I know that sometimes Despard needs to vent on the general content or direction of particular tags - mostly Enjolras in her case - and I feel like I’m reaching that point now with some stuff on Tumblr, not necessarily connected with one particular tag but rather with some discussion here and there (and no, it’s not about Combeferre - that will still have to wait though I’m pleased to see others have responded to the call for Combeferre appreciation already). I’ll use bullet points because it’s my favorite format when I have a number of only loosely connected topics to address.
- Enjolras and queer erasure - This criticism of E/É has been bandied about for what feels like months, though note that here I’m specifically using “queer erasure” rather than my more usual “straightwashing” in order to emphasize something that I think ought to be kept in mind: even without E/R (or E/any male character), Enjolras is still canonically queer. ”Queer” in this context refers to any non-normative sexuality or sex/gender-based identification or behavior - quite intentionally a very broad term. Enjolras’s sexual distinterest, whether a mark of asexuality or of his priorities, is queer, as is his markedly feminine physical appearance. For that matter, there really isn’t much in the way of masculine description/allusion for him that isn’t tied in some way either to classical homoeroticism and/or to the image of the idealized eromenos, the (homo)sexualized teenage boy or, to use the contemporary gay label, the twink. I know I got into trouble about two months ago when someone thought I was using that label in a derogatory manner, but I identify as a twink myself and have written two long posts on its uses within the community in my Gay Labels series (here and here). Better to cover my bases, I suppose.
- Relevance of queer studies of Enjolras - I’m clearly biased here, since I’ve written one full (though now slighly outdated in one or two ways) series on slashing Les Amis in fanon (E/R post linked here, and you can find the others by searching my archives as there’s rather a lot to be linked in this post) as well as an ongoing series on ways to read into Enjolras’s femininity (most recent post here, which contains links to all the previous ones). Shameless self-promotion aside, I obviously think there’s plenty to be said on the importance of interpreting Enjolras’s sexuality even beyond the needs of shipping in fanon. Certainly, Hugo’s wouldn’t have considered it important to his character, because his priorities center on the historical circumstances and socio-political philosophy of the 1832 insurrection. A number of fantastic meta and fic writers on Tumblr such as Despard, Marguerite, and Hernaniste already tackle those aspects of the Amis (and the Brick in general) much more knowledgeably than I ever could or would want to. I’m also not the only meta poster to write on queer theory in Les Mis, and I’d hate to see any of our work being diminished just because Hugo would probably think we were missing the point. Works of “classic” literature that have both 1) a substantial online fandom and 2) substantial queer subtext are few and far between, and for LGBT people like myself especially that intersection can be very meaningful in helping us to understand and appreciate queerness that predates the Sexual Revolution (and, in this case, that predates modern conceptualizations of sexual orientation and gender identity).
And here I thought I would have more bullet points…oh, well.