing "big, throbbing cock".

New MeFi tagline.
posted by joaquim at 3:16 PM on June 28, 2002


I say that the word "hunchback" should be ditched not in the interest of avoiding offense so much as in the interest of bringing a newfound sense of vitality to the story.

Can changing one word in a story's title truly bring it "a newfound sense of vitality?"

And what's with all the criticism of my "subjective editorialization" in calling "hunchback" an ugly word?

Simply the context. I welcome your perspective on the word "hunchback" and on the appropriateness of rewriting classic texts in order to make them somehow "sound better" to us modern readers. The first paragraph of your first post just seemed a much stronger and more direct argument for changing the name than the second, which seemed to amount to the equivalent of "I hate the French anyway, so let's set it in Kentucky from now on," or "I'm not Catholic, so I want to have it take place in a Mormon temple instead of a cathedral." In other words, a call for change based merely upon personal bias.

Are you suggesting that "hunchback" is a pretty word, like "ballerina" or "creepy-quaint

I'm suggesting that it all depends upon your preconceived ideas of what constitutes "prettiness." Personally, "ballerina" doesn't do that much for me, for example. A lot of the poetry that I've written plays with language (or sounds) that initially strikes many as "not pretty," so I suppose I'm reacting to that as well.
posted by rushmc at 3:42 PM on June 28, 2002


...the equivalent of "I hate the French anyway, so let's set it in Kentucky from now on," or "I'm not Catholic, so I want to have it take place in a Mormon temple instead of a cathedral." In other words, a call for change based merely upon personal bias.

Well personal bias, certainly; but of an artistic rather than political nature. I'm simply arguing that the change in title can be justified on purely aesthetic grounds, and there is therefore no need to get our panties in knots over political correctness. Particularly since "hunchback" wasn't in Hugo's title. Whether or not it's a good move artistically is of course a matter of personal bias and subjective judgement, which is in large part what makes art interesting.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:56 PM on June 28, 2002


Bellringer!

I'd pay money to see that. It's an unoffensive, catchy title that screams entertainment. This whole thread is just pointless, we got the amazing new title from Faze.

At this point I think that perhaps "Quasimodo", as a hero's name, is really a bit of a downer. Perhaps "Clint" or "Mitch" might suit the he-man qualities that the protagonist has.

An "Esmeralda" seems a bit old, not very sexy. I'd like to suggest "Babette" or "Angelique" instead.

Since we're thinking about it.

Bellringer!
posted by Salmonberry at 4:02 PM on June 28, 2002


I'm simply arguing that the change in title can be justified on purely aesthetic grounds, and there is therefore no need to get our panties in knots over political correctness.

Even if it came about as a result of discussions with a "disability advisor?"

Whether or not it's a good move artistically is of course a matter of personal bias and subjective judgement, which is in large part what makes art interesting.

Fair enough. I would object strongly to renaming the book itself, but seems to me they should be able to call their stage production based upon it anything they want. "Cats" wasn't the name of Eliot's written work, either.

Of course, I also think the rest of us have the right to wonder about their motives and find them silly.
posted by rushmc at 4:12 PM on June 28, 2002


The same thing happened a few years ago in the plastic model kit industry. Polar Lights did a reissue of the classic Aurora Hunchback kit, but was forced to change the name on the packaging and on the kit's nameplate to Bellringer. In this case it was because Disney owns the toy rights to Hunchback, and while PL was reasonably certain they could eventually win a legal battle in the end they decided to avoid the expense and just change the name.
posted by Lokheed at 4:16 PM on June 28, 2002


Tangentially on topic - According to James Joyce, CUSPIDOR is the most beautiful word in the English language. Other beautiful and ugly sounding words (a very arbitrary but fascinating list) here. No hunchback, though.
posted by iconomy at 6:13 PM on June 28, 2002


I hate the French anyway, so let's set it in Kentucky from now on," or "I'm not Catholic, so I want to have it take place in a Mormon temple instead of a cathedral

this is actually interesting: Victor Hugo in a Mormon, Kentucky setting.
Baz Luhrmann would just love this
posted by matteo at 6:22 PM on June 28, 2002


Don't roll over in Mr. Hugo's grave for him, people, they're not changing the name of the original, they're not even changing the English translation of the novel's title. They're merely calling their production something different, which they're perfectly entitled to do. Besides, had The Hunchback of Notre Dame come down to us today as The Bellringer of Notre Dame, I hardly think that would severely diminish the novel's quality as a work. Judge the people on the merits of their production.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 6:33 PM on June 28, 2002


It's actually called The Bellringer of Notre Dame in the original Danish translations. Not that anybody would care. : )
posted by cx at 6:50 PM on June 28, 2002


Well, if you're really gonna get pc about it, "Bellringer" could be considered offensive to Jehovah's witnesses.
posted by groundhog at 6:56 PM on June 28, 2002


Okay, let's all raise our voices for a rousing chorus of "Elderly Man River" ...

Elderly Person River, you mean.
posted by LeLiLo at 7:26 PM on June 28, 2002


Take your finger off the button now, Mr. Tweedly.
We know when we're licked.

posted by Catch at 2:19 AM on June 29, 2002


Am I the only one here who can't read or hear "bellringer" without immediately thinking it's a euphemism for, uh, male masturbation? Kind of put a different spin on the wording of the original post.

Anyone wishing to lower the tone further has my blessing
posted by MUD at 6:28 AM on June 29, 2002


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