Les Misérables: On Manliness & More

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Cameron Conaway

Cameron Conaway, Executive Editor at The Good Men Project, is a former MMA fighter and an award-winning poet. He is the author of Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet, Bonemeal: Poems and Until You Make the Shore. Conaway is on the Editorial Board at Slavery Today. Follow him on Google+ and on Twitter: @CameronConaway.


  1. Is song sustained considered ”unmanly” because it is an obvious and spoken emotional expression?
    That plus a a lack of physical expression. You said above that this movie stars two men that are common referred to as “Wolverine” and “Gladiator”. I’m the one person on the planet that still hasn’t seen Gladiator but I know that a big part of Crowe’s street cred is that he is regarded as a tough manly man and Wolverine is pretty much the personifictaion of “violence is the answer” (despite the occasional emotional displayes).

    Is there something about the gentleness of song itself that grates against our concept of rough and tough masculinity?
    Yes. Yes there is.

    Are there simply not enough men open to the idea that those who want to go see the film by themselves have to try “not to look gay?”
    No there aren’t. A lot of men are still embracing the very active message that such a film is wrong. So they’ll use the excuses of it being gay to avoid seeing it or that “the girlfriend/wife” dragged him to see it.

    Personally I just don’t get much out of musicals (except for Johnny Depp’s Crybaby for some reason) so I don’t watch them. But since this movie is being held in such high regard I’m sure I’ll get around to seeing it some day.

  2. Cameron, thanks for the excellent review. I plan to go see the movie today. I took my son to the Broadway musical when he was 21. Neither of us are gay and we loved the music, the passion, the emotional duel between two men of power. I book was also powerful and passionate. Its time we guys confronted our fear of being gay–you either are or you’re not. If you are, embrace it. If you’re not feel good that you’re who you are and they are who they are. Let’s learn to embrace each other, without being so afraid. Too many men die because they’re afraid to be who they are and have friends who they can talk to, listen to, hug, and yes…even sign to. I’ll comment more when I’ve seen the movie.

    • Saw the movie last night with my wife and we both were moved to tears though much of the movie. I’ve worked in prisons and felt the humiliation and abuse that goes on there. I could taste Hugh Jackman’s rage and desperation. Anne Hathaway was brilliant as the the gutsy Fontine. I could smell her fear and the degradation with the rape that goes on with women who are poor and will do anything to support their children. Then, as now, we feel the power of the 99% who have the money and the 1% who just want enough. We see the ongoing conflict between those who build their lives on empathy and those who are so disconnected from their humanity that they cling to the rules, even if they make no sense. We still see young men playing with guns and fighting for honor, while older men would rather run than fight and save lives rather than take them. And we still see men killing themselves when they feel disrespected and dishonored. And of course, we still have the pain of loves lost and the temporary joy of falling madly in love with a sexy stranger. So, if you’re human, and interested in being immersed in the human condition, go see Les Mis.

  3. The biggest problem with musicals is the singing for talking. The singing itself is not a problem – many good films display song as a center piece and do it quite well i.e. The Doors movie

    When you inject singing for talking, then it becomes unbearable and Miserables.

    It’s not that its unmanly – it’s inhuman!

  4. I saw Les Miserables on Broadway at least a dozen times and I think the movie is even better than the play. Oh I’ve heard better Javiers than Russell Crowe- but unless one has a seat in the front row, you never gets the chance to see the actors’ faces the way you do in this beautiful film. The scenery is fantastic. Don’t be afraid of being labelled anything- go see a great movie!

  5. I saw the stage show three times (L.A. productions) and as a fan of musicals that has gone to many, there are very few I paid to see twice (since theater is so expensive). It still ranks as one of my favorites. I was worried the movie version wouldn’t do it justice, but after hearing some good reviews, I went yesterday with high expectations, and it exceeded them.

    Given the context of this review, it’s sort of funny that the person I went to see the movie with was my dad (who’s 73). My wife had no interest (but isn’t into theater movies in general), so when my dad was visiting for a couple days and said he hadn’t seen it yet but wanted to, I immediately suggested we go see it. Before and after the movie, we talked about interviews we’d seen with the actors talking about how the singing was shot live, not lip-synched like most movie musicals, and that gave it a rawness and authenticity usually lacking in the genre. My dad had already purchased the movie soundtrack. During the movie, I heard my dad sniffling a few times (not an stifling, ashamed kind of way), and though I didn’t cry myself, I felt moved by the story and performances many times. So, I find it sad that there are so many men who feel Les Mis or the musical genre in general are to be avoided as “unmanly”, but I feel lucky to have a dad that raised a son with whom he could enjoy stuff like this without shame.

    As for the movie, I said to my dad that before it, I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the stage version, but after, it’s almost hard to imagine how that story ever got told well on something as small as a stage. I loved the stage version, but at least on first viewing, I felt like the movie was better. That may have been the novelty speaking, or the fact that the movie refreshed my memory of so many parts that were excised from the oft-heard Broadway soundtrack version, but I do think the close-ups and rawness brought a level of acting and intimacy that just can’t be picked up sitting far from a stage. From a pure musical standpoint, I don’t think the movie voices were as pitch-perfect or pleasing as the Broadway soundtrack – I’m not sure the movie soundtrack would be all that pleasing, even – but combined with everything else that makes the movie, they seemed to be exactly what they needed to be. I thought Russel Crowe was the weakest link vocally, but not so much that it was distracting – I still accepted him as Javert, not as Russel Crowe singing Javert songs.

    As I said to my dad, I think of the stage version now as a story where the songs and quality of singing are the main thing, and acting is secondary, but in the movie, the acting and story were primary, with the music being the way of telling it. Neither quality was unimportant to the medium where it was performed, but there were pieces of story and emotions that connected in the movie in ways that never really registered or seemed connected despite having read the book and listened to the soundtrack hundreds of times over the years.

    So, if you’re not afraid of musicals, I’d definitely recommend this one, and if you’re afraid of musicals, I’d still recommend it. If you need a cover story, you can tell your buddies you just wanted to hear Borat sing.

    For any Les Mis fans who haven’t seen it yet, here’s a little bonus trivia in case you didn’t already know: the Bishop is played by Colm Wilkinson, who originated the role of Valjean on stage, and is probably the voice you know as Valjean if you have the Broadway soundtrack.

  6. Thank you Cameron for your review.
    I’m not that much into musicals, but this one looks like it’s worth it.

    Regarding the twitters pictured above, I can only say this: poor fellas. :roll:
    If you’re afraid (because it’s all about being afraid) of a movie (!), then you’re not as “manly” as you’d like to think.
    Go play with your Big Jim or G.I. Joe! :mrgreen:

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    I think there are some pieces from other perennials which show emotion in men. Showboat, West Side Story, come to mind.
    Saw a Big Time touring company do it in Detroit some years ago. The little kid looked like a chubby Annie from the Ethel Merman school of belting it out. Our little town had a choral group which did the songs, connected by a reading. Did better than the Fox Theater experience. Our little kid was, with some difficulty, extracted from soccer practice and, given the bone structure, looked more like a waif who could actually sing.
    She did a fabulous Guenevere some years later.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    I haven’t seen the movie, probably won’t, as I don’t go to many. So I can’t say for sure about the boat-pullers. But the idea of a group of men working at something breaking into song is not a new idea.
    As a general rule, the songs will probably sound as if the lyrics were composed by a drunken gynecologist, but there may be exceptions.

    “If I die on the Russian front,
    Bury me with a Russian….”
    Never mind.

    Possibly the movie’s boat-puller song is deeper than that. More profound.


  1. [...] Article originally published here on The Good Men Project. [...]

Speak Your Mind