Thursday, September 26, 2013
Thoughts I've Been Saving Up: Les Mis and Mormons
I'm a little confused by the fact that Les Miserables is so overwhelmingly popular with Mormons, who are also so overwhelmingly conservative, given that its message is so clearly the opposite of what conservatives generally believe—that it doesn't matter how hard you work or how good a person you are, the system can still keep you down. I get that it's a big Atonement thing, and in fact they probably choose to focus on the fact that even starting with nothing, Jean Valjean is able to become the mayor and a successful businessman through his goodness and strength and hard work. But is that really the message of the story? Does it count if he has to create a false identity to do it? And if that life is continually destroyed by circumstances outside his control? How about Fantine's story? Every decision she makes is motivated by the desire to care for her daughter, and she's fired from her job for no reason. Why couldn't she just pull herself up by her bootstraps? Is Cosette's comfortable situation due to her own hard work? Does she have more of a right to it than Gavroche or Eponine? To me, Les Miserables is musically beautiful, but it's also about the recognition that sometimes life is just wrong—that everyone does not have equal access to rights and opportunities, and that there are people specifically responsible for making it that way. It just makes me wonder what the appeal is to people who, as a group, generally believe something different.