I hate Jean Valjean

Let me put it this way:  the hero (or, one of the heroes) of Les Miserables is a dude who, having learnt important moral lessons about stealing from the Catholic Church, becomes the prosperous mayor of a town and factory owner.

This is Good because he is Employing People and Growing The Economy.

In the popular perception of the narrative, there’s a fight between two women factory workers, and Valjean delegates the dispute to his foreman, who sexually harasses the workforce and in a complete stereotype of a move, fires Fantine because she won’t touch his penis.

So … Valjean, the hero, allows a not-exactly-subtle-about-it (because this is a musical, so characters can’t be drawn in three dimensions) rapist to have authority over a largely female workforce, and then when he figures out that Fantine’s subsequent suffering and death are pretty much all his (Valjean’s) fault, it’s all heart-rending and shirt-tearing and woe is I and not a single thought given to all the other women who were probably victimized on his watch.

How fucking heroic.

Then he’s set up in this epic eternal grudge match against Javert, who is meant to be the villain because he doesn’t believe in the power of rehabilitation.  Yet who can blame him, when Valjean is all “look, I understand I broke my parole, but I have to save this child and then I promise I’ll turn myself in in three days” and then fucks right off with said child for ten years.

And Javert’s somehow unreasonably cynical about Valjean’s honour?  Valjean’s lucky Javert didn’t find out about the whole “letting a rapist sexually harass an entire factory of economically-oppressed women” thing.

Not to mention Javert gets all the good songs.

~

And seriously, don’t even start me on the MacGuffin Cosette.

6 comments

    • QoT

      It’s an issue I have with many musicals. I’m always the one waiting for the heroes to exit so the awesome villains/hilarious side characters can get another turn. Don’t even start me on Phantom of the Whiny Opera.

  1. Frank Macskasy

    Yeah, I wondered about the whole Foreman-thing…

    As for the Three-Day-Promise-to-return. Though in fairness, Javert didn’t take up Valjean’s offer. So does it still constitute an agreement? Well, I guess from Valjean’s p.o.v. it does.

    Did you see the re-worked version of “Moulin Rouge”? The Kidman/McGregor version.

    I had some thoughts on that, in terms of viewing the actions of the main characters from another perspective and how Hollywood can legitamise dubious behaviour if the “heroes” are good-looking, sexy, and have a degree of “vulnerability”…

    • QoT

      I saw it yeeeeeeeears ago, and was very much in the “I love Ewan McGregor and reworkings of classic pop!” demographic rather than the “critical analysis of media I consume” demographic at the time.

      • Frank Macskasy

        Just remembered to check back on this…

        Ok, let’s look at it from another perspective then…

        Christian (Ewan McGregor), an unemployed bum and Satine (Nicole Kidman) a sex-worker, get into a relationship. They keep it secret, ‘cos, y’know, it might impact on her career. Nothing wrong with that, so far.

        Christian needs money to produce his play, so he and Satine line up a ‘mark’ – The Duke (Richard Roxburgh ) – to convince him to part with the cash. In turn, Satine agrees to bonk him.

        The Duke isn’t cool. In fact, he’s socially inept, insecure, and forms an unwholesome obssession over Satine. She proposes a business deal, in return for his money – he’s immature enough to accept.

        Only, she does everything she can to avoid ‘consummating’ the deal. After all, Satine just wants the money for her boyfriend. Said boyfriend (Christian – bad choice of name, as he’s anything but) goes along with it. Add “Pimp” to his CV.

        Only, Christian is jealous (has insecurity problems of his own?) and doesn’t want Satine to boink the Duke. Not even in a threesome. He just wants the money; produce the play he’s written; and get the hell out with his girlfriend.

        The Duke parts with his cash – and finds out he’s been conned. We actually see his soul being crushed as he realises that not only is Satine wholly uninterested in him – but has fleeced him royally.

        But we, the audience are expected to side with Satine and Christian because, well, y’know, “they’re in love with each other”. And they’re both hot.

        Whereas The Duke is rich (minus 10 points immediatly); not so good looking; and more than just a bit neeeedy.

        It’s amazing how with just the right Hollywood presentation, our morals are reversed and we cry for two sexy young con-artists – and view with disdain their victim because he wasn’t portrayed as young, cool, and sexy…

        What if we replaced two good-looking young people with two not-so-cute people…?

        And The Duke was a tragically heroic Johnny Depp…?

        Jeez…

        Next thing y’know, Hollywood will be knocking on our doors demanding we instutionalise de facto worker exploitatiion by changing our labour laws to suit them…

        What would Frodo do?

        (With apologies to all Moulin Rouge fans. Yeah my thoughts slide off into the Twilight Zone sometimes…)

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