I think it’s important to protect your own soul from impurity – crude or mean lyrics in music, excessive violence, and the ever over-sexualized media in TV, ads, and movies. It’s not easy to do since it calls for withdrawing from social norms and allowing others to label you as an extremist, but it’s worth it. For example, we used to watch The Office all the time – hilarious, right? we never missed an episode; but somewhere along the line, sexual humor was pretty strongly woven into the dialogue and plot. Sure the show’s hysterical, but when it comes down to brass tacks, general disrespect toward sex and its sacramental purpose is unacceptable. We don’t watch media with sexual content; movies with scenes of sexuality in them are ruled out because it’s just not pure and holy to watch other people, acting or not, and we don’t want to invite such content into our home.
What you accept/watch/read reveals the inner on-goings of your soul, what you value, and what you don’t. I haven’t always subscribed to this approach – there was plenty of music and media that I won’t encounter again because despite a good beat, plot, or lesson involved, it came at the cost of purity of heart; which, according to Christ, is the ability to see God (Matthew 5:8). And I excused myself from this rule saying that I wasn’t been corrupted or compromised.
Let me say that I’m not commenting on Les Miserables by Victor Hugo or the stage production, but rather the most recent movie release. Truth be told, I haven’t read the book and it’s been 10 years since I went to the production. I was over the moon for the movie to come out and anticipated its release for months and months. Since seeing it on stage, I memorized the soundtrack, shouting “2-4-6-0-1″ from my room in high school and blaring “One Day More” on repeat in the car. Sitting in the theater the other day, I breathlessly awaited the main theme once Jean Valjean tore up his parole papers and knew I was in for an amazing experience.
I saw Les Mis this weekend and I don’t think it’s worth seeing – at least in-theater.
The music and actors have nothing to do with it, neither does the general story because all were sublime. There’s no denying the rush of the score and the fervor in the lyrics, both of which were powerful. I don’t recommend the movie because, at least while it’s in theaters, you can’t skip over the gross sexuality on display, and on such a huge scale. In addition to the general sexuality within the first part of the movie (completely through “Master of House”), there were two sexual scenes/shots – one could have been cut entirely and the other didn’t have to be nearly as explicit as it was. If you’ve seen it, I’m referring to the entire “Lovely Ladies” scene including Fantine’s first “client” as well as the general behavior in “Master of the House,” which includes the “Santa shot.” [Spoiler alert] –> Silly me, I didn’t realize how involved the on-screen adaptation would be once Fantine sold herself into prostitution, especially once Hollywood got a hold of it; even setting her tragic situation aside, the blatant immodesty among other characters (both main and chorus) was already too much, but was then further emphasized by cinematography. How many shots of overly revealing attire do you need??
Les Mis, as a movie, was poisoned by both significant and subtle exploitation of sexuality and the human body; and what could have been a beautiful story purely portrayed left a bad taste of “it was ok, but…” It’s a genuine tragedy since so many Catholic themes are presented throughout the rest of the film, including God’s saving grace, the welcoming charity among religious communities, the difference between allowing your heart to be softened by faith versus hardened within it (Valjean vs. Javert), and a monsignor who shows remarkable compassion and mercy. Thank God I can find this actualized elsewhere.
So what, you’re going to write off the whole movie based on 2 brief scenes and some low-cut dresses? Yes, I am. We live in a time when too often people do the opposite by writing off sexuality in media for the sake of a good story, a funny sitcom, or a drama that gets you hooked. But at what cost am I willing to be entertained? Is it worth letting my soul’s guard down to see “A Heart Full of Love” so sweetly performed? No. Please note that I’m well aware that this film could and will draw others to God, to Christ, to the Church, but my suggestion is that, for those of us who already hold dear the aforementioned Catholic themes, seeing the movie in-theater is inadvisable because the sexuality is unavoidable.
The bottom line and my own concluding 2 cents is that life can be lived better without seeing Hollywood’s adaptation of Hugo’s novel – at least in theater. My thoughts have nothing to do with the story itself or the difficulty of the historical age, but rather speak to Hollywood. If you must see it, wait for the DVD or Blu-Ray release so you can skip the trashy scenes. In hindsight, I wish I had stuck to the soundtrack and production in my memory.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there be any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8 RSV)