Guest post: why you shouldn’t watch the latest movie version of ‘Les Miserables’

This is a guest post by H_nu. H_nu is a research scientist with a PhD in one of the physical sciences, and a love for quality literature. He describes himself as more conservative than Mormon, and has little patience with Mormons In Name Only. He finds internet Mormons quirky, because they are intolerant of those they consider intolerant. His favorite word is hypocrisy, and expects this post to garner some.

Cautionary Subtitles: Spoiler Alert. Adult Material Alert.

I’ll admit I’m completely conflicted about this blog post. I’ve been thinking about this for the last three days, having watched the movie on Wednesday night. I have never watched the stage production, and was only aware of the of the content by listening to the British cast recording, reading Victor Hugo’s book, watching the 25 year Anniversary special, and the 1998 film adaptation. I was familiar with the “adult content”, and thought the apparent good of the film would overcome the “adult content”.

I was quite prepared to sweep away much of the “adult content” as something I would choose to see, and choose to disregard, or even forgive. Therefore, I won’t write about them. There were two scenes which I consider “over-the-top”, and while a full-description will not be given, even a cursory outline is overly adult. I apologize for that, but I feel the number of Saints who could be spared the harm that this film can cause outweighs the harm they’d have in reading further. Make your choice now, don’t blame me if you read further.

The first is the prostitution scene of Fantine. In previous versions, (such as the 1998 film adaptation), it is clear that Fantine is a prostitute, and that was the level I was expecting. In the 2012 version, the actual prostitution act is portrayed. Sure, it can be described as “clothes-on” sex, but it was certainly a depiction that troubled me, a 30-year-old, happily married man. I recognize that one is NOT supposed to enjoy, or be happy about this scene, that we are supposed to empathize with, and pity Fantine, but the scene was done in poor taste, nonetheless. I did not realize it was going to be that graphic, and felt a warning was in order for those unsure about this. In other words, a PG-13 rating was too soft, and a R-rating was definitely warranted.

The second scene was that of a portrayal of a quasi-salvation-army Santa Claus with a prostitute during “Master-of-the-House”. Everyone who’s listened to that song, knows the subject matter, but again, the portrayal of “clothes-on sex” was in poor taste. In addition, I’m under the impression that the Santa part is an addition, an unnecessary anti-religious slam.

I should note that there were marvelous parts to the movie. The story is still immortal, and uplifting. Anne Hatheway did do a marvelous job, and Jean Val Jean’s passing was quite beautiful and emotional. It was not a waste, and I’m definitely conflicted about my final recommendation. But I also know that those scenes crossed a line and drove the Spirit of God away from me. It didn’t make me want to go out and hire a prostitute, but rather, I became aware that I deserved better than to take such filth into myself.

That’s why I’m writing this post. Not as a judgment against those who produced or filmed this movie, or those who watch and enjoyed it, or those who recommend it to others (I’ll leave all judgment of persons to God). But rather as a warning to those who are conflicted, who don’t know if it’ll cross the line of propriety. I usually consider myself quite permissive in the entertainment I’ll partake of, but this crossed my line, and felt a warning would be in order to other Mormons.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

110 thoughts on “Guest post: why you shouldn’t watch the latest movie version of ‘Les Miserables’

  1. Note to readers: please do not employ the usual Mormon blog tactic of attacking H_nu if you disagree with his opinion. Such comments will be deleted. If you disagree, make an actual argument. For example:

    I disagree with H_nu. I agree that these scenes are alarming, and personally I wouldn’t take kids under 13 to see this movie. This is a very gritty, tough movie with very, very dark scenes. It is, after all, called “The Miserable Ones.” So you should expect to see some misery.

    But it is also a hugely uplifting movie with amazing scenes, especially the opening scene and the last scene of Jean Valjean’s death. I think the admittedly clothes-on sex scenes are shocking but appropriate. Just my opinion.

  2. I have not seen it yet. Knowing about the clothed sex scenes, I will probably wait until it is on DVD, so I can fast forward through the two scenes, and enjoy the movie. Sad we must do such things, but I’m glad to have the option of waiting.

  3. I will disagree with your overall take. Les Misérables (2012) was one of the best films I have ever seen, and I don’t say that lightly. Yes, there were a couple short moments that were graphic (they could have been a lot worse), but the story, the film, the acting, the music, and the message portrayed in the film were stunning and one of the best enactments of the story I’ve ever seen. Russell Crowe left quite a bit wanting in the vocal department, but the rest of the cast was phenomenal.

    The Passion of the Christ (2004) was vastly more graphic than this film, rated R, yet Robert L. Millet, emeritus Dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University and highly respected Church scholar, saw the film and noted “it was a beautiful experience.”

    Les Misérables was likewise a beautiful experience for me, and I wept several times throughout the film. As a favorite story and musical of many Church leaders such as President Thomas S. Monson, I would not be surprised if many of them see this film.

    If there was ever a movie I could recommend most heartily to my fellow Mormons, it would be Les Misérables. The message of the story is powerful in its redemption, forgiveness, strength, hope, faith, mercy, charity, and love. And this depiction is one of the best ever made.

  4. While I lean toward’s Geoff’s opinion, I respect anyone and everyone who will refuse to see a movie because of graphic or sexual content. Far too few take that stand, and I admire it. So I encourage anyone with your position to stick to it, even while I don’t hold it myself.

  5. …but I’m glad to have the option of waiting.

    As opposed to having your eyelids forced open while you are bound to a chair, à la A Clockwork Orange?

  6. I can’t comment on the movie because I have not seen it, yet (plan to go tomorrow).

    I do find it interesting, however, how quickly the Spirit ‘flees’ from some people much quicker than for others. I remember how a counselor in our bishopric a few years ago pulled me aside to say that an older sister in the ward said she could not feel the spirit during the Sacrament because my son’s hair was too long. I kid you not.

  7. Sonny, if you want people to feel the Spirit you should spell your moniker with a “U,” rather than an “O.” Stop causing the Spirit to flee!

  8. “I’m under the impression that the Santa part is an addition, an unnecessary anti-religious slam.” hmmm. I haven’t seen the film, but I wonder about this statement.

    I will say though that I support H_nu’s decision to avoid similarly graphic films in the future because he felt uncomfortable in them. I think eveyone has a different threshold. I can see some really graphic things before it bothers me, but I do have a point where the line is crossed for me. If my impression is that a movie will cross that line, I won’t go see it. And I think it behooves every church member to be self-aware enough to know their tolerance level and have integrity for it.

  9. A few more comments. The two “scenes” noted make up a total of about 5 seconds within the more than two and a half hour film. As such, they are not actually “scenes” at all, but brief elements within much larger scenes. Hence, you can’t “fast forward” through them. They aren’t that type of “scene.” They pass as quickly as they begin, and again, could have been much much worse.

    This was far from an R rated film, in my view. R rated films today usually contain total nudity (none here that I recall) and repeated heavy profanity (I think there is one swear word in “Master of the House”), and glamorizes both. There is violence in Les Mis, because of the gun fights during the Revolution, but it is no where near the gore that is standard fare in Hollywood, showing murder for the sake of the viewer’s thrill. The producers were true to the story of Les Mis, without glamorizing the dark parts. “Clothes-off sex” would have been R fare, and unnecessary for the story line.

    I feel that sometimes, as members of the Church, we tend to neglect or flat out reject the awesome good of an ocean because of a single drop of bad water. Too soon we forget that we cannot appreciate the good if there is a complete vacuum of bad (2 Nephi 2:23; 2 Nephi 2:11; 2 Nephi 2:15). If we never know the bitter, we can not know the sweet (D&C 29:39; Moses 6:55). Even bad things can have good ends (D&C 122:7). God created our world knowing well that there would be evil in it, but he allowed it so that we could be free agents and choose the good over the evil. But that doesn’t mean we will never encounter evil, that there will never be a minor chord in a symphony, never a bitter herb in a meal, that darkness does not have its time of day, or that death should never happen. These things are for our ultimate good.

    The exceptionally short “depiction” of Fantine as a prostitute was a necessary dark point on one hand to counter the vastly superior dream she had seen in vision on the other hand, and to emphasize the stark difference between the two, that there is an exalted high opposed to a horrifically debased low. Her dream would not have been much of one without the comparison of her depraved condition, which again, was not emphasized, or glamorized, or drawn out. Fantine’s life as a prostitute was depicted in perhaps the best “taste” I’ve ever seen in a movie.

    The “Santa” moment was a cutaway of all of 2 seconds, and I actually forgot about it until reading the OP. There are many nasty things that happen at the Thénardier’s place, to show the wretched conditions Cosette was living in, as well as the depravity of the French proletariat of the time period. But what would Les Misérables be without the Thénardiers? How good could any story be full of protagonists without an antagonist? We could, of course, water down all of the negative aspects of stories to nothingness, gloss over their impact and influence, or remove them altogether, but I conceive that such an undertaking would actually degrade the overall goodness of the whole.

    I perceive focusing on these two extremely short elements within Les Misérables is quite myopic, and is missing the beautiful forest for a couple dead trees. In fact, it can do more harm than good to make a razor sharp focus on such minor darkness, without realizing and recognizing the countering abundance of glorifying light.

    The warning to Mormons should be that this film does a fantastic job of depicting one of the greatest moral stories of all time, warts and all, and there is much good to be learned from it, as the prophets and apostles have used its examples for teaching gospel principles many times.

  10. I’m curious if anyone’s level of tolerance towards PG13 or R rated material has changed over the past fifteen years. In that time we’ve seen an explosion in the amount of erotic content everywhere on the internet, even mainstream news outlets. Coverage of, for example, the Miss Universe pageant, which I saw around a few weeks ago features what would be considered PG or PG13 rated content. But because the overt sexuality of the contestants was the entire raison d’etre, I find it is much more erotically charged than say a typical Rated R sex scene, which does not have overt pornographic intent.

    Does anyone else find that the PG13 kinkiness of Hollywood, advertizing, news outlets and music videos are actually more sexually charged than R Rated content? In my experience PG13 corresponds more to fantasy, commercial eroticism, airbrushed titilation, and R corresponds more to graphic reality, less erotic because nudity is less erotic than semi-clothed, and a graphic sex scene is less erotic than a suggestive, fantasy-like one. If Les Mis had been rated R, it might have been less erotic, because it would have been more graphic, and less of a suggestive tease. It might make you feel more uncomfortable, but isn’t that better than turning you on within your comfort zone? It’s like the hypocrisy of the public reaction to Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. No one complains that before the malfunction, she was dancing in an extremely erotic and suggestive way. But everyone is horrified when they see the very un-erotic boob pop out, just like the moms everywhere on the front row of sacrament meeting.

  11. Perhaps a better title for H_nu’s post should have been “Why I shouldn’t have watched the latest movie version of ‘Les Miserables’”
    I have long loved the Les Miserables story in all of its various forms, including the book, several old movie versions, and the stage production. I looked forward with great anticipation to this new version, and was not disappointed. I will respect H_nu’s opinion about the few seconds of prostitution and sex, but the implication in the title is that his decision should probably stand for all LDS members. Fantine’s prostitution came about because of Jean Valjean’s neglect and distraction over Javert, and in spite of ValJean’s compassionate concern over what happens to his workers if he suddenly has to leave town and flee. It’s an important step in the evolution of the story, and his eventual redemption and triumph over self. ValJean’s sin of omission unnecessarily furthered the poverty and degradation that Fantine and Cosette suffered. It was part of his decision to declare his true identity to the court, and spare the freedom of an innocent victim.

    PG-13 for a reason, but still a very positive and spiritual/emotional experience for me.

  12. I don’t watch PG-13 movies for my own reasons, mostly too personal to share here. But as I have taken that stance for over half my life, and had to put up with a lot of grief for it (moreso now as an adult) I would like to engage a few thoughts. I’m taking Bryce’s quotes, because they are articulate, but they represent fairly common thoughts.

    “The two “scenes” noted make up a total of about 5 seconds within the more than two and a half hour film. . . . They pass as quickly as they begin, and again, could have been much much worse.”

    I think you were saying this, Bryce, as a warning, but I’m going to take its meaning in the larger picture. I can’t tell you how many times people have tried to convince me to watch a movie because the bad parts weren’t that bad, or were fairly short, or were mixed in with good parts.

    That is poor reasoning. One fly in the soup is still one fly, no matter how small.

    “I feel that sometimes, as members of the Church, we tend to neglect or flat out reject the awesome good of an ocean because of a single drop of bad water.”

    I find unmitigated good in so many places. It’s true that there may be nuggets of gold tucked away in the slime and muck, but why go panning when there is gold sitting out in the open all around you?

    “Too soon we forget that we cannot appreciate the good if there is a complete vacuum of bad . . . . If we never know the bitter, we can not know the sweet . . . . ”

    Conversely, the world IS certainly filled with evil. We don’t have to pay to see it. I think that by doing that, by paying time and again to watch things we wouldn’t want to see if they were live in the room right in front of us, we desensitize ourselves to evil, and have a harder time detecting it in real life.

    “Fantine’s life as a prostitute was depicted in perhaps the best “taste” I’ve ever seen in a movie.”

    Is it tasteful, really? I’ve not seen the movie, I’m speaking to broader principles here, but tastefully depicting prostitution is like beautifully arranging manure. Do I think that all mention of it should be scrubbed from life? Heavens, no. But I also don’t need to pay to learn about it. Sadly, it exists in sufficient quantities in real life. I’d rather retain the ability to notice such things HERE, and succor real life pain. Perhaps I’m simply imaginative enough on my own, and don’t need someone else depicting such things for me.

    “I perceive focusing on these two extremely short elements within Les Misérables is quite myopic, and is missing the beautiful forest for a couple dead trees.”

    I can completely understand if other people don’t adopt my standards of entertainment. Mine are rather strict. But I have a BIG problem with people telling me that by not indulging in such entertainment I am “myopic” and “missing the forest for the trees.” I simply prefer to focus on the real dead trees and real beauty than spend my resources watching someone’s characterization of it.

    “The prophets and apostles have used its examples for teaching gospel principles many times.”

    Which is fine. I don’t define my standards by what other people do. I work it out between myself and my God, and appreciate when people give me the freedom to do so without either glorifying it or denouncing it.

    Again, I’m not saying that you, Bryce, are intending to do that. But I think some of the phrasing you have chosen illustrates a common thread of pressure towards those who choose to not partake in entertainment. At its core, entertainment is a luxury. There is nothing necessary in it to fulfill the life of a disciple. I think those of us who profess to be disciples would do well to keep that in our thoughts before we judge those who have stricter standards than our own. Is that not what rankles us at the comportment of many of those in the LDS blogging world?

  13. That is poor reasoning. One fly in the soup is still one fly, no matter how small.

    I would suggest that yours is “poor reasoning” in a sense. An LDS senator recently was arrested for DUI. Should his “fly in the soup” poison the world’s perception of the LDS church, or be more important than the good that church does? Of course not.

    I’ve not seen the movie, I’m speaking to broader principles here, but tastefully depicting prostitution is like beautifully arranging manure. Do I think that all mention of it should be scrubbed from life? Heavens, no. But I also don’t need to pay to learn about it.

    Brigham Young taught that we should not only learn about good and its consequences, but also evil and its consequences. The prostitution of Fantine is a lesson in evil, which is immediately countered by a truly beautiful lesson in mercy and compassion, as demonstrated by Jean Valjean.

    Just a couple thoughts.

  14. I have two reactions to this.

    I used to home teach a man who became sexually aroused by the woman’s lingerie department at WalMart. He found that walking past displays of bras and panties turned him on, and he was convinced that this was evidence of the encroachment of the world on our morals. Imagine, ladies underwear right out there on open display! I told him that if that was really the case, he should definitely NOT walk past the woman’s lingerie department. However, that doesn’t mean that we should make this a universal standard for everybody, and I think his particular kink reveals more about him that it does about the way that the layout of department stores is undermining our morality.

    I was reading a book the other day, and it was absolutely filled with filth. Fornication, adultery, murder, homosexuality, incest, the slaughter of children, and perversions of every imaginable kind. It was called The Holy Bible, King James version. I think that book is inspired, and I think the evil it depicts is there on purpose, to show us the contrast with the power of redemption. In short, I think I agree with Bryce Haymond’s argument.

  15. In reply to SilverRain,

    “That is poor reasoning. One fly in the soup is still one fly, no matter how small.”

    Yes, but rejecting the whole bowl of soup because of some minor imperfections in it is also poor reasoning. It’s throwing the baby out with the bath water. You can get rid of a lot of good by disposing of all that has any bad. It’s fundamentalism.

    “It’s true that there may be nuggets of gold tucked away in the slime and muck, but why go panning when there is gold sitting out in the open all around you?”

    Most of the time gold is not sitting out on the open ground, waiting to be picked up. It must be mined deep in the earth and refined of its impurities and imperfections to become a valuable asset.

    “Conversely, the world IS certainly filled with evil. We don’t have to pay to see it.”

    True, but you can miss a lot of goodness if you can’t bare any evil. One might reason to not attend General Conference in the Conference Center simply because you have to walk through the hordes of foul-mouthed anti’s. That is not productive logic.

    “Is it tasteful, really?”

    I didn’t say it was tasteful. I said it was it was depicted in the “best taste” I’ve seen in similar circumstances. Most of the time Hollywood just bares it all, and is much more graphic.

    “But I have a BIG problem with people telling me that by not indulging in such entertainment I am ‘myopic’ and ‘missing the forest for the trees.’”

    You can indulge in whatever entertainment you want, SilverRain. But I do feel that there is much to be lost by focusing on extreme details at the loss of a panoramic view.

    In reply that prophets and apostles use Les Mis as an example of gospel principles, “Which is fine. I don’t define my standards by what other people do. I work it out between myself and my God…”

    This sounds like a fundamentalist notion. You don’t define your standards by what prophets and apostles teach?

    “At its core, entertainment is a luxury. There is nothing necessary in it to fulfill the life of a disciple.”

    What I said does not pertain solely to entertainment. Someone might reject the Book of Mormon outright because it contains a few verses of warfare, murder, death, sin, fornication, speeches by anti-Christs, or otherwise “evil” things. Is that reasonable?

  16. I agree completely with Bryce. However, I might go even further. The prostitution scene (and here again, it was extremely brief) was not a blight on an otherwise good movie. It was a positive good. It was part of the beauty of the movie and added to the powerful good impact of the movie. Yes it was revolting. But that is the point. It is not evil to depict evil for what it is–evil. The movie does not gorify evil. It is not titillating. I walked out of the movie despising the evil I saw and wanting to be more effective at combatting it. That is the ultimate test for me. To suggest that the Spirit of God is so fragile that it flees when evil is shown for what it is strikes me as a very strange idea. God is a witness to these evils all the time, and they are not just artistic depictions. I don’t believe that he runs away and hides from them as if that somehow makes anything better.

  17. If you will please allow me one more comment.

    It is very interesting to me how we LDS people respond to a movie filled with soul-crushing poverty, where the theft of bread to feed his sister’s family lands a man in prison for years, and where a dog eat dog economy leaves an impoverished woman with no other option than to rent out her body to disgusting men. This movie shows us over and over and over, in painful and excruciating detail, what it means to “grind the faces of the poor”. And yet, what do we find obscene and objectionable? Ten seconds of fully-clothed, simulated sex!

  18. I like this advice from Linda and Richard Eyre:

    They’re speaking about how silly the movie rating system is, and then go on to praise a handful of movies with some definite questionable content. They describe them as “wonderful movies with powerful moral messages and true heroes like ‘Schindler’s List’ or ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ or the current ‘The King’s Speech.’

    They then go on to give a specific example of WHY they like these movies.

    “Adultery, for example, when accurately (but not graphically) presented as an element in a drama, complete with its dilemmas and consequences, can have a positive effect on its readers or viewers, inducing thoughtfulness, caution and sensitivity.”

    They point out that, obviously, not all non-graphic adultery shown on the big screen does that, and that there’s an enormous difference between the two types.

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700100381/Why-we-hate-movie-ratings.html?pg=all

    Frankly, I really like the point Linda and Richard Eyre make. I like the positive effects certain movies make on me, despite the fact that some might see some of the content as questionable. I’m a better person after watching some of these shows. And I don’t watch movies before getting an idea of what they’re about, so I know what I’m getting into.

    This from someone who hasn’t seen Schindler’s List or the King’s Speech (although I probably should) and who watched the TV version of “Shawshank Redemption” even though the unedited version was lying, plastic wrap still on, in the very house I was watching it in.

    That being said, I’m not in any rush to see Les Mis. Why? Because I’ve seen the London production, which was the best theater/musical I’ve ever seen. I don’t have much interest in seeing a copycat production after that. :)

  19. And Gary gets to the point much more quickly and effectively than I do.

    “I walked out of the movie despising the evil I saw and wanting to be more effective at combating it.”

    Precisely.

  20. Ha ha, Who Knew! Perfect description!

    Mormons who watch PG13 and R rated movies go to such great lengths and expend such energy and passion in the pursuit of rationalizing their choice. I myself argued with my friends and family for years over my choice to watch R rated movies. Endless sermons about how inspiring and uplifting Shindler’s List is, about how vicariously suffering through the sins of another in a film, one becomes more like Christ, etc. etc.

    But I think I’ve reached a new conclusion about all of this: all the virtue we ascribe to these incredible films is overrated. This is simple entertainment. It’s not going to change your life, no matter how great or inspiring it is. If Silverain doesn’t want to see Les Mis, she will be no worse for the wear. Art is amazing and inspiring, but in the end, it’s just art, and if you think about it, it won’t have any long term consequences on your immortal soul. A pitfall many R-rated rationalizes have is over-blowing the virtue of great art. It’s just escapism, amazingly inspired escapism. We even feel sorry for those who can’t experience it because of their small-minded prejudices.

    I like what Silverain says about staying in the real world. There is too much escapism around us, we are addicted to it, and Les Mis is the absolute epitome of escapism. A musical? A period film? A film shamelessly tugging at all your heartstrings? We go to escape, and be wrapped up in positive, life-affirming emotions. All well and good, but that never lasts.

    People who think they have had a life-changing experience after seeing a work of art are on dangerous ground. They are very close to making art their religion, and it’s a poor substitute. If you knew Victor Hugo the man, you would understand.

    Best to go for the entertainment, the escapism, the quick fix. I watch Rated R movies because I like the raw grittiness of it, the violence, the voyeurism, the shock and thrill of all the colorful language. But I recognize it for what it is: a drug, an escape, a potential addiction which one must keep at bay and use just for moderation, for relaxation, enjoyment, after which, you have to get back to real life.

    Watching endless reruns of Pulp Fiction or Les Mis is not much different. In the end, they are both escapism, and you need to get back into the real world because both are distracting you too much.

  21. Nate, I’m not sure what you mean by “if you knew Victor Hugo the man.” Are you making a positive observation about him, or a negative one? Just a tidbit: Jean ValJean’s intervention to rescue Fantine from jail is autobiographical. Hugo observed a prostitute being similarly accused, and played the “don’t you know who I am?” card to prevent her from being taken to jail. He saw to it that she was given medical care, etc.

    The novel, of course, was initially banned for many years as alleged “socialist propaganda.” Writing about the plight of the poor wasn’t taken kindly by the elite of Hugo’s time.

  22. “I’m under the impression that the Santa part is an addition, an unnecessary anti-religious slam.”

    How on earth did you arrive to this conclusion? I saw the Santa part as both irony and showing how evil the “Master of the House” really was. It was ironic because here is “Old Saint Nick”, this mythical figure who is supposed to personify benevolence and goodness who is instead drinking and getting it on with a prostitute. It also went to show how degenerate the “Master of the House” and his establishment really were; not even Santa, who is supposed to be pure goodness, is immune from his corrupting vices. I didn’t take it to be anti-religious in the slightest.

    As for the Fantine scene, I will quote Richard Dutcher, who knows a thing or two about Mormonism and cinema: “It is better to tell an R-rated truth than a G-rated lie.” The Santa-prostitute scene was unnecessary. It served no purpose in the end other than to shock audiences by showing Santa and a prostitute. But the Fantine-prostitute scene was, I believe, totally necessary to truly impart to the viewer just how much she had to sacrifice to support her daughter. It was a splash of cold water to wake up the viewer to her situation.

    I also agree with the sentiment expressed above. The Holy Ghost is strong enough to stay in the presence of evil, if we are using that moment to draw closer to God, learn from opposition, and learn how to recognize and respond to evil in our lives around us. That’s majorly different than staying in the presence of evil just for mindless entertainment or kicks and giggles.

  23. Frankly, if the scene depicting Fantine as a prostitute had been any milder, her john would’ve been reduced to blowing kisses at her through a chain-link fence. And––while St Nick’s ‘hopeless-white-haired-romantic-seeks-filthy-whore’ scene was unnecessary––it was more offensive that the hooker committed a huge anachronism by calling him “Santa” than that they got busy (for all of about 0.5 seconds with zero nudity).

  24. What I take out of this whole discussion is that two people can watch the same film (or read the same book or play the same game etc…) and have very different personal and spiritual reactions to it.

    If a movie makes you feel more inspired to help the people around you or improve your life, wonderful! You’ve found the right emotional triggers to help push yourself towards a better life. Add that movie to your list of inspirational things to do on a rainy day.

    But if a movie makes you feel depressed, disgusted or dirty you might as well turn it off and add it to your no-watch list. No point in purposely making yourself feel bad.

    After all, one of the main reasons we have the Gift of the Spirit is because we all need personal advice that cater to our specific strengths and weaknesses. I would not be surprised to find the Spirit telling one man “Watch this movie and think carefully about it” while simultaneously telling another “You should avoid this entirely”.

  25. Reading JSG’s comment just reminded me of a story I was told years ago as a young Mormon. I’ve never seen it documented, so perhaps it’s apocryphal, but it makes a point. Allegedly, McKay and another GA (don’t remember who) were viewing the “Pioneer Day” parade. Along came a float with a few young women clad in the latest new swimwear, bikinis. The GA was offended at this display, turned to McKay, and said something along the lines of “Can you believe THAT?” McKay smiled and said “Yes, aren’t they lovely?” The story was used to illustrate that to the pure, all things are pure. As Jesus said, it is not what goes into the mouth of a man that defiles him, but rather what comes out of his mouth.

    When I went to see the current film, my partner wasn’t interested. Two days later, a close friend practically begged him to go, so he accompanied his friend. Afterward, he said it was a beautiful film he would never, ever watch again. He found it phenomenally depressing and sad. It amazes him that while I invariably weep during Les Miserables, I’ve seen the stage version multiple times and couldn’t wait to see the film. For me, it’s a beautiful, profound story of human redemption, as well as an unflinching view of what happens to society when the wealthy are allowed to grind the faces of the poor.

    I’m sure the GA in the above story was a virtuous man, determined to avoid the temptation of lust. I know my partner is a good man with a beautiful heart. Neither was “bad,” or particularly “wrong.” That said, our perceptions of an event, a person, or a piece of art are highly dependent on what WE bring to the table in the first place.

  26. Pingback: What of Art? – Temple Study - LDS Temples, Mormon Temples, Study Blog

  27. Okay. I watched the film now. I agree with Stephen Smoot. The Santa scene was unnecessary, but I don’t think it was untastefule. Go back and watch the movie and pay specific attention to all of the crosses and when they are used. There is very deliberate imagery the director is trying to convey with each one, most of them probably being “unnecessary.” The St. Nicholaus character was well placed because his actions showed how Christianity is taken in the Thenadier’s residence, who is the real villain of the musical (an important difference with the book). Notably, crosses also follow Javer, especially before his song on the stars where he effectively explains how he represents God’s justice.

    The Fantine sex scene was extremely appropriate for the film. It wasn’t just a sex scene, she was essentially raped. But I don’t think you could have gotten that if they cut those five seconds out. And I think that message is so important to convey because it shows not only that Fantine is forced into the most degrading state she could possibly sink to, but so that it could show that she is brought to the depths of humiliation as well. A prostitute, but more tragically, an unwilling prostitute. Who else could so easily qualify as the least among us, the person who Valjean is meant to save?

  28. Thanks for this discussion. My daughter hopes to go see the movie with some kids from school next week. She passed by my computer and saw the title of this post and was like “What?!”
    I’ve thoughtfully considered this post and all the comments and have made my decision based on the opinions of a bunch of strangers on the internet! lol.
    If this was a made to order kind of world, she wouldn’t see it. But I have chosen to send her to school and have friends and be exposed to media. Rather than feeling like I am in a losing battle (because even it were possible to do it “my” way my husband has his own opinions), I choose to embrace these opportunities that she has.
    I know the Lord is beside me as I raise my children. I feel guided as I make decisions for my children individually. So living here and now, I refuse to lament the circumstances. It is a privilege to raise children in this time.
    I watched my daughter’s first basketball game of the season. The first half was slow, nothing much happened. The last quarter had an intensity on both sides that was dramatically different from the first part of the game.
    In this day and age life has that 4th quarter intensity for my kids. Keeping them on the bench means they aren’t in their scoring baskets for their team, and it means they aren’t learning anything either.
    I absolutely would not have sent myself at that age to see this movie and I am not sure I would have sent myself 15 years ago to see it. But my oldest child lives in a different environment than I did.
    Context is important in movies. I believe that movies that show good vs. evil are a positive. Movies that glorify violence and show evil as good are not positive. Pulp Fiction was a whole new ball game for movies because it wasn’t good vs. evil…at all. It was just violence.
    As I have parented I have realized that I need to raise my kids to not need me someday and I need to raise my kids to be capable of living in their world, which means they need to learn to type years earlier than I did, and they need to learn different social skills for texting, and different self control skills for internet use. Sexual activity is shown or portrayed or discussed in many different ways and in far more ways. The realism factor is higher because of technology. While I myself think that media should be more responsible, I refuse to get stuck on the past. I remember thinking it was ridiculous that TV had shown married couples in separate twin beds.
    Sex isn’t inherently good or bad. I tell my children it is how they use it. Will this movie show bad as bad? It sounds like it does. I have seen Les Mis on the stage plenty of times. The movie ups the realism to an uncomfortable degree for rape and prostitution, yes, but the themes are good and the medium probably won’t be uncomfortable for her because of the generation gap.
    My 13 year old son is not going to see this movie. But for my oldest daughter I would consider it appropriate, based on her development, because the good outweighs the bad…..and the overall good of this movie will outweight the bad of so much other crap.

  29. I have not seen Les Mis the movie yet. However, having seen the original stage and early touring companies, I will say that the more graphic sex scenes are a new edition. This seems to be a new trend in Broadway Theater. My sister, on a recent trip to see a touring company of West Side Story had to get up and leave it was so raunchy — West Side Story, a show that we performed in, in High School and have seen many times in various stage productions. It’s unfortunate that the movie makers had to put graphic sex in and overshadow a great story.

  30. The raw elements (music/lyrics) of Les Mis are mediocre at best. There are a few bright spots such as the anthem and-what-not but it is its bulldozing emotive quality that (literally) captures most of its audience. And that crushing quality is carried off, for the most part, by the weakest of genres: a bastardized pop-ballad-like style. A style that exalts the emotion per se above and beyond the totality of the character.

    I have not seen the movie yet but I did see the stage production. And while I was not board I was frustrated throughout the entire 3hrs and 15 mins of the play. I felt violated by its emotive-ness.

    Now I do believe there’s great art. But I’m not sure Les Mis (the book, yes) should be considered such. Let’s not confuse an adolescent passion with greatness.

  31. I loved the movie but agree with Jack that much of the music is pretty mediocre. I am more impressed with the story itself, and I think the acting was very, very good.

  32. I can’t agree with Geoff B and Jack. The music is not mediocre. Les Mis is a classic and it makes me think either 1) you just don’t like musicals/operas or you just aren’t comfortable with emotive entertainment. Men tend to be less comfortable with emotive drama in books and movies….and even in real life. I think there is value to feeling emotion based on a fictional drama and the thoughts and feelings produced can be beneficial.
    2) you didn’t see it in the 1980s and maybe you are unable to judge it for what it is.
    For instance, my friend who saw The Matrix in 2012 wondered what is the big deal about it. But of course she’d seen special effects like that before, and she’d seen movies that made her question reality and physical vs. mental, and she’d seen other movies with people dressed all in black. You can’t completely judge art without understanding the time period it was created in. If Monet put out his work now, there would be those who liked his paintings, but they wouldn’t mean the same thing.

  33. I saw the movie — a rare exception for me for films with this rating and intensity. When the rating system flat-out says it includes ‘sexually suggestive scenes’ I just don’t go. I appreciated SilverRain’s perspective here in that regard.

    I am glad I saw the film. My intent was to pre-screen it for my kids, because I do hope for them to experience the story. I’d seen the musical three times (even as I find some parts of the musical also uncomfortable) so for me it also brought the story together in a powerful way. The tender mercy messages of the film were powerful and timely for me. Could I have lived without it, though? Of course.

    My friend took her 13-year-old and was glad she did. I didn’t take my 14-year-old and was glad I didn’t. Different parents will handle this in different ways. Different individuals will respond differently to what is there.

    Artistically, I think it’s bordering on silly to insist that the way those two scenes were portrayed was *necessary* to the story. The musical, although still with its edge (Master of the House the song has always been offensive to me anyway — not necessary to the story), never reached the kind of detail the film did and the story was still powerful. I totally get that for some these scenes were no big deal, but to insist that they were artistically necessary feels like a sort of blind justification for the director’s choices here rather than respecting that some were uncomfy, end of story. That should be ok to express!

    This is really an age-old discussion that shows up in LDS culture all the time, and it’s one that always tends to baffle me. I don’t understand LDS people having to defend decisions to avoid media that contain offensive content. Art is a wonderful blessing, but as Silver Rain said, one piece of art or music is simply not a requirement for salvation or wisdom or understanding. Plenty of people get through life without ever being exposed to Les Miserables and they live just fine.

    I’m glad I saw the film, both to screen it as a parent and to experience it as a person. I have thought about it a lot. I would have liked it more with different choices made in those scenes. But I am sad that those who are expressing discomfort with some of these scenes are being labeled or criticized as closed-minded or artistically inept or bad parents.

    And in my view, even IF the prophet likes the story, it doesn’t mean he’d choose to see the film. And *even if he did,* that still doesn’t mean all members should or are bad people if they don’t like it or want to see it. I think a key point in SilverRain’s comment was missed — the power of personal revelation is that every person can make a decision for his/herself. Take for example The Passion of the Christ. Using Robert Millett or the Eyres as a reason others should see it makes no sense to me. I know other religious educators and church leaders who chose not to for very deliberate reasons. Who is right? The key to me is that in situations like this, no one is. The Spirit can and will and does engage us personally and we ought to respect that in each other rather than insist that if someone does something differently they are somehow wrong.

  34. As such I agree the title of this post could have been phrased differently so as to respect that many LDS folks will be and are recommending this film. I think it’s good for people to have information like this, though, to make more informed decisions, particularly about whether they want kids to see it.

  35. I think Michelle makes excellent points! There is no single right decision for everyone. What Paul said regarding eating meats offered up to idols applies here:

    “To him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean…Let every man be persuaded in his own mind.”

    Michelle says: “I am sad that those who are expressing discomfort with some of these scenes are being labeled or criticized as closed-minded or artistically inept or bad parents.”

    Paul would respond: “If thy brother be grieved with thy meat (PG13 movies), now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died…It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.”

    On the other hand, for those who are not offended by these things Paul says: “Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.” Yet, those who do not condemn themselves for watching Les Mis should be careful not to offend those who do condemn themselves for it.

  36. jks, I love musicals and have probably seen all of the major ones ever produced by Hollywood. When you compare the music in Les Mis to some of the other Hollywood/Broadway classics, it is just mediocre. Think of “Singing in the Rain,” in which every song is great, or “Fiddler on the Roof,” or “My Fair Lady.” Obviously Les Mis is a different kind of musical, but my point is that the music is simply not very memorable or catchy. “I Dreamed a Dream” is pretty good, but the rest is very forgettable. By the way, “mediocre” does not mean “bad.” It means “middle of the road.” Les Mis simply doesn’t have above-average music. It is average for a Broadway/Hollywood musical.

  37. Take your teenagers to the movie, but take them out for popcorn shortly after the prostitution scene begins. They will get enough of the sense of depravity to retain the moral of the film.

  38. Are you sure that saying the music of Les Mis is mediocre isn’t some kind of blasphemy? To each their own, I suppose.

  39. I don’t know about catchy–I’ve never been much of a pop fan myself, and so I’ve never been a fan of catchy music–but I really like the music of Les Mis. From what I’ve been hearing on Facebook, though, it sure sounds like Russell Crowe mangles it in the movie.

  40. I wouldn’t go that far. I think he was really trying to show the Javer who was trapped in his own mentality, a kind of victim of a prejudice he couldn’t escape. But the character came off as lacking energy, kind of bland. His stars song was too subdued, too internally contemplative to really show Javer’s tragic struggle with his personal demons.

    I’d say it was a decent role surrounded by exemplary performances. A shame, but not worth overt criticism.

  41. DavidF,

    Unfortunately, labeling Les Mis’s music as mediocre IS considered blasphemous by most who have seen it. But even so, I simply can’t put it in the same class as the great scores written by Rodgers, Loewe, Styne, Bernstein, Loesser, Gershwin, Kern, etc. And the lyrics fair even worse — at least the translated version.

  42. Wow, DavidF, you posted another comment while I was working on my mine. I was responding to your previous comment.

  43. No worries,

    I’m in between semesters with nothing to do, so I watch the internet like a hawk. It’s probably unhealthy for me. In any case, I figured it out.

  44. These debates are almost always based on the same foundation:

    There is terrible evil in the world, how much if any is appropriate to depict in entertainment?

    We quickly descend from there into argument about something being educational, and even though its a musical designed to entertain its message can truly change hearts.

    So perhaps if your heart is in need of changing or if you need to be starkly educated on how sinister the natural man can be its helpful to witness such.

    I love the story, and the musical and was all set to see it when a feeling and thought entered my mind that no doubt Hollywood would go farther than necessary in depicting evil. So I decided not to go.

    The story is wonderful especially an part of the book dealing with Val Jean.

    But I do not need graphic depictions in order to inspire feelings of love for by brothers and sisters who are suffering. I think this is what the post is trying to get at.

  45. Skip the movie, and have your teens read the book. Odds are that the fall of Fantine will skip over their heads without their noticing the details, and the only thing that will pique their curiosity will be why the French soldier’s response to a call to surrender didn’t bother to translate his response: “Merde!”

    The other advantages of reading the book are that they’ll manage to learn to spell Javert’s name and won’t go through life wondering about who Rob is and what made him lame.

  46. “…they’ll manage to learn to spell Javert’s name…”

    *Cough, cough* unless it’s been a really long time since you read the book, and you foolishly figured you could just sound out his name. But now that I think about it, Javer wouldn’t even produce the right noise in French. Alas, my highschool French instructor would be ashamed.

  47. Amazing! A series of comments in which almost all facets of the debate make me cringe. I completely disagree with the anti-arts slant. The arts inform and reveal truths in ways we cannot ignore. I worry about the strength of our youth if they can’t learn about “dark” events and issues from various sources without experiencing an apoplectic attack. I wonder about those who think everything is fine as long as certain anatomical portions remain unrevealed. And I’m now wondering if LDS critics will be reviewing every PG-13 film to fret and blog about every depiction of activities no expressly approved of in church literature.

  48. I think choosing to not see the movie or not let a child/teen see it is a valid decision. It is the decision I would have made for myself a few years ago and assumed I would make for my teens. I am sad that they had to put the scenes in there. I very happily took my 11 year old daughter to the live musical once and the references to prostitution weren’t too graphic.
    I’ll argue if anyone tries to say that the music/lyrics are only mediocre.
    I would hope that my earlier comment was just trying to indicate some of the reasons why I feel I should make different decisions for my child based on what I am trying to achieve for her overall development.
    Today I told her that I hoped when she was a mother she had a teenage girl exactly like her. I believe God helps guides me in raising her so I have to continue to trust in that.
    I appreciate the heads up about the scenes. Foolishly, it didn’t occur to me that it might have something in it and might have taken three of my children if my husband had wanted to see it last week while we were at my MIL’s with no internet….that would have been an big oops.

  49. A couple of comments: First, on the whole art thing and whether art has value, I highly recommend Ayn Rand’s book, ‘The Romantic Manifesto’. This book details WHY art is important.

    Second, for me personally, I don’t put much stock in a movie’s rating. It’s not like it’s a panel of general authorities that are deciding what to rate a given movie. It’s ordinary people, with who knows what kind of morals and values, who decide what rating a movie should have. So for me personally, I think it’s better to not decide to watch or not to watch a movie strictly on its rating. I think it’s better to decide based on reviews of people I respect and trust, subject material, and spiritual impressions. If after doing some research on it, I feel ok about seeing it, I’ll go see it, even if its R-rated. There are some PG-13 or even PG movies that are much worse than some R-rated movies. Just my 2 cents.

  50. Suleiman,
    If you suppose it is anti-art to question and disagree with some aspects of the art itself, then you’ve not understood the purpose of art to begin with.

  51. I am an artist. By profession. So I think I have a pretty good handle on what art is and what it is for. Those who think that the appellation “great art” means any one who doesn’t pay money to see it is uncultured is betraying far more about themselves than they are about those they are mocking.

    Art isn’t powerful by itself. It is powerful because of what it pulls out from our souls and displays for others. As such, it is very likely that what is art to one is NOT art to another. It is also quite reasonable to allow that some people might not like/need what that art brings out in them, or what it displays of humankind, and therefore choose not to view it.

    I saw nate as pointing out that much of our consumption of “art” is escapism. I appreciated that point.

    But wow, there is a WHOLE lot of tilting at windmills on this thread. Either there is more than usual on this site, or I’m just beginning to see it for what it is. I wonder what amazing things could happen if we tried to look at the cloth of what people are saying (INCLUDING the OP,) rather than just pull at loose threads. I would like to point out that my comment above was an attempt to explain why people, such as myself, might legitimately choose not to partake in certain entertainment, and how attempts to convince them of their stupidity are misplaced. I put in quite a bit of effort to make it clear that I was explaining my perspective, not condemning anyone else for theirs. The emotional defensiveness is misplaced.

    To those who read only what they wanted to read out of what I said, I did not respond. I’m not interested in contending over the validity of MY choices or MY level of intelligence in making them, only in giving those who so smugly condemn others a chance to understand where those others might be coming from. Every attempt to contend with what I am saying is either manufacturing a point I did not make, or addressing something I already answered.

    Take what I have to say or not, as you choose. Ask me for clarification because you don’t understand one of my points by all means. But please have the courtesy of giving enough time to my words to understand what I am trying to say before you expect me to engage with you, please respect my capacity to be intelligent and educated when making choices for myself and my family.

  52. “Art isn’t powerful by itself. It is powerful because of what it pulls out from our souls and displays for others. ”

    I really like this statement, by the way. I was trying to make the same point above. What a work “pulls out from our souls and displays for others” can be good OR evil, of course. Let’s hope we all have good to be drawn out!

  53. Several responses…

    First off, I’d like to thank Geoff B for posting my contribution. Second, I’d like to thank Rameumptom for the suggestion to wait for DVD to allow for selective viewing.

    Then I’d like to address Bryce H and all others who consider clothes-on sex-scenes acceptable and great acting. This post wasn’t written for you. I’m not going to take the time to try and convince you that you shouldn’t watch them. I also don’t care whether or not things could have been portrayed even worse by showing more, nor do I wish to compare a prostitution sex-act with the Savior’s atonement. I am somewhat shocked that there are those willing to “heartily recommend” soft-core pornography to their fellow Saints. I also hope that other commenters out there recognize the difference between the story of Les Miserables and the Movie, it is possible to like the one, without liking the other.

    Also, anyone who thinks that 0.1% of horse-crap doesn’t ruin a meal, I’ll send you an extra-special cheesecake. I’m a pretty good chef, and wouldn’t normally defile good cooking with horse-crap, but in this case, I’d make an exception. Send me your address and you’ll get a 0.1% cheese-cake in the mail. The “minute-ness” of the “imperfection” doesn’t matter. The potency of the imperfection matters. Anyone who doesn’t believe that should partake of my 0.1% Arsenic fly-in-soup mix, again, available by mail. After partaking, please write everyone about how much you enjoyed it, and that you don’t mind the 0.1% Arsenic, what some of you call, a minor imperfection.

    Also, to people like Bryce, who think watching a depiction of prostitution, with the John grunting his satisfaction during his climax, “was depicted in perhaps the best “taste” I’ve ever seen in a movie”, I’d suggest they get out and see some more quality movies. It would have been possible, and certainly within the spirit of Les Miserable, if they had shown Fantine leading the captain off, the camera going black, and back to Fantine crying. Maybe I’m not like the rest of you, I don’t need to see Fantine sell-herself in order to pity her. I’m moved by the fact, not the portrayal.

    In the instant in which that line was crossed, I knew that I wouldn’t choose to watch that scene in Jesus’ presence. As He has bought me with His blood, I knew I had been an unfaithful servant in allowing that type of evil to be portrayed to my family. I felt the need to warn others, who might have naively assumed, as I did, that Hollywood wouldn’t try to further degrade us by selling such smut-in the name of a good story.

  54. Kevinf:
    While JVJ’s “neglect” may have contributed to Fantine’s prostitution… any English teacher should give you an incomplete for that answer. Based on the story presented, there are many contributions and contributors.
    Fantine: When she choose to sleep with a man whom she presumably wasn’t married to (Cosette’s Father, Fantine’s boyfriend).
    Said Boyfriend: when he choose to sleep with Fantine, and when he choose to leave her.
    Thenadiers: For overcharging Fantine.
    Society: For not allowing Fantine to bring Cosette with her to work.
    Work-Girls: For getting Fantine fired because she had a daughter.
    Foreman: For being horny and firing Fantine because she wouldn’t put-out.
    Jan-ValJean: For putting power and authority in the fore-man.
    Javert: For only arresting the prostitutes and not the johns or the pimps.
    The prostitutes: For telling Fantine, “You’re no better than the rest of us”
    The Captain: For being a John.
    Fantine: For believing the prostitutes, for being naïve with her boyfriend, the thenadiers, the work-girls, and for believing that selling herself was justifiable.
    If you think about it, Fantine’s prostitution began with her boyfriend, and ended with the captain. It was all avoidable, if you really think about it.

  55. Who Knew:
    We could also turn the tables and ask a similar question of the movie producers, directors, screen-play writers, etc…
    If the point of the movie was to illustrate crushing poverty, yada yada bleeding heart fiction yada yada, why ADD material NOT true to the original book or the original Broadway production? I can’t seem to find Hugo Victor overtly describing the John going down on Fantine, grunting his satisfaction as he finishes…No, Hugo Victor writes: “”A hundred francs,” thought Fantine. “But in what trade can one earn a hundred sous a day?” “Come!” said she, “let us sell what is left.” The unfortunate girl became a woman of the town.”? Most human beings know what is offensive. If they have a point to portray, why get in the way something sure to be offensive? Do you write that sincerely, “Oh you poor insulated Mormons who are offended by something so silly as Ten full seconds of full-clothed, simulated sex!”

  56. Stephen Smoot,
    Not graphically illustrating prostitution is not the same as saying it doesn’t exist. I should clarify, I wasn’t warning people against the entire “Lovely Ladies” scene, anyone choosing to go to the musical should have heard the music and be aware of it. I’m only commenting on the 10 seconds of simulated sex. That was totally unnecessary, not true to the original intent of the original author, and completely unnecessary to feel compassion for Fantine. I was aware of “her situation” far before she led the captain away. The cold water, was realizing that there are Mormons who find nothing wrong with depictions like this.

  57. Chris:
    Thank you for saying what I think I was thinking…
    “ But I do not need graphic depictions in order to inspire feelings of love for by brothers and sisters who are suffering.”

    SilverRain:
    You’re awesome. Thanks.

  58. H_nu, I will agree with you that it seems that in days past writers and directors could make art with very potent messages without spelling everything out in horrid detail. Victor Hugo spent many chapters talking about the good works of the selfless bishop and almost no time detailing Fantine’s prostitution, yet the bishop gets very little time in the movie and Fantine’s prostitution gets a lot of time. It appears we care a lot more about lurid sex acts and a lot less about selfless acts of service, at least when it comes to modern-day art.

  59. H_nu,

    “I am somewhat shocked that there are those willing to “heartily recommend” soft-core pornography to their fellow Saints.”

    That’s an interesting statement. I certainly didn’t take the act as pornography. But I don’t look at, say, a Rodin sculpture and see pornography, nor the numerous famous depictions of Venice. I’m wondering if you do? Because in my mind all of these things, including the Les Mis scene, use sexual imagery to depict something something quite different than pornography. I’ve seen some movies with similar sex scenes thrown in simply to titillate. Those make me uncomfortable. This scene broke my heart.

    I think in general that graphic scenes in movies can, when done right and for the right reasons, communicate worthy messages beautifully. The Normandy scenes in the Longest Day were fun and amusing, but the same event portrayed graphically in Saving Private Ryan helped me recognize the horrors of warfare in ways the other movie couldn’t. For me, one of the paradoxes of life is that fiction can sometimes teach me more about reality than facts can. Moving, graphic imagery tells me more about the awful conditions of strangers much more than statistics or vague descriptions. To that degree, I would have felt very comfortable watching the rape scene in Les Mis with the Savior, and cried seeing, if only fictionally constructed here, the kind of horrifying reality He sees every day and must surely want me to know about and be moved to do something about.

    I’m not saying that your judgment is in bad taste, per se. As I’ve said before, to each their own. But I admit I felt a little defensive when you stated that the same scene that deeply and emotionally moved me, moreso than if I had just been left to my own imagination, is no more than “smut.” I hope you can at least see why others don’t feel the same way as you do.

    (I should add that I don’t mean to say that we should be exposed to all kinds of very graphic, horrifying content all the time. But I think just a little bit helps people, at least me, stay grounded to the conditions of humanity; a serious problem I have in my middle-class American bubble)

  60. DavidF.
    We must have very different conceptions of God. As I understand God, He will not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.

  61. H_nu,

    I’m not sure we do have very different conceptions of God, but we might have different conceptions of wickedness.

    I’m curious. Have you seen any real videos of, say, Syrians rebels mortally wounded by regime troops? These are, in my opinion, worse than anything I’ve seen in Hollywood. Is it wicked to see these? What about Nazi photos of Holocaust torture?

    These are legitimate questions. The point is, I’m not sure that simply seeing something graphic is wicked, or even seeking them out in order to learn something new and edifying (not the images, the messages) is a sinful deed. I believe there has to be something more to the image itself before I would classify viewing it as wicked. Is whether something is fictionally portrayed the deciding factor? I’d say no, since as I pointed out, I believe fictional characterizations of horrible deeds can be powerful and moving experiences.

    Let us not forget that pornography is difficult to define. But whatever it is, pornography includes the notion that it is intended to, or is nevertheless taken as an arousing experience. Nothing in the context of the rape scene in Les Mis communicates this. At least so far as I saw it.

  62. I have loved considering this post, its comments in terms of my faith, the dynamics of art as it relates to belief. I read Les Miserables long before I listened to the music or saw the productions of it. I have not yet seen the movie but have planned to take my three grown and single children out to to see it and then out to eat to talk about it.

    H_nu, you observe that “God, He will not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”

    What does that mean to you?

    To me, it suggests not that He doesn’t view sin, per se, but that He will not allow sin to go without applying mercy and justice in the processes of the atonement.

  63. H_nu and DavidF, I think you are getting somewhere when you start parsing the definition of soft-core porn. Isn’t porn what this really is all about? Do some Mormons object to sex-scenes because they consider them arousing in a pornographic way? Or do they object to them because they consider it offensive to portray sex as ugly and distasteful, when it should be a holy and sacred act? Or do some Mormons consider anything overtly sexual, even if they find it disgusting, to be pornographic?

    I think that is the most important question, because we live in a world saturated with erotic imagery. Consider the fact that whenever you turn on the TV, open a magazine, or look at a billboard, you are bombarded with sexually arousing imagery. Everything around you is selling a lie: that perfect hot sex with hot people is a commodity that anyone can buy, and that we all deserve. Most Hollywood deals in fantasy, and part of that fantasy is depicting romantic relationships that are overly airbrushed, overly perfect, overly sexualized. I’m not talking about anything rated R here. It is totally PG or PG13, yet it is overtly sexual, and sells the most destructive and romance-destroying lie possible.

    What I like about some R-rated movies is that they sometimes eschew the fantasy-like sexuality of PG13 and PG rated movies, for something more real, more imperfect. I recently saw the movie The English Patient, and was extremely touched by the sex scenes between Ralph Fiennes and Kristen Scott Thomas, because she was an older woman (by Hollywood standards) and they showed her naked body freely, and it was not perfect, and this was such a shock! It brought tears to my eyes, because I was so moved by the bravery of such a depiction, and the truth of such a depiction, and a love which was more than just physical. It was the opposite of pornography, because it was celebrating true romance on it’s many dimensions other than air-brushed eroticism. This was R-rated stuff, but you would never get aroused by it, other than spiritual arousal. The PG13 SI Swimsuit issue is a hundred times more superficially arousing.

    In a world where I am constantly bombarded by sexually arousing imagery which is a complete lie, a complete fantasy, i find it so refreshing when there is a depiction of sexuality which is real, nuanced, which shows that it has so many dimensions which are not pornographic. And a rape scene is a dimension of the violence of sexuality which strikes us a terrifying and horrible, in such a way that we recognize the TRUTH about sex which the PG media all around us has been lying to us about. Sex is a burning fire which can easily get out of control. That is the message, and it is a powerful one, and one we hardly ever hear in our daily consumption of PG and PG13 rated TV, magazines and internet.

    Maybe this isn’t true for everyone, but I know what turns me on and what doesn’t. And realistic R-rated movies do not turn me on especially. But tons and tons of fantasy-like media that would be considered PG and PG13 does turn me on. But I can’t avoid it because it is everywhere. Avoiding R-rated movies for their sex scenes seems like a totally pointless exercise, when I know what my problem is, and it is certainly not those R-rated movies. In fact, fussing over PG13 material in a film merely serves to heighten it’s attractiveness, for what is forbidden is always more desired. And when that arousing material is EVERYWHERE, why fuss over it when it rushes by for a few short seconds in a film? Why turn the DVD off, and turn on the TV to see the PG shampoo commercial, which is much more arousing than the Fantine rape scene? Watch the rape scene, and it will help you remember the truth about real sexuality when you see the shampoo commercial.

  64. I don’t consider great works such as Michaelangelo’s David to be pornographic or graphic. I would consider a sculpture, or painting, depicting sex, with or without clothing to be pornographic and graphic. I would not consider a video of a women giving birth graphic, but not pornographic.

    I do think it has to do with the holiness of sex, or that it’s supposed to be holy. BTW, can we quit calling Fantine’s voluntary prostitution rape. Somewhere along the line, she made a choice to value getting money more important than not having extramarital sex for money. That by definition is prostitution, not rape. She was not being forced into it by a pimp threatening her life. That was a choice she made. She exercised her agency. Let’s not do violence to words and meanings, simply to make a cheap, incorrect, political point.

  65. Quite a number of years back, my wife and I went to see the regional premiere of the movie “Sister Act”. It was rated “R” at the time, but as we were accompanied by our bishop and his wife, we thought it was okay.

    Shockingly, the movie opening scene was a graphic display of an act of sexual intercourse, complete with a brief shot of Whoopi Goldberg, in all her nothingness, full frontal nudity. If the rest of the film had followed suit, we would have walked out, but this scene was so brief that it was over before you realized what you were seeing. The rest of the film was engaging and funny enough, with no more naked bodies flashing for the camera.

    Soon afterward the film was released to the general market. However, it had a “PG-13″ rating for the released version. When we watched the film again, no sign of the gratuitious sex scene. It contributed nothing to the plot of the film, and I have no idea why it was included in the early premiere version.

    I have no idea why film producers insist that movies must contain realistic depictions of sex acts. They generally add nothing to the artistic content, and cannot possibly contribute to anything but evil and darkness.

    As for Les Miserables, I think I will stick to Victor Hugo’s version. He leaves such things to the imagination, for those who wish to dwell on such matters. I believe this is a wholly appropriate choice, both for artist and viewer.

  66. H_nu,

    Sorry, I disagree. It was a rape scene. True, Fantine had decided to become a prostitute (sort of, see below), but all of her actions leading up to the encounter portrayed in the film signalled her unwillingness. Her body language was very clear, and very deliberate. The whole idea of the scene was that Fantine was as much victim as sinner. Please, please, please don’t say that it isn’t rape unless a man threatens a woman’s life, or it doesn’t count because she was a prostitute, or because she didn’t violently struggle. Such myths only harm the victims of rape, where unwillingness is the only necessary factor to becoming psychologically damaged from the encounter. It is not a cheap political point, it is a humanitarian one. Nothing in the scene indicated that Fantine wanted to have that encounter with that man.

    As an aside, I’m not even sure you could make the case that Fantine “chose” prostitution in the same way that healthy people choose careers. Going off memory here, I think this is as evident in the book as it is in the musical. Portraying the sexual encounter as sexual assault, especially against the backdrop of the chorus of sex workers who enjoyed their trade, helps convey that she didn’t want to be a prostitute.

    I actually think the idea that sex is supposed to be holy adds to the tragedy of the scene. I don’t know, I guess we’re just different. The scene didn’t make me uncomfortable, it made me think about the horrors of sex trafficking (that exists even in Utah) and rape. It caused my heart to break knowing that women like Fantine exist in this world. It brought me some solace knowing that Christ, like Valjean, looks at such victims with compassion. But it also haunts me as I contemplate whether I could even remotely be Valjean; whether I could do what Christ would have me do, if I saw a bruised, battered Fantine on the street. The forcefulness of the scene has made me consider these things over and over again in the last few days. I don’t know if a more implied scene could have done that, at least for me.

  67. Agree with DavidF. I haven’t read the book or seen the play but the movie certainly indicates Fantine is being raped. Even if she is going willingly to a client her only other choice seems to be death and an unknown future for her child. Either way there is definately no enthusiastic consent.

  68. David F.
    I had those same body language responses when I went to take my Ph D exams… was I intellectually raped? I’m certainly not implying that only if death is threatened is the definition of rape achieved. However, in this case, the musical is based on a book, quoted earlier, where Fantine actively chose to become a prostitute. The musical itself shows a scene where Fantine actively chose to not participate … and clawed a man. But Fantine certainly chose to undergo the act, “Come on captain, you can wear your shoes. Isn’t it nice to have a girl who can’t refuse.” Fantine, and the John, were both prodding each other on. That is NOT rape. Definitions of rape: “the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse. 2. any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.”
    As he’s finishing, Fantine claims, “Don’t they know they’re making love to someone that’s already dead.” She didn’t claim, “Don’t they know they’re raping one who’s already dead.” ! Words have meanings that can’t simply replaced for our own poliitical designs.

  69. “Either way there is definately no enthusiastic consent.”

    Prostitutes don’t enthusiastically consent to their fate. This is a conceit of a long line of pornographic fantasies. Prostitutes see their fate as a job that will make them money, which they need (or think they need). Nothing could be more horrible than to turn the sacred sexual union of two people coming together for love or for creating another life into an act for money, which is of course Satan’s plan: “you can buy anything in this world for money.”

    Fantine is, as others have said, the unfortunate result of a long line of mistakes, some made by her by most by fate and by many, many evil people. But at the end she agrees to prostitution for money, and it is the ultimate sign of degradation, which is exactly the point.

  70. H_nu,

    Althought legal, this is not a good definition of rape (most countries have very bad definitions that give the aggressor a way out of being prosecuted). There are many women who could explain this much better than I, but plenty (much too much, of course) cases of rape happen when the woman is being psychologically pressured, and instead of screaming, she freezes. The aggressor doesn’t have to use force because her survival mechanism to simply mentally escape the horrible situation kicks in. But the psychological trauma is nevertheless real, and if not punishable because “duress” is such a vague term, the act is nevertheless rape. There is no reason why we should trivialize these all too real and far too common situations. I have no idea what this even has to do with politics, despite your insistence that I am somehow working on a political agenda.

    Fantine’s words are sung with resignation and misery, not pleasure. Contrast this to the chorus of prostitutes who are quite comfortable with their job. Before the encounter she is being pushed along by those other women. She’s walking forward with her shoulders tucked in and her arms crossed, the non-verbal cues of a defensive position. That she nevertheless keeps moving forward doesn’t attest to her consent, but to her recognition that this is an encounter she can’t escape, even if her whole subconscious rebels at the idea (thus the protective gestures that are inconsistent with the actual steps she takes). And let’s not ignore that during the encounter she is non-participatory, a “corpse,” and a good indication that she sought to mentally escape the encounter.

    Even if the words from the Broadway musical do not express exactly what is going on in the movie scene—although I wonder how you interpret the words you quoted: “a girl who can’t refuse” especially considering Fantine’s sorrow as she’s singing them—we shouldn’t ignore the director’s contribution and interpretation, which as I’ve stated, has artistic merit. And in fact, I’d say this portrayal is more in line with the circumstances of Fantine’s fall. Fantine didn’t choose prostitution as a career move, she is essentially the victim of blackmail. Not only of the Thenardie’s, but also of the man in the scene. If she refuses, she dies, and as far as she’s concerned, so does her daughter. The aggressor didn’t have to use these facts as leverage, her circumstances forced them upon her. When a woman has no choice but to have sex because the circumstances dictate it, and if it is unwilling, then its rape. Maybe you don’t prosecute the aggressor in these circumstances, but the trauma is no less severe for the victim.

    Fantine’s sin is actually quite similar to Valjean’s. Valjean steals from the bishop. Why? Was it his first choice? Did he intend to rebel against the system, steal, and break parole? We’re not just talking about ex-convicts everywhere, or prostitutes everywhere. Hugo’s portrayal of early 19th century France shows that the very system of justice is so utterly repressive that it forces its victims into even greater sin than they were initially guilty of, not by choice, but by the nature of a cruel system of justice itself. What were Valjean’s choices but to steal? Do we not recognize that as evil as his deed is, he is not a criminal—even if the legal definition says he is—but a victim? In this regard, how different is Fantine from Valjean? What is the difference between a woman who is sexually forced by a man, and a woman who is forced into a sexual encounter by an oppressive system? If there is a distinction at all, as far as the victim is concerned, it is a distinction without difference.

  71. Kevin Harris pointed me to a great quote by Brigham Young on the subject of evil in art. Brigham Young said this during the dedicatory service of the Salt Lake Theatre: “Upon the stage of a theatre can be represented in character, evil and its consequences, good and its happy results and rewards; the weakness and the follies of man, the magnanimity of virtue and the greatness of truth. The stage can be made to aid the pulpit in impressing upon the minds of a community an enlightened sense of a virtuous life, also a proper horror of the enormity of sin and a just dread of its consequences. The path of sin with its thorns and pitfalls, its gins and snares can be revealed, and how to shun it” (Journal of Discourses, 9:242-243).

    Victor Hugo juxtaposed the extremes of evil and good to send a message, as he noted within the novel itself: “The book which the reader has now before his eyes is, from one end to the other, in its whole and in its details, whatever may be the intermissions, the exceptions, or the defaults, the march from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from false to the true, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from rottenness to life, from brutality to duty, from Hell to Heaven, from nothingness to God. Starting point: matter; goal: the soul. Hydra at the beginning, angel at the end.”

    H_nu said, “Somewhere along the line, [Fantine] made a choice to value getting money more important than not having extramarital sex for money. That by definition is prostitution, not rape. She was not being forced into it by a pimp threatening her life. That was a choice she made. She exercised her agency.”

    This is quite an erroneous condemnation of Fantine, and shows you have as much a mistaken understanding of the story as you do with this particular adaptation. Did she value getting money for the money’s sake? What was her intent? To get rich? To profit? What was her purpose? Even to selfishly save herself? You have seemingly missed the glaring point of her Christ-like sacrifice. Fantine was driven to prostitution because it was the last thing she could do to save her only child, after exhausting all other options. She sacrificed her life, body and soul, for the life of Cosette. She loved her child more than she valued abstaining from extramarital sex. Given those options, what would you choose? Which is the greater good? Fantine despised the act more than anything. I would not say she “chose” prostitution any more than Christ “chose” the Atonement. It was the ultimate sacrifice, but even Christ would have preferred another option if there had been one; “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). Yes, Fantine exercised her agency, as did Jesus Christ, and we might be eternally grateful to God for such acts of agency. Such is the greatest act of charity and compassion capable in this mortal probation. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). As Valjean sings at the end, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

    I perceive some have overlooked the profound moral and religious message of Les Misérables, and this is one of the reasons the film troubles them so. They’ve focused their entire attention on the evil shown as evil, and reduced the entirety of the film to evil because of it. This is the epitome of shortsightedness, not to mention illogical. Just because a work contains a depiction of evil does not make that work evil. Again, I think such focus on extremes is more harmful and dangerous than to see the big picture (no pun intended). I did not even remember (neither did my wife) the short “Santa” cutaway shot until the OP recalled it, and pinned a laser light on it. Such a critique throws more light and attention on the evil than even the film does in the first place. Is that a good thing? Is it better to focus our entire attention on those 2 seconds of movie, than on the sublime Christian message of the entire film? Is Christ a murderer for cursing the fig tree, or a tyrant for overthrowing the moneychangers with a whip? I think not. There are much larger lessons to be learned.

  72. Bryce, you’re confusing the statement of a fact with a condemnation. There did come a point in time when Fantine valued receiving money as more worth than not having extramarital sex. There wasn’t value stated with that (e.i., “Therefore, she’s a terrible person.”). That point was only made to illustrate that Fantine exercised her agency, and chose to do that, e.i., she was an agent that acted, rather than being acted upon (e.i. a rape victim).

    You go furrther. Yeah, I get the point about “Fantine just wanted to do what was best for her daughter,” other than wait until she was married to sleep with a man. How far would you take that. If the government withholds your child from you, unless you reveal your temple covenants, are you going to reveal them, and claim, “my motive was the love of my child”. That’s “the end’s justify the means” mentality, aka, liberalism. Somewhere along the line, we have to decide what our character is. Do we choose to be just and virtuous even when it’s difficult, or even impossible.

    “Exhausting ALL other options”: Well intentioned, but incorrect. We are talking about a fictional account of Fantine exhausting many but certainly NOT all options. I can think about many other options, some of which include making different choices along the way. Thinking that Fantine was just a victim of circumstances is liberal thinking, she made many mistakes along the way. This wasn’t the only way things could have been made right.

    Again, I’m highly doubtful of the prostitution/atonement metaphor you keep invoking. Fantine became accursed because she was short-sighted enough to think her child would be better off by her sinning, and the movie falsely portrays this into herself somehow earning her way into heaven. Christ became accursed because He chose to never sin, yet in His far-sightedness, accepted the guilt so we could repent. Fantine’s sin was “trusting in the arm of flesh”. Christ only relied on divine love and power. Not quite the same as prostitution.

    “Given those options, what would you do.” Having an eternal perspective, I would live the commandments. I would have the faith that being true to the gospel even when it looks hopeless. Fantine did a lot of stupid things, she should have picked Cosette up first thing after losing her job, lied and claimed she was a widow, and go in search of work. She could have done that, but didn’t do this in this Fictional, Contrived, work, which is obviously converting a lot of Saints into the lost, liberal, mindset. I would keep my Temple-covenants above becoming a pimp, even to feed my family. I may be willing to become a thief to feed my family, but not a gigalo. I would HOPE that I wouldn’t become a thief, and that I would stay true to my beliefs.

    I also feel you’re committing a huge historical collapse by using BY’s quote wrt representing evil. I’d be willing to bet money, that Brigham Young would have been completely unaware of even imagining a simulated sex-scene in theatre. I’d also be willing to bet, he’d be abhored at you trying to defend that with his words. I guess we’ll find out the answer to that on judgment day. I have seen too many well-written stories and movies that portray evil as present without all of its gory details.

    One last thing, just because everyone else in the world, is short-sighted, in that they forget everything, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me for pointing that out as a warning to the faithful saints. Many have thanked me for the warning. The title of the post wasn’t, “You’re not allowed to watch it.” but rather a reason, “Why you shouldn’t”. I recommended the book and other film adaptations, just not this one. That’s my right, and I defend it, vehemently.

  73. Wreddy, resorting to insulting one’s grammar, etc. just shows you have nothing of substance to add. Were this my post, I would ask you to try to rewrite your comment, without the ad hominems.

    I do believe they are against the commenting policy of engaging with respect, and not tearing down.

  74. And, by the way, it’s “gnat,” not “nat.”
    It’s always good, should one resort to nasty techniques, to make sure one has done one’s own housekeeping.

  75. wreddyornot,
    As no one has countered my logic, I haven’t been convinced my logic is flawed. Instead you’ve decided to claim it is flawed without providing any evidence. I’ve tried to list my arguments as well as some of the assumptions they are based on. If you would like to focus on i.e. becoming e.i., well, I’m sure it makes you feel better, but it makes you look petty.

    As for me judging Fantine … well, I remember Jesus telling us to not judge each other. I did not realize that Jesus was talking about non-existent fictional characters. Oh wait! That’s because He wasn’t! If He was, then He’d be judging people by telling the Parables of the “Unjust Judge” and the Parable of “Lazarus”.

    I am entitled to make choices and judgments about what I will do with my life, what entertainment I will see, and whether I agree with the fictional actions of fictional characters. That’s not condemnatory judgment.

    Silverrain, have you linked your post about the presence of the spirit? I’d really like to have that here.

  76. Wreddyornot’s comment was deleted. So far this discussion has not gotten into personal attacks, so I would prefer it stay that way. Thanks.

  77. “There did come a point in time when Fantine valued receiving money as more worth than not having extramarital sex.”

    Again, I think you misunderstand, H_nu. Money was not her objective at all, and she did not value it. She couldn’t care less for the money. She valued her daughter’s life. The money was simply a means to that end. That you cannot see this is again myopic.

    “We are talking about a fictional account of Fantine exhausting many but certainly NOT all options.”

    Here we have a significant disagreement about the nature of Fantine in the story. I believe that the prostitution was her utter last resort, after working in the glass factory, after selling all her possessions, after selling her teeth, after selling her hair, etc. There were no other options left for her. She knew it would ultimately lead to her death, but it was the ultimate sacrifice, the last and only means she had to save her child’s life. She hardly wanted to do it, but it is all she had left.

    Your line of reasoning seems quite like Javert, for whom there was only one way of justice, one righteousness, one standard, one judgement, no consideration of circumstances whatsoever. Only black or white. In essence, no mercy, just “the law.” If you break the law, Javert believed you are guilty, and justice demands recompense, no matter the reason, no matter the motive, no matter any greater good. In your view, Fantine sinned, she had extramarital sex, therefore she’s guilty, no matter why she did it, no matter if she was forced into it, and no amount of reasoning will ever justify what she did. There is no consideration whatsoever of her circumstances. Valjean is likewise guilty, being a criminal, a thief, and therefore a sinner, and no amount of reasoning will ever justify what he did. Letting his sister and their family starve to death would be better than for him to steal a loaf of bread. Javert’s mentality was heartless, hopeless, and merciless. “You will starve again, Unless you learn the meaning of the law!” proclaims Javert. I disagree. And I think that is one of the main points of Les Misérables that has unfortunately been missed here. I sincerely hope God will be more merciful than Javert, and judge us also based on our motives and circumstances, for “he knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Alma 18:32).

    At what point is breaking one law justified under a higher law? Is it ever justified? Is it ever justifiable to kill? Is it ever justifiable to steal? Is it ever justifiable to lie? And yet Nephi did each of these to get the brass plates from Laban. Was he justified? Nephi could have chosen to be “just and virtuous” to his knowledge not to murder, steal, or lie, and refuse to do these things. But there was a greater good at stake. It was an Abrahamic sacrifice.

    Joseph Smith taught, “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 256).

  78. Geoff, to be fair, there HAVE been other personal attacks. I think calling people “myopic” certainly qualifies as a personal attack, though one with a bit more substance.

  79. You are kind to delete my entry. It was made with emotion and haste.

    Fantine is a fictional character, of course, although she often seems so representative of real people caught up in the challenges of living life after having made wrong choices. We are all sinners.

    And I did misspell knat, as you so ably point out, SilverRain. Tit for tat?

    So anyway, thanks. I apologize for my not living up to your standards on the site you govern. As I said way above, I love the discussion. I see quite extreme polarity in the postions taken and love the fact that a discussion can take place given that situation.

    I asked the poster H_nu a question above but it was overlooked or ignored. I ask again. You observe that “…God, He will not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” What does that mean to you? Or did I overlook it somewhere?

  80. H_nu,

    “That’s my right, and I defend it, vehemently.” Fair enough. I’m not concerned with your personal dislike of the film. It’s your interpretation of key story elements that is so bizarre to me.

    You mentioned that thinking that Fantine was a victim is liberal thinking. I’m not really sure where this comes from. Honestly. I think you are the first person I have talked to about Les Mis who doesn’t see Fantine as a victim. Several conservative members of my family, one a big Michael Savage and Limbaugh fan and another a quite committed conservative-libertarian, all recognize that Fantine is a victim. I think you’ve oversimplified a humanitarian issue with politics.

    But why would very conservative minded people even recognize that Fantine is a victim? Perhaps, and I say this with much more confidence than a mere perhaps, because that is exactly what Hugo was intending. The entire setting, a particularly repressive early-19th century France, was meant to convey that the poor were victims of an entirely unmerciful system.

    Be that as it may, I don’t think anyone would say that Fantine was innocent of her young extramarital relationship that produced Cosette. However, when the musical starts, Fantine was doing her utmost to avoid extramarital sex, working in a factory and avoiding the foreman’s advances. Prostitution was the last step in a line of increasingly limited options. You may disagree, but that is nevertheless part of the message of the story.

    My impression, H_nu, is that you just may not be the kind of person who appreciates Les Mis. Some of the themes, sure, but not the story itself. I just don’t see how you can suggest that Fantine made a well considered choice towards prostitution, at any step of her life, without missing out on the setting and tone of either the book or play.

  81. Geoff B.

    I’m sorry. I grew up loving the music. In my family whether one was playing Les Mis, Phantom, Paint Your Wagon or whatever, we’d all sing and dance to the music being played. I simply can’t agree with that reviewer, but, I admit, in part for sentimental reasons.

  82. The difference, wreddy, is I was not making an ad hominem attack on your points.

    A fine bit of sophistry, Bryce. But if you really think that there is substantial difference in saying, “That you cannot see this is again myopic,” and “you are myopic,” I can’t agree with you.

    You will find that if you were to go back and remove such personal slurs, namecalling, or whatever else you might wish to call it, your point could be made without conveying the feeling of personal attack. The only, ONLY reason I commented on this thread at all was to stand up for myself and people like me who were being personally attacked for their choices in entertainment. I imagine that for whatever reason, you feel threatened by the fact that others make choices that you don’t. But that is no excuse to resort to calling them or their reasoning stupid, blind, or the more sophisticated word, “myopic.”

  83. I again wholly reject your claim that I have personally attacked anyone, SilverRain. I never called anyone stupid, blind, or myopic, so please stop saying so. Some views and positions here I do think are myopic and shortsighted, but that is not the same as calling people names, slurs, or otherwise irrelevant labels. Criticism of ideas, viewpoints, positions, policies, beliefs, logic, reasoning, and arguments are all fair game in honest discussion and debate. Please learn the difference.

  84. The explicit sex was gratuitous and unnecessary. Victor Hugo didn’t need it to tell his story.

  85. Um…saying that a viewpoint is essentially blind is not criticism. It doesn’t engage the point at all, which makes it a personal attack.

    But I’m not going to continue to try to show you how your comments are coming across to the people you are supposedly trying to persuade. I think this conversation has well expired its usefulness.

  86. And I didn’t engage any points, at all, I suppose… Right.

    Twisting an honest debate of ideas into accusations of personal attack is not helpful, SilverRain. The only reason why this discussion has expired is because you’ve successfully extinguished it with falsity and irrelevance.

  87. Wow! I’ve a great deal more power than I thought. *l*

    Seriously, though, Bryce. It is clear that I offended you by pointing out that I had already felt personally attacked from the very beginning in this conversation, even though you at least had some opinions to share that engaged the actual points in addition to the parts I pointed out. For the offense I caused you, I am sorry.

  88. DavidF,
    We could turn your statement around, just for kicks.
    “My impression, DavidF, is that you just may not be the kind of person who appreciates virtuous entertainment. Some of the themes, sure, but not the fullness of virtue itself. I just don’t see how you can suggest that Fantine didn’t make a well considered choice towards prostitution, at any step of her life, without missing out on the setting and tone of either the book or play.”
    But I wouldn’t say such a thing, because I know little about you, can’t read your mind, and know you don’t care what my impression of you is. Kindly give me the same courtesy. Calling me incapable of understanding a story is a prime example of a personal attack. Just because you aren’t wise enough to comprehend my viewpoint doesn’t mean I don’t understand the story. Thanks but no thanks.

  89. Thus ends my first experiment with a guest post at M* (or any popular Mormon Blog). Permas, please feel free to send me some personal feedback with what you liked/suggestions for the future, etc. Thanks for the opportunity, h_nu

  90. H_nu, I thought you did a fine job. There is nothing wrong with having an unpopular viewpoint as long as you back it up with some logic. Your post made me think, which is a good thing. Feel free to submit guest posts in the future. I am going to close comments because they are getting circular.

  91. No.
    Monson’s comments were about a very different subject.
    10 years ago, the stage productions were not including explicit sex scenes.
    Today they are. Today the movie version does.
    That is the context changing. Ignoring the changing context is to commit historical collapse.
    You get Thomas Monson talking about how much he enjoyed watching the Fantine-sex scene as a depiction of evil as being something ,virtuous, lovely, or praise-worthy, and then we can have a discussion about Monson’s approval of the movie…

  92. Kaimi. Nope. This movie is its own entity. When I saw the musical these objectionable scenes (in their expanded form as noted in th OP) were not part of the musical. Therefore, it is indeed a moot point.

  93. I’m under the impression that the Santa part is an addition, an unnecessary anti-religious slam.

    Not sure what this is about. The film as a whole is VERY religious – especially when you consider it was the French Revolution. I like the way Ronan says it:

    Valjean’s conversion and redemption seemed much more prominent in the film than in the musical. The songs are the same but the setting places Christianity in the centre. Not only in the action’s of the Bishop of Digne — whom we also see welcoming Valjean to heaven — but also in Valjean’s soliloquy (What Have I Done?) which has him sing before an altar. It is obvious that this is the tale of a man’s redemption, bought by the “by the Passion and the Blood.”

  94. And on that note, H_nu, this film reminded me very much of the Bible and Book of Mormon. Fundamentally about God, but not shying away from the ugliness of sin.

  95. I left the following comment on Ronan’s blubbery-love sonnet to Les Miserables. For openness sake, I’d like to have it up here as well.

    Thanks for the free publicity, Ronan.
    Thanks also for calling my warning to members who avoid immorality predictable. It was just the sort of open-minded, non-judgmental statement I expect from BCC permas. One man’s predictability is another mans consistency.

  96. I liked what Matthew Holland said about the movie at Deseret News. Full disclosure–his brother was once a member of my bishopric and a person I know to be a great guy, and his father’s a hero of mine, so my view of his article may be a bit biased.

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765619582/Les-Miserables-Lincoln-offer-pictures-of-hope.html?pg=all

    Here’s my favorite part:

    More than a tribute to a patriotic defense of national liberties, as noble as such might be, both movies ascend to something even more sublime. Perhaps the greatest thrust of each show is an homage to men and women who suffered great human cruelty — the gross injustices of a heartless judicial system (Jean Valjean), the constant bombardment of self-righteous recriminations by friends, family and enemies alike (Lincoln), and the dagger-like wounds of unrequited love (Eponine) — yet still stepped forward in near miraculous fashion “with malice toward none” and actively blessed those that cursed them.

    In doing so, these two movies take us somewhere truly transcendent. And, in response, we, as a nation, fill the theaters and cry and clap and come back for second showings.

    As long as this is the case, as long as the chords of liberty and charity are intertwined with each other and strike the chambers of enough of our hearts with resonance and power, there remains a bright hope for this great country of ours, whatever our shortcomings and differences might be.

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