Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Over the hump
I had this idea to do a hump themed post every Wednesday. Okay, get your dirty little minds out of the gutter. Hump Day is what we Americans like to call Wednesday. It is the "hump" of the week and everything is down hill to the Weekend from here on out. And there are lots of things with humps so I figured I could milk this puppy for months worth of posts. The first thing with a hump that came to mind to me Holy Joe.
I seriously doubt any of you know who Holy Joe is. When I was growing up in Boise, there was a poor old guy who used to live next to my grade school in this dilapidated shack. Everyone called him Holy Joe because he was always seen walking down the alleyways by our houses carrying a Bible in one hand and an old canvas bag slung over his shoulder. He foraged through garbage cans looking for items he could use or sell. I guess that's how he survived.
Why do I bring up Holy Joe for my first 'Over the Hump' post? What made Holy Joe famous to the kids in my neighborhood was a very prominent hump on his back. And there is nothing like a deformity to bring out the curiousity and cruelty in children. I remember watching kids taunt Holy Joe from the edge of the school yard when he'd walk past to get to his shack. He shake a bony fist at them and mutter something unintelligible in a high-pitched voice. The kids would just laugh and move along with him, staying well out of his reach until he would disappear into his shanty.
I didn't join in the taunts. I felt sorry for him. But I was fascinated by the hump on Holy Joe's back. It reminded me of the most famous character in literature with a hump on his back -- the Hunchback of Notre Dame. And I'd felt sorry for him, too when I saw the movie version of the book starring Charles Laughton for the first time.
I imagine Victor Hugo would not have gotten away with writing the Hunchback of Notre Dame if he'd written it today. After all, the novel's central character is a deaf hunchback named Quasimodo who is more or less tortured throughout the book because of his deformity. Even Imus would have hesitated to stroll down that pathway strewn with politically incorrect land minds (well maybe not).
I'm surprised Disney got away with turning it into a cute little cartoon feature a few years ago without developing a more sanitized title. I'm willing to bet that they did focus groups on a few alternatives like "Person with a Noticeably Swollen Back of Notre Dame" or "Humpy, the Friendly Clown of Notre Dame." I imagine that someone in marketing finally said something like, "I've got a hunch the original title will sell better at the box office," and they kept it.
Disney may have kept the original title, but they toned down the grotesque nature of Quasimodo's appearance to a more gentle looking Shrek-like creature (if Quasimodo is a hunchback, I wonder what a Fullmodo would be...get it...Quasi-modo...Full-modo....oh never mind). I guess it's easier to make a cartoon about a hunchback if you make him all cuddly and lovable.
Oh well, that was a long, rambling way to say, "Happy Hump Day." God knows what I'll write about next Wednesday.