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Les Mis- Family Friendly? 
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Tony Winner
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Post Les Mis- Family Friendly?
This is in response to Beyond the Barricade's post here,
asking about the designation of Les Miserables as Family Friendly.

(Just opening a new thread so as not to hijack that one)

I think the reason for that designation there is that in the US there are usually very specific things that are looked at when something is considered 'family friendly' or 'not family friendly'. These usually have very little to do with the actual suitability of the content for young children in terms of emotional readiness etc. It more often has to do with considerations like whether specific swear words are used (often the 'seven dirty words'), whether there is explicit sexual activity, nudity or graphic violence.

In the case of Les Mis, there are relatively few swear words (one or two 'sh*t's if I remember correctly, but not a lot else), no nudity, the most explicit sexual activity is the kiss between Marius and Cosette (the sex in Lovely Ladies is implicit, not explicit), and while there are plenty of people dying there is relatively little graphic violence (a few punches are thrown, there is the blood on Eponine's shirt when she dies etc. - but all the really serious violence - guns, cannonfire etc. - is more implicit than explicit).

So, based on these fairly standard 'rules' that often apply in the US, one might say that Les Mis is fairly 'family friendly'. Let me just make it clear - I don't particularly agree with these criteria, but these are quite the common ones you get when it comes to movies, tv shows etc. in the US.

This being said, of course one has to ask themselves whether the actual content of the show is suitable for children. Certainly it's not an easy show to watch: prostitution, child abuse, poverty, death in all it's myriad forms etc. I guess I would say at that point it really depends on the child and the parents. Personally, I probably wouldn't take a 5-6 year old child to see the show... but I think an intelligent and mature 8-9 year old could probably handle it, especially if they were somewhat prepared in advance that it wasn't going to be all fluff and happiness.

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Tue Mar 09, 2010 5:40 am
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I'm in two minds about this. I don't think it should be advised to bring children under a certain age - say, ten years. Of course it can be allowed, but I've seen enough shows from the Dress Circle slips where I had a clear view of a good third of the Stalls and the entire Dress Circle, and there are always kids of primary school age who are falling asleep, getting bored because they don't understand what's going on, tug on their parents' sleeves, whisper the whole way through to understand what's going on (and miss half of it that way), etc.
That said, I saw the show when I was nine years old, and I know I was completely quiet the whole way through and understood what was going on. But that was because I knew the whole story and the music/lyrics and I had been to the theatre before. And, to be fair, I was quite... mature for my age, it's true.
I have a feeling that many parents who go and see Les Mis with their children do that because they want to see a musical with them, their kids might have seen "Britain's Got Talent", there is a little girl as logo, etc. But, sadly, most children don't really get a lot from it. If adults who understand every word of what is sung and have a certain knowledge of theatre, of history and of drama get confused and overwhelmed by it, you'd expect kids to have problems.
I do not think Les Mis is a family show at all. Not so much because of the themes, actually, but simply because children get bored when they feel they're overchallenged by what is going on on stage. I'd never take children under the age of six to see it, and never under ten without having explained the plot to them and made sure they're interested.


Tue Mar 09, 2010 5:54 am
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Tony Winner
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I wouldn't really describe the show as family friendly. If I had a family with young children, I don't think I'd take them to see it, unless I had decided that they would enjoy it, for whatever reason.

However, that's not so much because of things like the prostitution, swearing, violence or whatever. I get very annoyed by all the 'child-friendly censorship' and such that goes on these days. I understand that it's got to be there to a certain extent, but I think we go rather overboard with it in modern society. A lot of what is deemed unsuitable for children is just a fact of life and, this is particularly true of a lot of films, they are going to get exposed to it in their own lives anyway. Certainly in Les Mis, as riverdawn says, there isn't much explicit sex/violence or whatever, and most of what is there will probably go over a child's head anyway.

But that's why I wouldn't want to take a child - I wouldn't want to take someone who isn't going to appreciate it or understand it. A child who sleeps through it is a shame and a waste of a ticket, but a child who fidgets or chatters is just a irritating nuisance.

Also, it's interesting to note that it is classed as family-friendly in light of all the censorship of the SE that goes on, particularly in America, which is performed by much more mature children in general.

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Tue Mar 09, 2010 6:08 am
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Tony Winner
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Post 
Quote:
But that's why I wouldn't want to take a child - I wouldn't want to take someone who isn't going to appreciate it or understand it. A child who sleeps through it is a shame and a waste of a ticket, but a child who fidgets or chatters is just a irritating nuisance.


Quote:
I do not think Les Mis is a family show at all. Not so much because of the themes, actually, but simply because children get bored when they feel they're overchallenged by what is going on on stage.


And this is exactly where I think it depends on the child and the parents.
I know some children of 9 or 10 or 13 that would feel completely lost and bored in Les Mis (well, I also know some grown ups who would think it was boring. Some of them I've met in the loo at the Queen's, but we're going to ignore them for now :wink: ).

At the same time, I know some children that, at the age of 8, already enjoy going to the theater and even things like classical musical performances and opera, and that are quite capable of dealing with fairly mature content. My little sister was reading translations of Greek tragedies, for fun, when she was 8. I had quite a Shakespeare phase at the same age. And, as Eppie-Sue said, she saw Les Mis at 9 and enjoyed it.

So I think there are some children who could watch the show and find it interesting and understand at least most of what was happening in it...

So I guess in that sense it's really a question of knowing the child in question and whether they were likely to benefit from it.

I fully agree that having a child just sit there and be bored is entirely a waste of ticket.

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Tue Mar 09, 2010 6:25 am
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I saw Les Mis when I was 14. My parents failed to introduce me to the show before hand. I was confused and bored. I seriously was whispering questions to them during the whole first act. They answered them kinda and then brought me up to speed, so the second act made more sense to me, by far. Now that I know the cast recording inside and outside, I would want to see a professional version again.

They also did not warn me about the gunshots, which scared the living daylights out of me.

I saw kids in the audience younger than me. I honestly think it's one of those musicals that should have a PG/PG-13 rating, purely because of the content. I mean, Fantine's a whore, there are people who die (including a young child!). I really think that it really should be 13 on up, but if the parents want, they should just get the Complete Symphonic rendition, omit the songs that have the language/content, and they can introduce it earlier (I seriously want to make a playlist, if I am a parent) of all the showtunes that are appropriate.

I agree also with some of the posts above.

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Tue Mar 09, 2010 9:11 am
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If a child is to be exposed to the seediness of the Red Light District and witness the killing of a child and the untimely death of many others, I'd sure hope it would be via Les Miserables than through anything else. I think such things should be restricted if they're done gratuitously and for the sole purpose of shocking and disturbing an audience.

I took my two nieces and a nephew--one was around 6 and the other two 8 years old at the time-- to a 3rd national tour performance in 2004, and my nieces 'liked' it. My nephew fell asleep right after everyone at the barricades kicked the bucket. He woke up during the final chorus. #-o

They all much prefer Phantom and they have never elaborated on why but I assume they found Les Mis to be just too long, confusing, and thus, boring.

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Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:55 pm
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Tony Winner
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I'm with those who say it entirely depends on the people watching it. I've definitely seen kids under 10 at the Queens who seemed to be loving the show while I also know people of all ages who would probably hate it. It's the kind of thing that shouldn't really have age restrictions because there's nothing so unsuitable that no kid over 7 or so could watch it; if their parents think it's okay and that their children could follow it then fine. Then again, the words 'family' could be misleading... but really it's not like the title doesn't warn people.

(edited - there might be some stuff in it that the occasional kid under 7 wouldn't like)


Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:27 am
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Well, as everybody has been saying, it depends on the individual type of person. Like eponine5 said, some 10 year olds do enjoy it. But other adults sleep through it. I think it's a case of Les Mis being a rather heavy show, as it's about serious issues which take place during 19th Century France (eg. Lamarque, poverty, revolts/revolutions) there isn't a single time when they will burst out in glittery costumes singing "You Can't Stop the Beat!" or something else. As most people, not to mention children, generally perk up when watching a happy and bouncy type of show, Les Mis, with no lively and uplifting songs will be found to be boring and dreadful. Having said that, there is a certain group who will appreciate Les Mis for it's subtleness and depth.

As for the debatable and questionable scenes (ie. Lovely Ladies, the revolution bit where the students die), children shouldn't be introduced to that at too young an age, like 4 or 5. A suitable age could be around 8 to 10? I remember when I was 8 I knew what a whore was and I didn't go all "Eeeeee!" at it. It actually depends on the growth of a child, I would say? Some children are introduced to the world and reality a bit earlier than others. For instance, I have a friend who doesn't know what a prostitute is. Sad, but true.

So, in general, Les Mis isn't a family friendly show if you've got kids who are in strollers or in the Barbie age, but past that, it's about the child's maturity and what they come to appreciate.

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Thu Mar 11, 2010 3:51 am
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I would say that it also depends very much on which version of the show they are going to see. Lovely Ladies is really well done in London, being implicit but not explicit. However I have just returned from seeing the tour and was pretty shocked by how explicit it was in comparison. In the Lovely Ladies scene there were 2 people at the back who made it completely obvious what they were doing, and in Master of the House there were 2 people on the bedroom floor. I guess during that scene most people are focussed on the main couple, so don't watch the ensemble, but it was still pretty 'woah, they put that in??'


Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:42 am
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Fiwen9430 wrote:
I would say that it also depends very much on which version of the show they are going to see. Lovely Ladies is really well done in London, being implicit but not explicit. However I have just returned from seeing the tour and was pretty shocked by how explicit it was in comparison. In the Lovely Ladies scene there were 2 people at the back who made it completely obvious what they were doing, and in Master of the House there were 2 people on the bedroom floor. I guess during that scene most people are focussed on the main couple, so don't watch the ensemble, but it was still pretty 'woah, they put that in??'

Oh, that's true. I forgot about the tour... I thought it was completely unnecessary - for those that need to understand it, it's clear from the lyrics and the context, but do you really need in to put it in graphically? Also... doesn't that go against the way the novel is written...? I dunno.
I don't think Lovely Ladies should ever be censored, though. If kids can't deal with that, then they're too young to understand the rest as well. It's part of the world and life.


Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:46 am
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Tony Winner
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Fiwen9430 wrote:
I would say that it also depends very much on which version of the show they are going to see. Lovely Ladies is really well done in London, being implicit but not explicit. However I have just returned from seeing the tour and was pretty shocked by how explicit it was in comparison. In the Lovely Ladies scene there were 2 people at the back who made it completely obvious what they were doing, and in Master of the House there were 2 people on the bedroom floor. I guess during that scene most people are focussed on the main couple, so don't watch the ensemble, but it was still pretty 'woah, they put that in??'


I agree totally. When I saw it, there were two people at the front being very obvious - you couldn't help but notice!

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Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:49 am
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Just shows that it really depends on the version. On the other hand, a high school performance would probably be OK, considering that young children probably see worse things on TV, news etc. However, aside from being appropriate/inappropriate, I think most little kids would be very bored sitting through the whole show, probably with no clue what's going on.

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Sat Mar 13, 2010 5:25 pm
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