Little Cosette- Les miserables by *GinebraCamelot on deviantART

The 'Les Miserables' TV series is fanfic brought to life

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A 1500-page novel by Victor Hugo doesn’t seem like the first choice to be made into a modern-day TV show but, well, it’s happening.

Helmed by Veronica Mars showrunner Rob Thomas, Les Miserables is set to become a tale about “a brilliant lawyer running a legal exoneration program who fights to evade the consequences of his own unjust conviction many years before.”

Most people’s reaction to this will be something along the lines of, “Why would anyone even do that?” Which, by the way, was the same reaction people had when the BBC first announced that they’d be making a modern-era Sherlock Holmes adaptation—which turned into the worldwide cult hit that is Sherlock. On the whole, fans don’t like it when people mess around with their beloved canon, particularly when it looks like something is going to be “Hollywoodized.”

But while Les Miserables does have its purists, the online fandom is weirdly unattached to the original 19th-century source text. As in, there are plenty of people who lovingly post pictures of their annotated copies of the novel, but they seem to coexist peacefully with a vocal fanbase of people who write fanfic that has, well, almost nothing to do with the book, musical, or movie adaptations. 

Most of the fanfic is dedicated to AUs (Alternate Universe stories) where the characters are transposed into a different setting. And the most popular scenario in Les Miz fandom is modern-day AUs, the exact thing that Rob Thomas is planning to make into a TV show. In other words, unlike the negative reactions prior to the release of Sherlock and Elementary, this show already has a potential audience of enthusiastic fans. 

It remains to be seen just how far into the fanfic zone Thomas’s adaptation will go. For example, the TV series seems (from Deadline.com’s sketchy description) to center around Jean Valjean, while most Les Miz fanfic focuses on the young revolutionaries, “Les Amis de l’ABC”. On Archive of Our Own, half of the 6400-plus Les Miz fics are tagged with the pairing Enjolras/Grantaire, a relationship between the revolutionary leader and an alcoholic, misanthropic follower who eventually dies by his side on a Parisian barricade.

This relationship has been debated by everyone from professional academics to Goodreads commenters, and if they appear on the show, Tumblr fandom will be overjoyed. However, the best possible result would be if the young revolutionaries were reimagined as some kind of modern political activist group, as they so often are fanfic.

At the moment, most of the fan reaction seems to be focusing on two things: Will Les Amis (particularly Enjolras and Grantaire) be given decent characterisation, and will their revolutionary message be remembered? Posting to Tumblr, one fan explained, “I suspect my opinion on it will rather hang on whether they remember the social justice aspects of the novel and improve on them.” 

Basically, the typical opinion seems to be, “So we all agree that we’re only going to watch this new Les Mis show for Les Amis, right…?”

Photo via ginebracamelot/deviantART