Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Reality Meets Les Misérables

This past weekend, I saw Les Misérables with a friend. At first, I didn't like it. I wanted dialog I was used to, not dialog which was sung. But, now, several days later, I can't stop thinking about the characters, their plight, their conclusion. Today, I read this review of the film and I was struck by a few things therein. What struck me about this reviewer's comments was the idea that Christians found parts of this film offensive. The idea that this could be offensive is very, very confusing to me. The reason I'm confused at the offense of some is that the film represented reality for many people and how can reality be offensive, especially to Christianity? In this review, the author, Bob Bixby, breaks his thoughts down into three categories:


From there, he gives a very objective opinion with which, I think, the producers of the film would be pleased. I want to comment on the vulgarity aspect of his analysis of the film.  Particularly, the prostitutes singing "Lovely Ladies" in the streets while a desperate woman, who has lost not only her livelihood, but, as a result, her hair, a couple of her teeth and now her dignity as she is dragged into prostitution not knowing what else to do because no one in the world would show her any mercy whatsoever. 

Picture yourself without mercy. 

First, she was lied about and had no voice to defend herself because no one would listen. Then, she was fired from her job (because of those lies), causing her to lose the only livelihood she could find to support her daughter. Then, she heard she could sell her hair for a little, so she sold her hair. Suddenly, without her long, pretty hair, she was not so admired. Then, she heard she could get more money by selling a couple of teeth. She had really nice teeth. She sold two teeth to help support her daughter. She was absolutely desperate. Desperation followed her, threatening to consume her. She had nothing left. Prostitution beckoned; there was no choice. Anything to keep her daughter alive. Anything. Anything. Desperation. Miserable, miserable desperation.

Quite frankly, an objection to this scene is an objection to the reality in some people's lives and a testament to the lack of mercy in Christian society today.  Those who would object would also shutter their eyes to the reality of life around them and shout, "No! No! Go away dirty girl!" to someone in need, rather than meet that need. 

This is reality for some people. Where is the mercy of those so-called Christians who would object? How can people object to reality? If they object, what do they do to change someone's situation? Do they offer to help? Not usually. Usually, the objectors sit in their pristine places condemning those less fortunate while they build themselves up with pats on the back and praises for lies.

I have seen a place of no mercy. I live in a place of no mercy, where lies are the "norm" and where even people who claimed to "love" turned out to only love themselves and look out for themselves at all costs.  I know what lack of mercy feels like. A no-mercy land strips a person of their dignity while those doing the stripping are laughing and patting themselves on the back with empty words which accuse the innocent and hold no truth. I have been there.

Les Misérables is an excellent portrayal of the reality of life for some people. Those who object are objecting to the real need of real people in places of real desperation. How dare they be offended? Where is their mercy? They have no mercy in their offense. Their response is to condemn the hurting so as to not get themselves dirty with the needs of another. If they can condemn the desperate, they can effectively turn the attention from themselves and the help they have to offer and get people riled in the wrong direction.

Yeah, picture yourself without mercy. Picture yourself surrounded by people who show you no mercy, who take your every word and attach evil to it and lie and deceive and laugh at your back while you try to pick yourself up and do what you can to protect your children.

Am I condoning prostitution? No. I'm only trying to shed a light of mercy on the poor girl who saw no alternative because no one would show her any mercy. People become desperate without mercy.

Our God is a God of mercy......those who are offended rather than moved with compassion at the stark reality which some people face do not know the God of mercy. They do not know God. What kind of person is offended instead of moved with compassion? Not the kind I want association with.



  1. This was very good, thank you. I can't help but think that some of the vehemence against offensive parts in the movie are much like Javert.

  2. You're welcome, Bob. Your review was excellent. Too many Christians bury their heads in the sand for fear of seeing something offensive, while that action, in and of itself, is offensive since they have the Answer to all the world's woes in Jesus Christ.

  3. I've only seen it on stage, but I plan on waiting to rent this. Here's why: Yes I was greatly moved to compassion for Fantine, however I was still offended by Lovely ladies and Master of the house.

    To say that someone who would be offended by those scenes doesn't try to reach out to those who might be in those situations, may be true in some cases but not all.

    In general I don't watch movies and TV shows that take God's name in vain or other terms that I find offensive. This is my choice personally, and I judge no one else. These thoughts affect ME, therefore I don't watch things that will "bring me down" so to speak. My husband is a minister and shares the Gospel with every type of person imaginable, as do the missionaries we support.

    I've seen the result of sexual abuse first hand in the lives of friends, I've seen the result of sexual destitution, I've seen the results of a "career" stripper and the misery it brought her. I don't need to see a movie to see what sin brings when it's so visible in real life.

    While I have no objection to other Christians seeing the movie I wish others would extend me the same Grace to NOT see it, and NOT accuse me and people like me of being pharisitical. (Which is not what your blog post did at ALL, just what some other bloggers are doing right now) just my opinion.

  4. Thanks, KM, for reading my blog and your comment. My blog is based on personal experience and how my theology causes me to respond. Being a victim of those who show no mercy, my opinion of some who look upon a horrid plight yet do nothing is founded in my own, personal experience. I have experienced abuse of most kinds you mentioned here. My personal experience with lack of mercy from so-called Christians has shaped the tone of this blog. No mercy. Picture it. No one can really imagine it until they live it.

    I don't care if one sees it or not, so consider grace extended. I just have had such a bad, bad experience with lack of mercy I am reeling still.

    Thanks, again.

  5. Tricia, I just stopped by today and read this one blog post, but didn't get a chance to stick around and read many more, although I did look at your potty training book on Amazon (It made me snicker). It's been driving me crazy lately with Christians behaving badly when it comes to extending grace to one another (which again your post didn't bother me in the least or take that tone) how in the world can we reach the world for God if we're too busy tearing down one another. I guess that's why I chose to comment, because it seemed like you wouldn't tear down any of my thoughts. Glad I found your response, and appreciate gracious thoughts on what seems to be turning into a heated issue elsewhere.

    1. Awww....you're sweet. Thanks for taking the time to post your comments and thank you for your kind words. I'm with you on this topic! I'd love to share my story with you, so feel free to email me privately (tricia.johnson10@gmail.com) or contact me via facebook (Tricia Marcum Johnson).

      It made me smile that my book on potty training made you snicker. :)

      I'm very glad you commented.
      Thank you.