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Les Miserables at the Movies



I have yet to see the movie Les Miserables in the theater, but was expecting to. I then came across this article from "The Catholic Wife" and now I'm not as excited to go. Here's what she said. What are your thoughts?


Les Mis – A Drop of Poison Spoils the Cup




I think it’s important to protect your own soul from impurity – crude or mean lyrics in music, excessive violence, and the ever over-sexualized media in TV, ads, and movies. It’s not easy to do since it calls for withdrawing from social norms and allowing others to label you as an extremist, but it’s worth it. For example, we used to watch The Office all the time – hilarious, right? we never missed an episode; but somewhere along the line, sexual humor was pretty strongly woven into the dialogue and plot. Sure the show’s hysterical, but when it comes down to brass tacks, general disrespect toward sex and its sacramental purpose is unacceptable. We don’t watch media with sexual content; movies with scenes of sexuality in them are ruled out because it’s just not pure and holy to watch other people, acting or not, and we don’t want to invite such content into our home.
What you accept/watch/read reveals the inner on-goings of your soul, what you value, and what you don’t. I haven’t always subscribed to this approach – there was plenty of music and media that I won’t encounter again because despite a good beat, plot, or lesson involved, it came at the cost of purity of heart; which, according to Christ, is the ability to see God (Matthew 5:8). And I excused myself from this rule saying that I wasn’t been corrupted or compromised.
image from imdb.com
image from imdb.com
Let me say that I’m not commenting on Les Miserables by Victor Hugo or the stage production, but rather the most recent movie release. Truth be told, I haven’t read the book and it’s been 10 years since I went to the production. I was over the moon for the movie to come out and anticipated its release for months and months. Since seeing it on stage, I memorized the soundtrack, shouting “2-4-6-0-1″ from my room in high school and blaring “One Day More” on repeat in the car. Sitting in the theater the other day, I breathlessly awaited the main theme once Jean Valjean tore up his parole papers and knew I was in for an amazing experience.
I saw Les Mis this weekend and I don’t think it’s worth seeing – at least in-theater.
The music and actors have nothing to do with it, neither does the general story because all were sublime. There’s no denying the rush of the score and the fervor in the lyrics, both of which were powerful. I don’t recommend the movie because, at least while it’s in theaters, you can’t skip over the gross sexuality on display, and on such a huge scale.  In addition to the general sexuality within the first part of the movie (completely through “Master of House”), there were two sexual scenes/shots – one could have been cut entirely and the other didn’t have to be nearly as explicit as it was. If you’ve seen it, I’m referring to the entire “Lovely Ladies” scene including Fantine’s first “client” as well as the general behavior in “Master of the House,” which includes the “Santa shot.” [Spoiler alert] –> Silly me, I didn’t realize how involved the on-screen adaptation would be once Fantine sold herself into prostitution, especially once Hollywood got a hold of it; even setting her tragic situation aside, the blatant immodesty among other characters (both main and chorus) was already too much, but was then further emphasized by cinematography. How many shots of overly revealing attire do you need??
Les Mis, as a movie, was poisoned by both significant and subtle exploitation of sexuality and the human body; and what could have been a beautiful story purely portrayed left a bad taste of “it was ok, but…” It’s a genuine tragedy since so many Catholic themes are presented throughout the rest of the film, including God’s saving grace, the welcoming charity among religious communities, the difference between allowing your heart to be softened by faith versus hardened within it (Valjean vs. Javert), and a monsignor who shows remarkable compassion and mercy. Thank God I can find this actualized elsewhere.
So what, you’re going to write off the whole movie based on 2 brief scenes and some low-cut dresses? Yes, I am. We live in a time when too often people do the opposite by writing off sexuality in media for the sake of a good story, a funny sitcom, or a drama that gets you hooked. But at what cost am I willing to be entertained? Is it worth letting my soul’s guard down to see “A Heart Full of Love” so sweetly performed? No. Please note that I’m well aware that this film could and will draw others to God, to Christ, to the Church, but my suggestion is that, for those of us who already hold dear the aforementioned Catholic themes, seeing the movie in-theater is inadvisable because the sexuality is unavoidable. 
The bottom line and my own concluding 2 cents is that life can be lived better without seeing Hollywood’s adaptation of Hugo’s novel – at least in theater. My thoughts have nothing to do with the story itself or the difficulty of the historical age, but rather speak to Hollywood. If you must see it, wait for the DVD or Blu-Ray release so you can skip the trashy scenes. In hindsight, I wish I had stuck to the soundtrack and production in my memory.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there be any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8 RSV)

29 comments:

  1. To be honest, reading this article made me want to just slap this lady upside the head. Maybe my lack of church-going over the last decade has me desensitized a bit, but I don't think that is the case with this movie. And frankly it irritates me that when she went home from an almost 3 hour long movie, the first thing she thought of was "OH MY GOSH! There was sexual stuff in it!" If that's the first place her mind went, maybe that's on her...not on the movie.

    I did see the movie and it was...breathtaking. You can't honestly tell me that in any stage production of Les Mis, there were no low cut dresses or mentions of Fantine's "Johns" because well...that's kind of important to the story. This woman who was pure and whole gave up EVERYTHING to save her child. She gave up her very soul. Was she proud of it? Of course not. But Fantine giving herself so completely is central to her character. The fact that she becomes a prostitute isn't some secret that was hidden until the viewer is thrown into the scene in the movie. If you know anything at all about this story then you already knew this was going to happen before you even bought your tickets.

    Are there low cut dresses? Yes. Is there a song about prostitution? Yes. Is there a house of debauchery? Yes. Is there nudity? No. Is there simulated sex? No. But if you watch Anne Hathaway sing "I Dreamed a Dream" a mere foot away from the camera after having been used so horribly by a man...her face dirty and sad and worn...and your first thought is "oh my gosh, she just had sex and is singing naked"! Then you're missing the entire point.

    I guess what I'm saying is...all of these things and these songs are things the writer of this blog knew about going into the movie. I don't know what she expected. How exactly do you "purify" or "clean up" a scene about prostitution in France at this time in history? That's how they looked! That's what it was like! The movie is called Les Miserables for crying outloud.

    I think the movie was beautifully done. The actors were amazing and knowing that the entire score was sung live just blows my mind. There are far worse things on tv that disrepespect the sanctity of sex and shouldn't be watched. Would I take my little kids to see this? Of course not. They wouldn't understand it anyway. But as an adult, I think you're missing out if you don't see it. The things put in this movie aren't put in purely for entertainment factor or to sell tickets. No one goes to see Les Mis thinking "Sweet, a sex movie!" lol. It's true to the story. Period. So if knowing all of that...if knowing there will be prostitution mentioned and that you'll see some cleavage makes you not want to go, then don't go. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs and rules for their families, of course. But as for me...I think whoever the lady is that wrote this blog is wayyyyy overreacting and that she's drawing way more attention to the "sexual aspects" (I feel silly even calling it that) of this movie than anyone else is. If she's going to avoid Les Mis then she may as well avoid every other movie in theaters or just stick to Monsters Inc. 3D because "inappropriate" is the last word I would use to describe that movie.

    Anyway, that's my 2 cents. Or maybe more like 25 haha. Thanks for sharing the blog Ben :) Let us know what you end up doing!

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    1. Thanks for your 25 cents, :). It's nice to understand the perspectives of different people. You communicated your opinion very well. Thanks for the comment. The whole issue does remind a little bit of the whole Sunday School lesson about the brownies that have a scoop of poop in it. haha.

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    2. I saw the movie, and the whole thing did not move me as much as the Broadway production...if not moved, I was captivated by much of the acting,and the story, most of which I had forgotten. In my opinion, there WAS a scene with simulated sex...he lifted up her skirt, baring her thighs, which were in an obstetrical position, got on top of her and was moving forward and backward while she winced. I don't know about other people, but I call that blatant sex. It did offend me, and I wouldn't want my children watching it for that reason. It may be worth watching a DVD and skipping those parts, but I'd rather just see it again on Broadway, and get better singing voices, as well of the sense of "being there."

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    3. My wife does keep hinting she'd like to see it on Broadway... :) Thanks for the comment Donna.

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    4. we went to the broadway production last year and it was exactly as you described as the movie plus there was simulated oral sex going on too on stage. I could have done without that and I hoped my kids didn't understand what they were seeing.

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    5. Let's hope they didn't, but kids these days are exposed to this content all the time so they probably were aware unfortunately. :(

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  2. I guess this "sex stuff" everyone is talking about just wasn't what I took away from it because that's not what I remember. Or my memory sucks as I get older hahaha. I saw a woman doing something she hated and did not want to do all for the sake of her child. I saw her very soul breaking in that moment. I didn't see "an unnecessary sex scene". I just think there is a difference between something like this...and 99% of other Hollywood movies that show it for entertainment value and to "excite" their audience...when the act of it honestly has nothing to do with the story being told.

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    1. Jill, let's be honest, your memory is probably just failing you. :)

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  3. I saw it with Sean and his mom and dad....we all loved it.

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    1. I wondered what you guys ended up seeing. Sean mentioned "The Hobbit" as a possibility too.

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  4. I agree wholeheartedly with the first comment, ben. You cannot watch "I dreamed a dream" and NOT connect with it after what she has just experienced 5 minutes prior. Make your own decision, but if you miss this movie because of about 5 seconds of (mostly) tasteful crap, then I'm sorry for you. Though I do agree the Santa thing was completely pointless.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, you guys are definitely a persuasive bunch! Still haven't got the courage up to have the Santa talk with the kiddos. :)

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    2. So, since I am pretty unfamiliar with Les Mis, I now realize that the Santa reference you spoke about was not what I thought, sorry. ha.

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  5. Bravo, Ben! It takes guts to take a stand like this. And everyone who loved the movie is going to give you an earful...but we each must make a choice about how much of "the world" we are willing to allow into our hearts and minds.

    Personally, I remember watching the stage production, and being turned off by the master of the house scene, because unlike the other people watching with me, I DID see the crude gestures, even though they weren't happening center stage. I've seen the heartbreak. I know the story. I didn't feel like I needed nor had the desire to see it again. I know that there is great ugliness in the world, but I don't need to relive it to remember the lessons learned.

    I'd argue that we can receive the same lessons as we live our real lives...we don't need to see a movie about real life in order to understand about suffering and forgiveness. I have enough of that in my own life! If there is anything lovely or of good report or praiseworthy...we seek after these things, because it's just too easy to run into the opposite if we don't!

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    1. I remember really wanting to see Passion of the Christ but deciding not to see it. I had a friend who went back and forth and finally saw it, and was glad he did, but he said he never wanted to see it again.

      Often I wish I could see a certain movie, but end up not going - mostly because I'm too cheap to get a babysitter, but a few days later I'm over the fact that I missed out on a potentially good movie. This might be a similar situation.

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    2. Ah, yes, the babysitter excuse. Kids save us from ourselves sometimes! ;)

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  6. It seems to me that those worried about the sexuality in the movie overlook the inherent connection between sexuality and humanity. This movie was not a show glorifying sexuality. The scene with Fantine shows her deep pain at having lost everything--including control of her own body, in order to try to save her daughter's life. I wonder how those of you who would call that profane or overly sexual would have shown her humanity in the same way without the INNUENDO (which was all it was) would have accomplished that? The Master of the House scenes were bawdy, exactly what the place was. The director could have eliminated the racy scene with Santa without changing the meaning. But does a 3 second clip justify rejecting a movie that encourages people to revisit the importance of redemption, forgiveness, mercy vs. justice and God in their life? I say no. I see very few movies, less than 5 a year and have very high TV viewing standards; however, I do not believe that by avoiding good, inspiring movies because they expose the harsh realities. There is ugliness in the world, portrayed in many movies and TV shows, but this movie gives hope and in that matter alone it is worth seeing.

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    1. Amy, thanks for your thoughts. I guess, back to "The Catholic Girl" and her article, she mentioned that seeing it when it comes out on DVD would be a way to still receive all the good that the movie has to offer while avoiding those scenes which would make some people uncomfortable. Again, great comment, thanks.

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  7. I never saw the play but my sister and BIL did. I remember vividly their retelling of the production - I think we spent 2 hours around the dinner table - absolutely enthralled. My husband bought me the soundtrack and my kids and I would blare the music and dance to "Master of the House", but I'd always rush over and turn the volume down during the crude words. The music made a big impression on them. I missed the opportunity to see the production here in the south, but was excited to see the movie. I've been listening to my favorite song, "Confrontation" over and over again.

    But after reading your post, I'm not sure I want to go. I get what she's saying. Film is "in your face", and lurid details are not left to the imagination. I don't think you need the level of the film's explicitness to convey the pain and heartbreak of the story. I got that without seeing play or movie. Maybe I'll do as she suggests and rent it, then self-edit.

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    1. I really need to read the book, but I keep putting it off. My worry is sometimes things stick in my mind and I don't want them to. For some people this doesn't happen, so I can understand why they would have no problem seeing it. Thanks for the comment!

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  8. The story won't change, the message will be the same.

    It seems people easily reject things of great value because of one perceived flaw. If we were to make every decision based on a principle of absolute rejection due to supposed or actual imperfections then we wouldn't have friends, we wouldn't have jobs, we would read less and less, we would continually decrease what we watch on TV, movies, facebook, etc. We would become isolated and absolutely ignorant. When we see things as a whole and not as a part then we can make better decisions. Focusing on the movie as a whole and without having seen it, but from what I have read, I can easily say it has a positive footprint.

    If people are unable to absorb the negative truths portrayed in a non-gratuitous movie, maybe they are focusing too much on them or maybe they should just not say anything about it and self-edit and move on without being self-righteous. (The scripture she uses at the end could also be used by some as a reason to watch the movie. It states 'if there is anything worthy of praise' which, as a whole, could qualify this movie.)

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    1. Wonderful thoughts. My one question is this: at what point do all these imperfections in our lives really amount to something that we should steer away from? When do we stand up for what we think is right? As good messages are mixed with bad, it becomes a harder decision I feel. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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    2. I think it's when you, as a whole, are moving toward a negative footprint, then you need to stand up for yourself. If something, as a whole, is (or is moving) negative, then stand against it. It seems to me that standing against parts of a whole is self-righteous, but I do think self-editing at a personal, responsible level is important.

      As far as I can tell if we merely make decisions based on parts, for example, we will miss out on positive relationships (or movies) because they are imperfect.

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    3. Thanks for your comment. I think most people who stick up for things eventually get labeled with the "self-righteous" tag though.

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  9. Ben, I found your blog post after someone referred to it on facebook.

    I saw the movie the other day and I had a similar experience as The Catholic Wife. I understand that people get mad when some of us reject the whole because of parts that are unsavory to us, but the fact is that it is our choice. I am like you in that images stay with me and seeing the whole movie may not be worth having a lingering scene replay over and over. There have been comments here ridiculing those who focus on these scenes saying they (including myself) must be dirty people, but I contest that we all have different weaknesses and different challenges and if I know these challenges about myself and I choose to avoid them (when I am aware) I don't think that makes me a dirty person. Instead, it makes me a person who is trying to not be dirty. Would one ridicule an alcoholic for avoiding bars? I know some will scoff at this comparison, but those people don't know me or my struggles. They don't know my goals to remain pure - which I fail at all the time, but I refuse to give up on them. It's not easy. I find myself having to make this decision each time a movie comes out. I read Silver Linings Playbook and liked the story, but the movie came out and it's rated R. I was kind of upset and very tempted to see it anyway, but I know the potential the story has to have sexual scenes. Parts that were mentioned about one character's past could easily be played out in detail on screen. So I have decided not to see it. I kind of wish I had skipped Les Miserables. Most of it was amazing. Overall it was visually stunning and the cinematography was great, the story is epic. But in the end, it's not worth it to me to have those scenes replay in my head. I am not judging others who choose to watch it. My own mother loved it. And truthfully, when people ask me what I thought, I usually go into a big analysis of who sang well and who didn't and whose acting was amazing, etc. I'm almost ashamed to admit here that I rarely mention that I was offended or affected by those scenes. I guess I don't want to sound self-righteous or make others feel bad that they weren't bothered by any of that (I'm LDS living in a predominantly LDS population. I don't want people to feel I am comparing my faith to theirs). And maybe I don't want people to know that I have a specific challenge with those kind of visual images. I guess I wanted to comment here to say, bravo, for standing up for what you think is right. People will mock, but you have to do what is right for you and your family.

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    1. I appreciate your comments. I think the one thing that bothers me the most is that people will feel a sense of "judgement" or "self-righteousness" when an issue is brought up. I love seeing different people's perspectives and am fine allowing people to make their own choices without shelling out any unrighteous judgement. I personally just like to see how others make decisions and it's been helpful for me to make my own decisions as well. Really great perspective and thanks again for sharing.

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  10. Hey Ben the way that I figure out if I am going to see a movie that people find offensive is by going to this website. http://kids-in-mind.com This will break down the three biggest things as parents, and movie goers, you want to subject yourself, or let your kids see. How much Violence, Sex/Nudity, and Language is your limit.
    I personally think that there are Rated PG-13 movies that should be rated R and there are some rated R movies that should be PG-13. As a person all you need to do is educate yourself, and make your own decision. When I chose to see or not see a movie I just keep it to myself, and continue to try and make good choices. Making these choices, and teaching our kids is all we can do in this world. Educating those around us to make decisions that fit their lifestyle is also important, but we also need to let people make decisions and not judge them for it.

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    1. Spencer, great piece of advice. My wife and I have used that site for many years. It's definitely a great tool. Thanks for sharing!

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