Why aren’t Americans calling for a ban on Hugo’s Les Misérables?

In Editorial, Lifestyle on January 3, 2013 at 11:41 am


The other night, we braved going into a movie theater to watch Les Misérables. I was pleasantly surprised that no one burst into the screening room firing a semi-automatic weapon. After all, according to the mainstream media, mass killings by the gun-bearing demented occur with such regularity that only a fool, until their Messiah In Chief bans guns, would venture into a public place.

Still, the risks minimally unsettled me.

I was unsettled by my fellow moviegoers as I watched the familiar tale unfold on the screen.

I was required to read Victor Hugo’s 1400-page novel in high school and my university French professors used excerpts of the story to teach us the intricacies of French grammar. How would today’s audience receive a story encouraging society to embrace a reformed person and that social justice should triumph over state power?

It seemed incongruent that American audiences would weep at the barricade scene deaths of the child revolutionary Gavroche and the love-struck Éponine. After all, few Americans were disturbed by police violence as last year’s Occupy protests were put down. On the contrary, the majority cheered as the ‘dirty hippies’ were shot, gassed, and bludgeoned. How were their fictional deaths more disturbing than the real death-by-drone killings of women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan; ‘collateral’ victims of the American Imperial?

Why would Iowans hold their breath during a scene where Valjean and Cosette dodge a TSA-like police checkpoint where traveler’s papers were examined by members of the gendarmerie? Iowa, this week, embraced the REAL-ID requirements for driver’s licenses.

It seemed inconsistent that they would recoil at the mass execution of surrendered members of Les Amis de l’ABC (lit. ‘friends of l’abaissé’, or ‘abased’ or ‘oppressed’), a known terrorist organization with ties to anarchist

At the whole, it was tremendously perplexing that they would cheer for Jean Valjean, a three-strikes convict, and jeer at Javert, a fanatical ‘the law is the law’ 19th century Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Two women occupied seats next to me. Before the film began, they greeted other attendees warmly and chatted amiably about church doings, Bible class, and openly fretted about the ‘looming fiscal cliff ’. During the film they clucked disapprovingly at Valjean’s mistreatment and dabbed their eyes during the finale performance of ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’

It seemed to me that they were a bit confused.

Shouldn’t they have booed the takeover of General Lemarque’s funeral cortege by the terrorist revolutionaries? Shouldn’t they have hissed during the singing of ‘Red and Black’, a song openly alluding to the ideals within the color symbolism of the flag of libertarian socialism? Why didn’t they weep for Javert when he leaped into the River Seine? Why did they cluck disapprovingly as Valjean fulfilled his nineteen-year debt to society for stealing a loaf of bread…with aggravating circumstances? He did break a window during the commission of his crime. What right did Bishop Myriel have in giving Valjean precious silver that rightfully belonged to the Church, not Myriel? Where did Myriel get off giving away property he did not earn?

The audience was obviously stirred by the music and the drama. But it was wholly ignorant of the story being told.

Hugo’s Les Misérables should not play well in today’s America. It goes against everything held dear by most of today’s Americans.

  1. The technical term is cognitive dissonance…Jean Valjean is wept for from the safety of the theater seats while Bradley Manning spends his third year in a cell under the heel of the American courts and the POTUS.

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