Les Mis: A Crash Course

les mis a crash course.jpg

This April marked two years since I fell down the rabbit hole of Les Miserables, and by extension many other musicals. TWO YEARS. It feels like a long time ago. I’ve changed a lot since then. Les Mis became, and still is, a really important part of my life!

Thus, to mark the occasion I bring you my guide to Les Mis, for people who know nothing about Les Mis. I am currently listening to the musical and I am READY FOR THIS.

so what is it???

Les Mis refers to the book Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, covering a failed revolution and a reformed convict in 19th-century Paris, and its subsequent adaptations, most notably the Broadway/West End musical.

les misérables, the book

les miserables book

Our journey begins with the novel Les Misérables-with-the-e-acute novel by French author Victor Hugo, published in 1862. The main characters are:

  • Jean Valjean, an escaped convict leading a life of extreme coincidences. Stole a loaf of bread.
  • Javert, the policeman hunting him for breaking parole. He was born with scum like you. Lawful but…well. Misguided.
  • Fantine, a kind & lovely girl who got abandoned by this guy and ended up in prostitution.
  • Cosette, her blessed daughter and my wife. Sappy, but hates not being told stuff. Deserved better from the musical.
  • Marius Pontmercy, a rich boy who get thrown out by his family and then lives as a poor student in Paris. He’s an absolute nerd and he loves Cosette. One time he hit his head for two hours against a tree.
  • Eponine Thenardier, a girl born into a not good family but doing her absolute best to kick your ass and overcome her unrequited crush on Marius.
  • Also some students called Les Amis de l’ABC. If you’ve seen the musical, you’ll probably only know their leader, Enjolras. (He’s the guy in red.) However, if you go into the book internet fandom, you’ll probably find it focuses more around these students. If you only know the musical you probably haven’t heard of them, but never fear. I’ll cover them in more detail later.

It’s a pretty long book, but I do think if you love Les Mis then it’s worth it! Lots of people call it The Brick due to…well, its very brick-like nature as a book. (That is to say, it’s very long.) Other things you might need to know are the Infamous Waterloo Section, which is an essentially an essay about Waterloo,  and the time that Valjean broke out of a convent in a grave. There are many different translations, ranging from modern (Donougher, ose) to old-timey but free (Hapgood). You can even do a Les Mis tour of Paris in which you visit the original sites. DON’T WORRY, I’M COMING TO THE STUDENTS.

les amis de l’abc

Yeah, I’m giving them a separate section because I LOVE THESE KIDS. The main things you need to know are that they have an extremely minimal/sometimes even non-existent part in the musical and…still quite a comparatively small part in the book. HOWEVER THEY ARE VERY IMPORTANT SYMBOLICALLY. (Or so I hear.)

Anyway. They all like jokes, and their name is a French pun (for l’abaisse which is apparently like the abased/degraded, thanks internet). They have so many French puns. I don’t even understand them most of the time. From the sometimes few information Victor Hugo gives us, the fandom has sort of interpreted personalities, which somehow absorb into one’s brain through Collective Fandom Knowledge, which is pretty epic.

  • Enjolras, who as Victor Hugo goes to great pains to tell us about is Very Very Handsome. His girlfriend is France. (I’m telling you. This is a canon joke.)
  • Combeferre is very chill, but will outsmart you. His main book attribute is just be SUPER SMART.
  • Courfeyrac sometimes acts like a douchebag but has a good heart. (This part is also actually canon. Maybe paraphrased, but.) Probably would be the lead singer of an indie band if he was alive today. Ray of annoying sunshine. These first three make up the ‘triumvirate’, which seems to basically just be a fancy word for group of 3.
  • Grantaire, the drunk cynic who goes on long drunk rants about intellectual things that I don’t understand. In unrequited love with Enjolras. (I don’t want to spoil you, and you know, interpretation and all, but there are some pretty gay moments.)
  • Jean Prouvaire, or Jehan, is the shy poet who actually has Many Opinions, probably would wear a flower crown.
  • Bahorel, who would probably either get in a fight or do other dumb stuff for the memes.
  • Feuilly, an optimistic orphan who works super hard. (Not actually a student, but still part of the group.)
  • Bossuet, whose name is based on another obscure French joke and can’t grow any hair. Always smiling but has terrible luck. Also known as Lesgle, L’aigle de Meaux… I mean, I don’t eve know how we got here.
  • Joly, a hypochondriac medical student who is a cinnamon roll.
  • Musichetta, a ‘superb and literary girl’ whom Joly is wild over. She can wreck you.
  • Oh yeah, Marius is also part of this gang but he’s definitely not the leader as the musical suggests. He’s a TERRIBLE revolutionary.

Excuse me whilst I feel a bit emotional here. This hasn’t included Eponine, Gavroche, and Cosette, who I sometimes group with them just for ease even if they’re not technically of the ABC, but OH WELL. MY KIDS. ;-; And just for good measure, here is an amusing post of “Les Amis as stuff the students living next door to me have done”.

les mis, the musical

les mis musical.png

This is probably the more well-known and accessible form of Les Mis. It’s a very popular sung-through musical now, but when it was released the critics were like OMG NO IT’S TOO SAPPY AND TRAGIC. I Dreamed a Dream and Do You Hear the People Sing? are among the best-known songs. The Confrontation, a duet between Valjean and Javert, is also very much a jam in my personal opinion. However, the musical does cut a lot of the book, in particular Les Amis, the details of Valjean’s life and Cosette being an absolute badass.

Some things you should know about various different forms and productions:

  • The original French concept version is SUPER different and even features a…disco version of Red and Black? Which is pretty hilarious to be honest.
  • Original cast is rad. I would recommend.
  • Other cool things to watch/listen to are 10th anniversary and 25th anniversary, although a word of warning: Nick Jonas plays Marius is 25th anniversary and he is nOT GOOD.
  • The 2012 movie made the musical a lot easier to follow than just listening to a cast album, which is great! Personally I think that after listening to cast recordings, the musical singing definitely isn’t as good *coughs*Javert*coughs* but you can get a solid idea of the story. (I saw this before I saw anything else.) I actually think Eddie Redmayne is a solid Marius. Sadly they cut some parts from the musical, but. Grantaire has a veeery small part in this but his actor George Blagden appears to be, like, a complete Les Mis nerd? which I still find amazing? (Like, is that an Enjolras/Grantaire fansong on Youtube? IS IT??)
  • It did produce this TRULY EXCELLENT VIDEO, which I am just going to embed for good measure:
  • I’ve also listened to some of a Spanish version, Los Miserables and I liked it a lot! I still think this version or Red and Black is super excellent. (I’ve fallen into the hole of watching Les Mis in different languages, and now I’m watching Daniel Diges in Les Mis Brasil? I mean, who even knows anymore.
  • I haven’t watched many Les Mis Broadway things since of course I’m nearer to the West End production, but this performance at the Tonys is wonderful! I particularly think Eponine, Marius, Enjolras, and Valjean are great. ❤ (That was like…half the people haha. THEY’RE ALL GREAT.)
  • There’s probably a lot more stuff I could say, to be honest, and I will undoubtedly regret not putting something in later, but OH WELL. Here’s an In The Heights/Les Mis mashup.

tv series???

Last year the BBC announced they were making a (non-musical) Les Mis miniseries, written by Andrew Davies, and in February this year he stated that he had just finished writing the first draft. It’s due to air next year, and for one I am very interested to see what it comes up with! I even wrote about the stuff I’d love to see them put in if you want to check it out. 😉 Other Les Mis-related content of mine includes a Jehan cosplay tutorialLes Mis v Hamilton fandom battle, and the Les Mis book tag.

There are, of course, many other adaptations, including several movies, radio plays, and TV series, and it’s very easy to fall into the hole of internet searching. As you can perhaps see by my myriad of links and 1.5k post on this topic. (Me, a Les Mis fan? I mean, maybe a bit.)

do you like musicals? what do you think about les mis? is there a particular fandom which is important to you?

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Feminism, Fangirls and the Fandom

feminism fangirls fandom

I am a really big advocate of all things fandom. I love to be a fan, and I love to talk to other fans, and I love fanfic. In short: I love being excited about things! I didn’t always know what fandom was – for me now, being active in the fandom is not just liking something, but liking something and connecting with other people about it. (Probably over the internet, but not necessarily.)

Fandom has not just been about discovering the community. It’s more than the actual fandoms themselves: although I’m pretty new to everything, it’s essentially been my doorway into learning more about feminism and diversity and current issues. It’s really interesting to look at the demographics of the fandom in comparison to that of the characters in fanworks.

Personally, I feel as though the fandom – through the way I experience it – is largely women. But I often see articles saying talking about being a girl geek as though we’re in a minority? Maybe this used to be more true; I’m not sure. (And sadly I don’t have a TARDIS.) Is a fangirl different to a fan or a geek or a nerd? I don’t feel like it should be, but in my mind it’s more closely linked with someone…kind of like Cath Avery. And also maybe like me. I thought this was just my brain, but it seems like it’s true that the creators of fanworks (I’m kind of using this to talk about fanfic, art, edits, podfic, all that kind of thing) are mostly female.

The gender disparity is really, really wide when it comes to fanwork creation. It’s quite unusual for me to see a fanartist, writer, or blogger who isn’t female. I mean, It’s difficult for me to talk about fandom as an entire entity because at it is essentially ‘I like something and I participate on the internet about it’, and I am definitely not capable of collecting statistics for the entire internet. But as someone young and new in the fandom, the concept of ‘fan’ as a male role bemuses me because coming into the fandom in recent years I’ve never experienced it that way.

Do I think we shouldn’t call ourselves fangirls? For a while, I thought that it was kind of a negative term, but it can better to change those views than the actual word itself. Although some fans might get on your nerves, that’s not everyone! I find that in most part people who call fangirls stupid etc. don’t tend to be part of the fandom. I’m happy to call myself a fangirl. However, even within the fandom I think there’s negativity towards people who are quite fierce in their shipping. (Also: I keep trying to find a place to put this stat, but I haven’t found it yet. Apparently most slash shippers are LGBTQ+, which admittedly was not something I had thought. It feels like there’s an idea they’re mostly straight?)

Even as I say that the creators of the fandom are predominantly women, the subjects of their works are usually men. It’s a really strange relationship. Probably because it’s strange how mainstream media is populated by white men… I mean, fic is even more overwhelmingly male than actual published fiction. Fic is still remixing something already there, and what’s already there tends to be men.

I have a lot of strong feelings about fanfiction. I would happily give a fully PowerPoint-ed presentation explaining why it is an excellent thing. There’s this idea that it’s all terrible and terribly written, and whilst there are some maybe less good examples, they’re not the only fics out there. There are also trashy books, in case you hadn’t noticed. (I like some fics more than books. I admit it.) And one of the things that I enjoy the most about fic is the diversity, because I kind of end up wanting everyone to be queer and that can definitely happen in fic.

The spectrum of diversity and representation in fandom is really varied. In canon queer elements tend to stay in subtext a lot; even though there’s starting to be more representation of LGBTQ+ characters and same-sex relationships in mainstream media, it’s still not…that much. Whereas most fanfiction on AO3 features a non-straight couple.

RETURNING TO MY POINT. I love fanfiction because people write pieces that are both diverse and well-written. You can find awesome fics about queer characters that both a) don’t erase their queerness or struggles and b) have excellent plots and writing. can we have this in books as well pls Or you can even write it yourself! But, I mean, whilst fic can have a really diverse cast in relation to sexualities, there are less fics with characters who are any gender other than male. If you go into the Archive of Our Own tags and plug the numbers into a calculator, the ratio of f/f to m/m is about 2:15. Which is a lot. There was a great conversation on Twitter about LGBTQ+ characters in YA fiction and the media — about the fetishization of m/n/, and the lack of f/f — which is also very true for fanfiction. And here is another post about queer girls as a cautionary tale in literature, including some stuff about the fandom. Fic isn’t without its problems.

I love the fandom. I am ever-grateful to it. It would be nice if fanfiction and books could help each other out over a nice cup of tea — the only way to do it, darling — and then I can find even more things to be excited about than before.

September Favourites!

September Favourites

September has gone by already! Each day seems to inch by, but by the time it’s gone it feels like it was a breeze. And IT’S OFFICIALLY AUTUMN! (Or Fall, if you prefer.) September has really been key in the latest rebirth of my blog, which is a sort of book-writing-thoughts mix as far as I can see. I’ve also made some amazing new blogger buddies! ❤

1. & 2. Multiple editions of Fangirl, and Noelle Stevenson I got the collector’s edition of Fangirl for my birthday, which is the third edition I own (I also have the eBook). And seriously, guys, it’s awesome. The cover folds put to become a neat poster, there’s a metallic illustration of Simon and Baz under the dust jacket, and there’s even a special message to British readers in the back. Which brings me onto my next point: Nimona, the comic written by Noelle Stevenson of aforementioned cover-illustrating-awesomeness, came to an end on Tuesday. *cries* Oh, the feels!

3. Fandom life As represented by my Carry On, Simon t-shirt which is stunningly similar to the one worn by Cath from Fangirl. (Yes, again.) This month was the month where I linked up with other fandom people and actually discovered what it means to be in a fandom – which is, to say, scrolling through amusing gifs, quotes and fan art when I really should be doing my homework.

4. Clockwork Princess OH MY GOSH THIS WAS AWESOME EVEN THOUGH I FEEL KIND OF GUILTY LIKING IT BUT IT WAS STILL AWESOME. ‘Nuff said.

5. Heroes of Olympus I’m in the process of re-reading the series in anticipation of Blood of Olympus, which comes out on the 7th. When I read House of Hades, I had kind of forgotten the plot completely, so this time around I thought I’d be prepared.

6. A new fountain pen That’s actually just a picture of the box, since the pen was in my pencil case, but I thought I’d put it in there anyway. It may look like an oversized crayon, but it’s a lot nicer to write with than my last one. Plus, no one will mistake it for their own, since I don’t think anyone has a pen of this brand. To be honest, I’ve never seen a pen from this brand anywhere, let alone at school, which is very partial towards biros and LAMYs.

7. Strepsils Okay, okay, they’re not actually Strepsils, but who cares? It’s like hoover, or sellotape. You just call the item by the brand name. Anyway, I had a cold and cough last week so these were life-savers. They didn’t even taste that bad.

8. Heir of Fire (not pictured) I actually forgot to photograph this, but I had to come back and put it in. It’s the third book in the Throne of Glass series and it was EXPLOSIVE. Thumbs up from me.

That’s it for my September favourites! Do you think I should continue with my monthly favourites? How was your month?