Modernization?

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Majestic_Picnob
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Modernization?

Postby Majestic_Picnob » Mon Feb 25, 2013 1:35 am

So, I've been positively gorging myself on Les Mis stuff ever since the movie, and I've realized that one of the reasons I love the story so much is that despite being 150 years old, I can relate so much of it to my own life, and to the modern world in general. It really is a story with timeless values, or at least, values that will be relevant as long as the situations it comments on exist (probably centuries, at the absolute most optimistic). So, I've been thinking: why not take it one step further and actually update the story for the modern day? What would you do if you were asked to do this? I thought this would be a fun little thought experiment.

The setting would be an interesting question. The social issues commented on would vary from time to time and place to place. So, what exactly would those Amis be protesting against in the modern world? 1960s USA, against the Vietnam War? 2000s USA, against George Bush's policies? Right-now USA, against economic inequality? Still in France, where there have been all sorts of protests in recent years? The Middle East, against the violence there or, more recently, the government?

The characters would need a few slight tweaks to stay relevant in the modern world, I think. As I said it's amazing how relevant they still are, but due to values marching on some would need to be changed slightly. I also think it's possible that, due to advances in medicine and a decline, at least in Western countries, in police brutality since 1832, it's possible that some people who died in the novel might survive in a hypothetical modern version.

Valjean: I personally doubt that in anywhere but the most repressive countries Valjean would be treated as badly as he was in the book just for stealing bread in the modern day. I do, however, think that his situation could still be used to comment on the bias of the law toward certain racial or economic groups, which unfortunately still exists (the Trayvon Martin case being a famous recent example), so my idea for modernizing his crime is this: he was a dirt-poor young man, possibly a minority, who assaulted an influential person who was mistreating his family (a corrupt city official, for instance) and was sent to prison because the courts believed that person due to their good standing. Apart from this, I think he could stay basically the same.

Javert: Javert would also be largely the same, with the slight difference that I see a modern Javert as someone taught to believe that the law always acts in the best interests of the people, so rather than being incapable of believing it impossible for criminals to redeem themselves, he's hung up on Valjean because Valjean struck out against authority, and therefore in his mind makes the world less safe.

Fantine: In this day and age I doubt getting fired on its own would be enough to send someone into utter destitution as quick as it did Fantine, so a tweak is necessary here. In a story set in the US, for instance, I'd make her possibly an illegal immigrant, so both unemployment and deportation would hang over her head.

Cosette: The only major change I'd make to Cosette would be to age her up. While both she and Marius are young in the book, I think there's still enough years between them that the relationship as it stands would be considered rather creepy by modern standards, and they certainly wouldn't marry. I see her as perhaps a student at the same university as Marius, a few years beneath him. Maybe they meet in the campus gardens?

Marius: Marius would be pretty much the same, although he wouldn't be a Baron, as even in places that still have that title it doesn't mean much anymore. Instead, I see him as the disowned heir to a corporation (owned by Grandaddy Gillenormand, naturally), thrown out of the family for his disgust at the company's excesses.

Éponine: I can see her going two ways, depending on whether or not she would be portrayed as a valid possible love interest for Marius or not. If we wanted to keep her as hopeless as in the book, she could remain a teenager with a crush, but if she was to be portrayed as actually having a chance with him (certainly more of a possibility in the modern day than in 1832) she'd also need to be aged up. I could also see her surviving in a modern setting; unless it went straight through her heart, I think her wound would be treatable by modern medical techniques.

Gavroche: Exactly the same. He's really a timeless one, which is probably why he's so popular.

Thenardiers: There are plenty of people like them still around, unfortunately, so they wouldn't change much. Perhaps, to totally steal an idea I found on DA, they run a sleazy motel now?

So, those are my ideas. Anyone else have any?
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Aurelia Combeferre
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Re: Modernization?

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Mon Feb 25, 2013 1:44 am

Some answers here: viewtopic.php?f=26&t=2050

In the modern verse I have in writing, the Amis would be against the infringement of civil rights by the government.
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Re: Modernization?

Postby Majestic_Picnob » Mon Feb 25, 2013 1:47 am

Aurelia Combeferre wrote:Some answers here: viewtopic.php?f=26&t=2050

In the modern verse I have in writing, the Amis would be against the infringement of civil rights by the government.


Oh, sorry, should I have used that thread? It doesn't seem exactly the same to me...
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Aurelia Combeferre
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Re: Modernization?

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Mon Feb 25, 2013 1:54 am

Ah, I get the difference. I think this thread would still suffice---it's a slightly different take.
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Re: Modernization?

Postby Jehans Rose » Mon May 06, 2013 7:48 pm

I've realized that one of the reasons I love the story so much is that despite being 150 years old, I can relate so much of it to my own life, and to the modern world in general.

Tell me about it. Often during boring lectures I'd look around at my fellow classmates and try to identify the Les Amis characteristics in them. Courfeyrac was never difficult to find 8)
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Marianne
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Re: Modernization?

Postby Marianne » Mon May 06, 2013 8:57 pm

I can easily imagine a modern-day U.S. Valjean as someone who fell afoul of mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug possession/dealing.

Also: Tehran 2009, anybody?
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Acaila
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Re: Modernization?

Postby Acaila » Mon May 06, 2013 9:06 pm

Marianne wrote:I can easily imagine a modern-day U.S. Valjean as someone who fell afoul of mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug possession/dealing.


I must state that I categorically *love* this idea.
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Re: Modernization?

Postby CeridwenLynne » Sun Oct 13, 2013 1:32 am

In my modern AU fanfiction Les Amis are college and graduate students who are Libertarian activists fighting against why they consider the intrusion of both the Democrat and Republican parties into the personal lives of the people.

Marianne. I love your idea for a modern Valjean. Maybe he could have been caught possessing marihuana that he had bought via a dealer to give to his sister who was suffering from terminal cancer in a state where medicinal marihuana was illegal.
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Prisoner 24653
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Re: Modernization?

Postby Prisoner 24653 » Mon Oct 06, 2014 8:32 am

Ooh, neat topic!

Back in 2008, there was a production here in Hawaii (which starred and was directed by Peter Lockyer, well before he did the 25th anniversary tour). I didn't get to see the production, but I heard after the fact that all the Amis were played by actors of Native Hawaiian ancestry. This wasn't an intentional casting choice; it just kind of worked out that way. But apparently, the subtext came through and created an interesting dynamic for the show -- they became not just a group of disaffected young people trying to push for political reform, but also an oppressed ethnic minority trying to improve their situation.

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Re: Modernization?

Postby HotblackDesiato » Wed Sep 02, 2015 9:08 pm

The thing about Les Mis is that an awful lot of the basic societal ills haven't really changed, especially in regards to over-zealous prison sentences, internalized racism (well, this one is debatable, but Javert is [probably] Romany, a minority particularly reviled in Europe as thieving,cheating, etc.,and are generally pushed to the far edges of society, then as now, which is very, very relevant if it's set in Europe), the stigma against single mothers, child abuse, benefits fraud (note how the Thenardiers aren't meant to representative of the working classes/poor as a whole): it'd also be interesting to see how Les Amis' activities in pushing for universal education (their stated purpose in The Brick, but they got sidetracked a bit with the revolution: that's why they're Les Amis l'ABC) translate to the modern day. I can see Les Amis as an educational/anti-bullying organisation with a focus on relieving discrimination in schools. I'd see Marius as the scion of an upper-class political dynasty, Young-Conservative type, who eventually rejects their values. I get your point about Fantine, but for a single parent working a minimum-wage job with very few other options, losing her job could push her over the edge. There's also the Thenardiers' money-scrounging—maybe cast them as loan sharks or a dodgy child minder scheme? When it comes to Les Amis, this is them set in Europe again, but Feuilly as a Polish immigrant would definitely work, since Eastern European countries becoming part of the EU and thus gaining free movement means a higher amount of immigrants from that area, often discriminated against. I can definitely see him teaching himself English. As for the rest of the gang, I'm seeing mostly upper-middle-class, as in the brick, with some exceptions. I know this is pretty Eurocentric, but I'm afraid that's pretty much my political/societal sphere. Also, sorry for length. :D

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Re: Modernization?

Postby Chantefleurie » Sun Sep 20, 2015 2:34 am

Good points! I think that since you're tying many characters' lives into college, Thenardier could totally be a landlord of a house in the "student ghetto" (if this phenomenon bypassed your university/college, it refers to the overpriced but bad quality housing just around the campus, meant mostly for students). Rip students off, make ridiculously complicated contracts with a ton of hidden fees and conditions, maybe even use some of his less independent tenants to run shady errands for him - maybe help him run an under-the-counter drug business or something.
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