The Loh Life

The Miserables

Sandra Tsing Loh says "Les Miserables" made her family miserable.

For almost 30 years, I’ve been immune.  I’ve escaped the epidemic.  It’s kind of a miracle.  After all, my late mother loved every SORT of musical, from The Sound of Music to Carousel to Thoroughly Modern Millie.  The schools I ATTENDED did shows from The Music Man to Oliver to Fiddler on the Roof.  Now in midlife, my musical theatre years are formally behind me.  I’m trying to expand my cultural horizons by embracing wonderfully FRESH new experiences like Cool Ranch Doritos and the Super Bowl.

But darnit if the strain didn’t LEAP a generation.  In the end, it’s my 12-year-old DAUGHTER who got infected.  She caught it in performing arts middle school, incubator for so many OTHER afflictions – purple hair, Harry Potter glasses, broad Cockney accents.  One day after school, Maddy got into the car, sprawled wistfully in the back seat and crooned: “I dreamed a dream in times gone by, when hope was high, life worth living… Life has killed my dream.”

At first, I wondered if she was REFERRING to seventh GRADE.  But no.  As of that moment, our home was taken over by the cast of Les Miserables.

Now what I DIDN’T know was that I had ALSO been infected, for many years.  Turns out it’s the sort of virus that lays DORMANT until coming into contact with another sufferer.  Which is to say, I actually knew songs from Les Miserables I didn’t know I knew.  Like “Master of the house, bla bla bla bla bla, bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla!”  OMG.  THAT’S from Les Miserables, too?  I thought that was the George Costanza song from Seinfeld!

I thought it would be fun to watch the new MOVIE of Les Miz, but I was wrong.  First of all, Maddy’s 10-year-old, Sponge Bob-loving tomboy SISTER screamed in protest – due to a strange cable layout and sloppy parenting, our only TV is in HER bedroom.  Second, it turns OUT Les Miserables is not just bombastic and shoutastic, but dark and violent.  Every scene is almost ABSURDLY so – it’s like watching a movie made on Jupiter.  We watched Anne Hathaway’s TEETH getting knocked out, clown make-up, scary wigs, Helena Bonham Carter being, well, Helena Bonham Carter, death of a new CHARACTER every five minutes – we, of course, couldn’t stop watching for – what – 11 hours?  And as the camera finally, smugly pulled back at the ending, my tomboy’s eyes widened, she threw herself on the bed and screamed, “Why has this happened to me?  Why would anyone make a movie like this?"

Booya, kid.  You’ve just been Miz’ed.

Thank God we’re not into the Twilight movies.  Yet.


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