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?
"Oh my God! I'll never have time to strike a pose!"