In some not-too-distant future …
Okay, that was embarrassing.
I embarrassed you?
At the curtain, during the standing ovation? Yeah.
Oh, when everyone was standing and clapping and whistling and shouting?
Yes, that standing ovation. And what were you doing?
Why weren’t you standing and applauding with everyone else?
Well, yeah, like me.
Uh, maybe because I thought it was dumb?
You thought – one of the most popular stage shows of both London and Broadway, maybe on the planet, and you think it was dumb?
Given the global IQ, as demonstrated by this being one of the most popular stage shows on the planet, yes, I think that’s an accurate description.
That’s circular logic.
Which is dumb, but not as dumb as that melodramatic claptrap.
But it’s got – I mean, it has awesome music. And the vocal talent at the performance was really great. The guy playing –
All in service to a truly awful story. That’s the part I can’t get over.
A truly – I mean, we’re talking Victor Hugo, right? Isn’t he famous?
I don’t care if we’re talking about Victor Emmanuel. Have you actually read the novel?
Uh. No – it wasn’t assigned, and, jeez, it’s like a zillion pages long. I always had a lot of other stuff to read on my Qpad, so … no, I didn’t.
Neither did I. So we’re talking about the play. And the play is absurd.
I’d think you’d be all excited by the revolution and the barricades and all that.
Oh, yes, very stirring – a bunch of intellectual poseurs who get themselves and their friends killed by striking when they weren’t prepared, having an inadequately prepared populace that were smart enough to not support them, and setting their cause back probably by decades. Enroljas ought to have been pilloried in the public square instead of being given a heroic death scene.
But it was for a good cause.
Do you know what the cause was they were fighting for?
Um … against the rich?
Anything more specific?
Right. Pure agitprop of the wealthy – dangle some vague, meaningless oligarchy-bashing with no specifics that might be educational, that might be actually applicable to current politics and economic oppression. And then distract everyone with a horrific love tale.
Are you kidding? I completely love the love story – Cosette, finding happiness with Marius, despite all the threats to their happiness. I thought it was kind of –
If you say “romantic,” you might get hurt.
I believe … that Marius … represents a complex interaction … between … political activist and a man in love –
Carefully spoken, And I am utterly, utterly not shocked that you find Marius’ behaviors, his equivocating, his uncertainty in supporting his political beliefs, his abrupt and bizarre infatuation with some giddy, entitled, privileged little … blonde … to be captivating.
Are we still talking about the show?
Marius and Cosette are both awful people, Jason.
Cosette rose from utter poverty –
-- to be a little rich girl who falls in love with the dithering revolutionary. Charming.
Her mother –
Sure, her mother was a tragic figure, oppressed by a hostile social environment, by exploitative and religion-driven judgment in the power structure, and by her fellow proletariat driven by the monied classes to a Hobbesian battle of all-against-all, all of which sent her into poverty, disease, and, ultimately, degradation and death.
Right! Fantine was –
Though, honestly, she’s a bit of a professional victim.
Think about it. She lets herself be seduced by an untrustworthy man because that’s the only way she thinks she can find happiness. Abandoned, she hands her child over to the two most corrupt individuals in the show, and then blindly pays them for the child’s upkeep even though they are clearly stealing most of it for themselves. She then fails to stand up for herself against gossip and economic oppression, and proceeds to passively allow her moral character, bodily integrity, and health to be broken. And then, on her death bed, she gives care of her child to a man who has already shown himself to be a selfish oligarch-wannabe.
Wait, you’re talking about Jean Valjean as –
A poor man, unjustly imprisoned, who lets himself get co-opted by the social structure, who rather than fight the system and become a revolutionary himself, lets himself be seduced by the religious hierarchy to being an agent for keeping the masses mollified, who goes on to become part of the political and economic power structure, who owns a workhouse that exploits the poor, whose neglect and fear leads to Fantine’s degredation and death, and who then then spends the rest of the show letting his fear of discovery by the thugs of the ruling class color his every action, while constantly interfering in the life of his ward. You mean that Jean Valjean?
But he saves – he protects – he’s the hero! The whole thing is about his redemption!
Then why does he go from being a major character in the first half to the frightened sitcom father in the second half?
He trudges with Marius through the sewers! He confronts, then spares, then totally owns Javert!
Oh, yes, Javert. A marvelous vehicle for garnering sympathy for the direct agents of the tyranny, a convenient foil to make Valjean look heroic, and ultimately a man who betrays his duty and yet gets applause for doing so. What a fine role model!
He’s the villain!
He’s the unfortunate victim of the very same power structure he served, blindly enforcing a corrupt legal system to the point of madness and death. He’s more of a victim than Fantine, even if he’s a tool of the oppresser.
I – are there any characters you do like?
What do you think?
Valjean, Javert … Fantine … Marius, Cozette … Thenardiers … oh. Huh. Really? Eponine?
You have a problem with Eponine?
She just seems a little – I don’t know, on the nose?
In what way?
The outcast, dark-haired daughter of the villains? The tragic figure who dies in the name of her beliefs and passions. The victim of …
Well, of …
Of unrequited love? Of her passion for the man she is obsessed with, who in turn is ass-over-teakettle in love with the blond ditz?
Well … yeah.
And you think she’s my favorite character.
Um … yeah?
Did you actually just say, “Bah”?
She moons after some man clearly unworthy of her. She dies obsessing only about him pretending to love her. And her dedication to the cause of the revolution is both fruitless and false. Why do you think I’d favor such a character?
Well, when you put it that way, I … really couldn’t say.
One of the minor –
Little people fighting against the system. Of course!
“A flea can bite the bottom of the Pope in Rome” – defying the power structure. Uncovering the spies and agents of the establishment. Standing up to the authorities.
Yeah, but … he dies.
He dies forwarding the battle. And recovering urgently needed war material. He’s the true hero.
But it’s a forlorn cause. You said that already about Marius and Eponine.
But he’s not doing it because he’s guilted into it, or because he has an instinct for self-destruction out of obsessive-compulsive love. He does it, despite his villainous origin, out of defiance against the system and a blithe disregard for personal cost in pursuit of a higher cause.
And he’s on the poster.
That’s Cosette, Jason.
It is? Are you sure?
Oh. Jeez. That explains a few things.
Well, you were out of class for much of the Sex Ed stuff in school.
Har, har, har. It is to – wait.
What villainous origin?
He’s the son of the Thenard –
The Thenardiers. I thought you’d never seen the play or read the book.
Yyyeah. I didn’t.
That part’s not in the show we just saw, so you clearly read the book if you know that piece of trivia.
I was supposed to read the book. Father assigned it to me, of course, but … guh. It’s wretched. I tried four different translations plus the original French and simply could not get more than a few hundred pages in. So I found a wiki and spent the night going through it. So, no, I never read the book or the play. As i said.
There’s a _wiki?
Jason, it’s the Internet. You can probably find Enjolras/Javert slash-porn out there. So, yes, I know Gavroche is the son of the Thenardiers. But – wait, how did you know it?
I … (sighs) read the book.
It actually worked out well. I was trapped in a pocket dimension in a secret passage under the third statue on Easter –
-- Island, yes, I know the one.
Well, I got trapped there for a few hours objective, a week subjective. And … it was the only thing I had to read because Amir had erased all the other books on my Qpad because I put a –
Yes, youthful hijinx, whatever. Trapped in a dimensional bubble with only Les Misérables to read. That must have been hell.
Actually, once I got past the never-ending backstory for the bishop, I kind of liked it. It was like “how many digressions can Hugo pack in here and not lose the thread of the plot.” I think he was paid by the word.
Why did you say you hadn’t read it?
Jeez, Alycia – people already think I’m weird. If I told people I’d read a 2000-page French historical novel and that I actually liked it, they’d never talk with me again. I mean, it’s not the most uncool thing I’ve ever done, but it’s probably in the Top Ten.
Actually, it shows admirable dedication and adaptation to a difficult circumstance. I approve.
Um … thanks?
Although it’s still an awful musical.
What? I can’t believe you. How can you not walk out of here humming “Do You Hear the People Sing?” under your breath?!
Simple. I don’t hum under my breath.
You know what I mean.
I’ve already explained the reasons why.
Fine. What is your favorite musical?
What makes you think I have one. I’ve had far more important things to do in my life than attend –
“Sound of Music”? C’mon, it’s got people outwitting Nazis.
And glorifying the Catholic Church and the institution of the nunnery. Plus, if you cross the alps outside of Salzburg, you end up in Germany, not Switzerland. Next.
Eliot was an anti-semitic hack who abandoned his mentally ill wife. The play glorifies childish doggerel with a thoroughly unwarranted sense of profundity. Next.
Oh, please. Next.
What then? C’mon, there’s got to be some musical you enjoyed.
(Sighs) “Sweeney Todd.”
“Sweeney --” Okay, y’know, that makes complete sense.
The theme of –
I get it. It makes sense. I don’t need the lecture. Okay, next time we’ll find a production of “Sweeney Todd” to go to.
That’s … remarkably considerate of you, Jason.
No problem. Like I said, I get it. I mean, I completely love the love story – Joanna, finding happiness with Anthony, despite —
author: *** Dave H.
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