les mis fancast 2.0 → idris elba as jean valjean
i’m pretty sure ethnically french people are white..
in that case, i suggest you educate yourself. there are thirty-three official francophone countries today, located all around the world. medievalpoc.tumblr.com is a good resource for evidence of poc in europe in the middle ages, which, though it obviously predates les mis, does a great job of addressing the general erasure of poc in history and may also help provide some background info. loads of people smarter than me have already addressed the specific topic of poc in les mis, and i suggest you look them up (poclesmis.tumblr.com reblogs some good meta posts here and there, and I’m sure I’ve reblogged some good statistics somewhere down the line). there are also numerous books on the subject, which you can find through a quick google search. repeat after me, friends: people of color are not an anachronism.
furthermore, i don’t give a flying fuck if valjean is “ethnically french”. none of the cast of the 2012 movie are french. over and over again white people play people of color in movies (cloud atlas and the lone ranger are two recent examples). if you care more about preserving your precious all white club than the media representation of traditionally underrepresented groups I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to reexamine your priorities.
This picture is a map of the distribution of races before 1940 (speaking of natives of that colour) So whites are native from Europe and POC not! Valjean was french and he was damn white! If there was “free” POC in the middle ages in Europe, their ancestors must have been slaves taken from other continents in Ancient Times (Roman Empire, Greek World…etc) If you read on Wikipedia, it says
…people with ancestors who lived predominantly near the Ecuador have darker skin than those with ancestors who lived predominantly in higher latitudes.
Of course, initially, when we were born in Africa we all were black. But races arise when the humanity is distributed around the globe.
If Les Mis characters were french, they were white.
oh sorry, who’s the title character of Shakespeare’s othello? a black guy? who’s a relatively rich and powerful dude in Europe? and when was the play written? 1603?
right, zero people of color who weren’t slaves in europe before 1940
i would also just like to point out the obvious??
Uh, there were lots of French citizens in the 1800s who were black, some whose families had lived in France for many generations. Are they…not French? Yes, they were a minority, but minority does not mean non-existent. There’s at least one explicitly named character of color in Les Misérables (“Homère Hogu, nègre,” a Patron-Minette member, who is not specifically noted as an immigrant—unlike fellow Patron-Minette member Gueulemer, a “creole” and thus very likely an immigrant from the colonies*—so there’s no reason to think he wasn’t born in France).
[*There’s some debate over whether “creole” referred only to white French colonials or whether the usage had expanded to include black and mixed-race people from French colonies, but I’m not going to go into that here because I can’t access the kinds of sources I’d need and it’s tangential to my main point.]
If some black people in France had ancestors who were slaves, I fail to see how that’s remotely relevant to anything. Lots of white people in France probably also had ancestors who were slaves, given that the Romans practiced widespread slavery throughout Europe and did not base it along racial lines. (It is also a whopping huge assumption that any POC in Europe in medieval times or earlier must have been the descendants of slaves: the Roman Empire had plenty of free black people who settled throughout the Empire, as well as plenty of slaves of all ethnicities, because Roman slavery didn’t operate along racial lines). What does being descended from slaves or not in the very distant past have to do with the price of tea?
A few black and mixed-race French people of note in late 18th to 19th centuries (not all born in France, no, but curiously enough, immigrants often have children in their new countries, and France was a colonialist power):
- Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, a general during the French revolution (son of a black woman)
- His son, Alexandre Dumas, père, author and friend of Victor Hugo
- His son, Alexandre Dumas, fils, author
- Chevalier de St-George, a noted composer, conductor, and violinist
- Louisy Mathieu, Cyrille Bissette, Pierre-Marie Pory-Papy, three politicians from the West Indies who served in the French National Assembly after 1848 (at least Mathieu was mentioned by Hugo in his memoirs)
This is of course a non-comprehensive list and only includes people who were famous for some reason. There were lots more black people in France who were not famous: working-class black people, students, etc.
American politician Charles Sumner, who visited Paris in 1837-1838 described black students at the Sorbonne, noting one lecturer who “had quite a large audience among whom I noticed two or three blacks, or rather mulattos—two-thirds black perhaps—dressed quite à la mode and having the easy, jaunty air of young men of fashion…”
They were standing in the midst of a knot of young men and their color seemed to be no objection to them. I was glad to see this, though with American impressions, it seemed very strange. It must be then that the distance between free blacks and whites among us is derived from education, and does not exist in the nature of things.
France today has the largest black population in Europe, in part because it was a colonialist power for so long. While there weren’t as many black people in France in the 18th and 19th centuries, they certainly were there in noticeable numbers, particularly in port cities and in Paris.
How far back does someone’s ancestry have to go for them to be “native”? The text only states that he comes from a poor peasant family of Brie. It does not state his ethnicity, or assure us that his family has lived in Brie since prehistory. In fact, I don’t remember anywhere in the Brick where Hugo endorsed anyone’s ancestry back to prehistory.
In addition, 19th century concepts of race were not the same as ours, and at no point in Les Misérables does Hugo make any kind of big deal about people being “ethnically French,” whatever the hell that means (how many generations back does your family have to have lived in France to qualify? If your grandmother was Spanish or Chinese or black but from a French territory, does that disqualify you? How much more racist can this thread get? We just don’t know).
Finally, regardless of what Hugo meant (yeah, I think if Hugo meant characters to be read as POC he said so, see Homère-Hogu), it is not historically implausible for most of the characters in Les Misérables to be recast as black, either in fancasting or fanfiction or in musical and movie adaptations. Frankly, adding some racial diversity could make it more historically representative, on account of how there were actually quite a lot of black people in France in the 18th century, and France’s history of colonialism is intimately connected to the themes of poverty and class that Hugo explores in Les Misérables.