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Gretchen's Merritt is a Les Mis nerd?


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gretchenlouise.com/les-miserables/

It was over ten years ago that I was first introduced to Les Miserables. I knew it was a classic book, of course, but that was all I knew—until the boy I loved started raving about the story and made me watch the 10th Anniversary Dreamcast version of the Broadway musical. He tried to explain the storyline to me as it went, but it would take a few viewings before I could follow along (especially since he fast forwarded through a song or two).

[...]

When we heard there was a new movie version of Les Miserables coming out—well, my husband was excited! We frequently listen to the CD from the Broadway musical, and we’re always telling someone about the story.

[...]

My husband recognized the priest’s talented voice immediately: Colm Wilkinson played Valjean for years in the Broadway musical. But this was not your usual Hollywood film with lip-syncing to a studio recorded song: the lyrics were sung on set, as the film was being shot, providing a Broadway-like experience (though with much more lavish sets!)

Well, colour me surprised that Merritt has interests beyond those of a typical farmer, and that he's not embarrassed to admit he is a man who is into musicals, or at least, this particular musical. Is it possible that this quirk of his has made me actually like the guy a little bit?! Gret's review is glowing - her only qualification is that it obviously isn't a family film and it will be years before her children will watch it, which seems like a sensible decision.

I'm in shock. Something mildly interesting appeared on Gretchen's blog! Pass me the smelling salts!

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I know, right?! I feel like Gretchen's review speaks to her maybe having become just a tad less judgey. She says it's not a family film, of course, but I have a hard time believing that the know-it-all teenage Gretchen who ran YLCF would even have deigned to watch a film with profanity and sexual content. On the contrary, she probably would have had all her followers boycotting it. ;)

(Disclaimer: I'm a Les Mis nerd too. I saw the musical for the first time at age 10 and it's still the best thing I've ever seen on a stage.)

ETA: I was also surprised to read that Gretchen and her family frequently listen to the CD from the Broadway musical. Choice lyrics in the prostitution scene include "Even stokers need a little stoke!"

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I'm embarrassed to admit I've never seen Les Mis in any incarnation, and I LIKE musicals! I was planning on watching the much-hyped new version anyway, but now Gretchen's review will push me over the edge into watching this story of theft, prostitution, illegitimate children, lust and revenge set across the backdrop of the French Revolution. Oh, wait, it's about grace; right!

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[...]

(Disclaimer: I'm a Les Mis nerd too. I saw the musical for the first time at age 10 and it's still the best thing I've ever seen on a stage.)

ETA: I was also surprised to read that Gretchen and her family frequently listen to the CD from the Broadway musical. Choice lyrics in the prostitution scene include "Even stokers need a little stoke!"

That's hilarious! Don't worry, Gretchen - if you want my heathen opinion, that little double entendre would have flown right over my head until I was about 14 or so (I had a sheltered upbringing), and even then I would have been too embarrassed to let on that I got it ;).

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Ah, but to the pure, all lyrics are pure, or something. :)

She's written about other ways in which Merritt influenced her thinking - not kissing before marriage is the main one I remember - so I suspect that she may well have been judgey at the time, but went along with it because Future Husband Knows Best.

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Ah, but to the pure, all lyrics are pure, or something. :)

She's written about other ways in which Merritt influenced her thinking - not kissing before marriage is the main one I remember - so I suspect that she may well have been judgey at the time, but went along with it because Future Husband Knows Best.

Plus it sounds like Merritt may have fast-forwarded through the racy stuff for Gretchen's original viewing. Then, of course, Focus on the Family got hold of the Les Mis story and sanitized it, so it was OK for her to be a fan.

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Then, of course, Focus on the Family got hold of the Les Mis story and sanitized it, so it was OK for her to be a fan.

I don't even know what they did or what could possibly be left of the story post-sanitizing, but I'm already offended. Like I'm pretty sure the bits FotF would cut are...largely the point of the story?

Actually, the idea of being a fundie and also a les mis fan is a little weird to me in general. I guess the with the musical you can maybe ignore some things, so that's probably where she's coming from, but the book is 1200 pages of deism and what would transcribe to modern-day socialism and quite a lot of tolerance. And Enjolras (among others) is described as being exceedingly feminine, so there go the gender norms. And a LOT of characters have premarital sex without regretting it. And there are characters who are "redeemed" without being Saved. And there's a whole chapter criticizing people who cling to outdated notions because they're under the delusion that the past was a better time. And it's really hard for me to separate that out and understand how you could see and love the musical and not question your fundie beliefs. It just...baffles me. :think:

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I don't even know what they did or what could possibly be left of the story post-sanitizing, but I'm already offended. Like I'm pretty sure the bits FotF would cut are...largely the point of the story?

Actually, the idea of being a fundie and also a les mis fan is a little weird to me in general. I guess the with the musical you can maybe ignore some things, so that's probably where she's coming from, but the book is 1200 pages of deism and what would transcribe to modern-day socialism and quite a lot of tolerance. And Enjolras (among others) is described as being exceedingly feminine, so there go the gender norms. And a LOT of characters have premarital sex without regretting it. And there are characters who are "redeemed" without being Saved. And there's a whole chapter criticizing people who cling to outdated notions because they're under the delusion that the past was a better time. And it's really hard for me to separate that out and understand how you could see and love the musical and not question your fundie beliefs. It just...baffles me. :think:

Well, Gretchen admitted she never got through the original book because it was inches thick and "had too much French." I guess it's easier to endorse a story that's inconsistent with your other stated beliefs when you don't fully understand the story. Also, to be more charitable, she probably views the whole musical through the lens of Christianity. When the characters sing "To love another person is to see the face of God," for instance, she assumes it's the Christian God. Gretchen mentions that some organization called "Allied Faith and Family" (fundie alert!) has put together a discussion guide on the film that highlights the Biblical parallels. Stuff like that makes it even easier for fundamentalists to impose their own moral framework on the story, regardless of Hugo's original intent.

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Well, Gretchen admitted she never got through the original book because it was inches thick and "had too much French." I guess it's easier to endorse a story that's inconsistent with your other stated beliefs when you don't fully understand the story. Also, to be more charitable, she probably views the whole musical through the lens of Christianity. When the characters sing "To love another person is to see the face of God," for instance, she assumes it's the Christian God. Gretchen mentions that some organization called "Allied Faith and Family" (fundie alert!) has put together a discussion guide on the film that highlights the Biblical parallels. Stuff like that makes it even easier for fundamentalists to impose their own moral framework on the story, regardless of Hugo's original intent.

I kind of figured it was something like that, but it doesn't make me less annoyed. Partly because Les Mis is one of my favourite things ever for basically all the reasons fundies ought to dislike it, but also partly because enforcing the framework of rigid Christian Fundamentalism onto it seems hugely...disrespectful towards Hugo. It bothers me on a very fundamental level that these people (focus on the family, the allied faith and family thing you mentioned) can twist an author's intention so much, and their readers will never know. :evil: Somehow it bothers me less when average people are like "it's totally about a love triangle between Marius, a kickass poor girl, and a boring rich girl", which is still not at all what's in the book, but which comes without all the bizarrely, brain-hurtingly contradictory values a fundie fan would have.

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I kind of figured it was something like that, but it doesn't make me less annoyed. Partly because Les Mis is one of my favourite things ever for basically all the reasons fundies ought to dislike it, but also partly because enforcing the framework of rigid Christian Fundamentalism onto it seems hugely...disrespectful towards Hugo. It bothers me on a very fundamental level that these people (focus on the family, the allied faith and family thing you mentioned) can twist an author's intention so much, and their readers will never know. :evil: Somehow it bothers me less when average people are like "it's totally about a love triangle between Marius, a kickass poor girl, and a boring rich girl", which is still not at all what's in the book, but which comes without all the bizarrely, brain-hurtingly contradictory values a fundie fan would have.

Thoroughly agreeing with all of the above.

The brick is actually chock-full of subversive material, in particular about oppression and to an extent about religion (though I disagree that it's necessarily deist). By the time it was written, Hugo was very, very liberal. Fundies getting their hands on his work and gutting it makes my skin crawl. I'd love to have a chance to read the Focus on the Family edition and see what exactly they took out (Enjolras' juxtaposition of leadership/revolution with effeminacy? Grantaire's obsession with another man?).

If maintaining your worldview involves censoring and changing classic literature your worldview probably sucks. It's gross.

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I know very little about Les Mis - never saw the musical and got bogged down about 50 pages into the book - but I absolutely love the song On My Own, which is sung by a young woman who is wandering around by herself at night, desperately yearning for a man she can't have. She's neither guarding her heart nor putting herself under her father's authority. Not really fundie-friendly, methinks!

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I found their version. The cast list includes none of the Amis and Enjolras is listed lower on the cast list than "farmer" and "hospital nurse," so...

You know, people have asked me for advice on choosing an abridgment to read (some people just don't care that much about the history of the paris sewers, apparently!), and my basic rule of thumb has always been to skip ahead and see if more than one of the Amis is mentioned by name (preferably including Courfeyrac, at least, since he's in the brick so much). It's really depressing how many books fail on this front. A lot of them seem to go for, ooh, pretty redemptive love story with some kind of battle in the background, maybe? (I even found one abridgment that described it as set during the French Revolution on the cover.) So I'm not surprised Focus on the Family is similarly rubbish, but that doesn't make it OK.

(Also, I'd love to get my hands on a fundified version of "a group which barely missed becoming historic", because really, none of the Amis make ideal fundie role-models. -- This one is feminine! This one is even more feminine! These two share a mistress! This one has more mistresses than quiverfullers have children! This one vandalizes church property for giggles! This one has a several paragraphs about how much he loves/adores/worships another man!)

All that to say I basically agree with your point. Basically, if you have to change the facts of anything to suit your pre-existing beliefs, well...it's not the facts (or the fiction, in this case) that is the problem.

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Yeah, it's interesting that these fundie families don't seem to recognize Hugo's subversiveness, much as they don't recognize the feminism of L.M. Montgomery and Jane Austen's tart critiques of established social norms. In fact, it sounds like Gretchen's little sis Jessica actually slogged through all of Les Mis--a literary feat her parents endorsed, no doubt, because the story had received the Focus on the Family seal of approval. Now if only FotF would do a serialized radio version of Portnoy's Complaint... heh, heh.

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