Accidental Innuendo: "I have come to sleep with you," from Marius to Courfeyrac. Of course, it's always been a point of debate just how "accidental" it is.
Alternative Character Interpretation: Enjolras' sexual orientation has been the topic of heated debate (mostly due to Grantaire's role in the novel and his and Enjolras' collaborative death following the defeat of the revolution, leading some readers to interpret Enjolras as faintly homosexual). This tends to bring in issues of both shipping and homoerotic context.
Complete Monster: Monsieur Thénardier is a greedy innkeeper who accepts guardianship of little Cosette from her mother, Fantine, while beating the poor girl and using her to extort money from Fantine, resulting in Fantine prostituting herself and eventually falling sick and dying. After losing his inn, Thénardier prostitutes his own daughters and even has one, Azelma, mutilate her hand to make her a more effective and sympathetic beggar. Not above murder, Thénardier happily tries to kill both Jean Valjean and Javert at different points, even threatening to torture the former with a hot poker. Even when driven from France by Marius Pontmercy, Thénardier simply sets up shop in America as a slave trader to further profit from human misery. Be he a con artist, grave robber, or attempted murderer, there is no low Thénardier will not sink to for the sake of profit.
Evil Is Sexy: Montparnasse, described as 'the flower of the underworld,' has a pretty significant fanbase.
Fan-Preferred Couple: Marius/Éponine was this, at least at in the early days (and we're talkin', like, prior to the Internet early days, here) of the fandom and still is considered to be this in popular perception of the fandom by the media. In the fandom itself, not so much anymore; there actually seems to be more Marius/Cosette and Enjolras/Éponine at Fanfiction.net, for one, than Marius/Éponine.
Valjean remains a Celibate Hero throughout all versions of the story, but that doesn't stop the numerous fanfics that pair him with FantineorJavert.
Enjolras/Grantaire definitely qualifies; fans have taken the oodles of canon Ho Yay (see below) and run with it. It is currently by far the top pairing in the Les Miserables category on Archive of Our Own.
A score of times he had been tempted to fling himself upon Jean Valjean, to seize him and devour him, that is to say, to arrest him.
Then [Javert] began to play. He enjoyed a ravishing and infernal moment; he let his man get ahead of him, knowing he had him, but wishing to put off as long as possible the moment of arrest, delighting to feel him caught and see him at liberty, fondly gazing at him...
And yet no such sensual language was used when Javert was pursuing the Patron-Minette, for instance, proving that Javert only reacts like this with Valjean.
Germans Love David Hasselhoff: This book became a hit in the post-American Civil War South thanks to the romantic but doomed Les Amis de l'ABC. Victor Hugo would not approve in the slightest, being a vocal supporter of the Union, an abolitionist, and writing a letter in support of John Brown.
Hollywood Homely: There's an interesting disconnect between how the narrative describes Eponine and how the official illustration depict her. The narrative goes into great detail about how her years of living in squalor have cost her the majority of her looks (although one chapter later in the novel does describe her as having regained some of her beauty after disconnecting from her family and the various crimes they commit), but in the illustrations she's not really any uglier than Cosette, just scrawnier and scruffier.
Grantaire "admired, loved, and venerated" Enjolras, and is "subjugated" by his character. Grantaire says Enjolras' "chaste, healthy, firm, direct, hard, candid nature charmed him," and his own "soft, wavering, disjointed, diseased, deformed ideas, attached themselves to Enjolras as to a backbone. His moral spine leaned upon that firmness." The two are compared to several Greek lovers (Achilles and Patrokles, Alexander and Hephestion, Orestes and Pylades, among others) and Enjolras is the one thing Grantaire allows himself to believe in. Moreover, he's only in the revolution because of his love for Enjolras. It even goes to the point of asking to die with him, and doing so (while Enjolras smiles at him and holds his hand).
You can't put nine young-ish male revolutionaries in a novel without at least a little of this. Aside from Grantaire and Enjolras, the most notable is Joly and Bossuet - best friends who live together and even share a mistress.
Bossuet and Courfreyrac see Marius, who is somewhat known to stalk those he is fond of, in the street, during the beginning of the "Jondrette's arrest" episode. Dialogue:
Bossuet: Hold on, Marius!
Courfeyrac: I saw him. Don't let's speak to him.
C: He's preoccupied.
B: With what?
C: Don't you see that look on him?
B: What look?
C: Like a man following somebody.
B: That's true.
C: And look at the eyes he's making!
B: But who the devil is he following?
C: Some deary-sweety-flowery-bonnet! He's in love.
B: But I don't see any deary, nor any sweety, nor any flowery bonnet in the street. There's not one woman.
C: He's following a man!
B:[laughing] Who is that man?
C: That? A poet! Poets love wearing the pants of a rabbit-skin peddler and the jacket of a peer of France.
B: Let's see where Marius is going. Let's see where the man is going, let's follow them, eh?
C: Bossuet! Eagle of Meaux! You are a prodigious fool. Follow man following a man!
[They go on their way.]
In context, Marius is tailing the scruffy M. Thenardier, making it rather no-yay, but Bossuet and Courfreyrac don't know this.
Marius and Courfeyrac. Barring the infamous "I have come to sleep with you," line (which is more like an example of Have a Gay Old Time), there's also the fact the first thing Courfeyrac ever says to Marius is "Come home with me," the paragraph immediately after their meeting where Hugo describes how Marius "breathed freely" in Courfeyrac's company, something which is apparently new to him, Courfeyrac's attempt to introduce Marius to Les Amis which goes not unlike trying to introduce your new girlfriend to your friends (and it not going very well), and Courfeyrac "flinging himself upon Marius's neck" after Marius saves his life at the barricades.
It Was His Sled: Everyone dies (apart from Cosette, Marius, M. Thénardier, and Azelma).
Jerkass Woobie: Madame Thenardier is not a pleasant individual, but she's implicitly a victim of domestic abuse, is genuinely heartbroken when she's separated from her daughters and is ultimately left to die in prison while her husband escapes.
"Will you permit it?" That single line also manages to double as Tear Jerker and Ho Yay.
In French, someone complaining about doing chores can be sarcastically referred to as "Cosette".
Misaimed Fandom: As noted, the novel was highly popular for a time in the post-Confederate American South. This not only would have offended Hugo deeply, but many other fans and readers might well be confused by this, since the Friends of the ABC are social liberals who themselves would likely have considered the slave-state, oligarch-favoring Confederacy a blight and an enemy. Considering they are fanboys of the The French Revolution and the Jacobin Republicnote which was the first state to abolish slavery without compensations and preconditions, a decision that Napoleon overturned). But they're fighting a doomed battle against a state that wants to keep them down, so a great many Southerners found sympathy for them.
Moe: Cosette. The TV tropes page for Moe uses Cosette as an example of the Moe archetype in Anime originating from Western literature (although, Victorian-era authors had different viewson how to use this character type). The Animated Adaptations that have aired in Japan over the years seem like they might've cranked the "moe" meter for her up to 11... but, uh, nope, that's exactly how she was described and acted in the book. Especially once she starts getting abused by the Thenadiers, even the most stoic among us want to scoop her up and give her a big hug and tell her it'll all be okay. Valjean then does this, and you can't help but cheer. This fades a little when she gets older, but Victor Hugo still makes her seem quite vulnerable.
Hell, on the subject of Les Mis, we can't forget to talk about Cosette's mother, Fantine. She gets knocked up and abandoned, debases herself in every way to help her daughter, and ends up dying of several diseases at once. Or how about Eponine in the second half, who ends up destitute, uneducated, and in love with Marius but with no way to really express it, complete with Verbal Tics? (Not to mention shot dead pointlessly?) Really, the only major female character who doesn't have some of these elements is Madame Thenadier.
Narm: A single tear running silently down Enjolras' cheek as he snipes a young artillery officer.
Fantine's Death by Despair can come off as melodramatic as it is described in a slightly over the top way, with lots of gasping and hand convulsions, as a result of a few words from Javert. Of note is that the theater and 2012 film changed this, so that Fantine dies happy and never sees Valjean arrested.
In one translation, instead of telling Thenardier that his gun will misfire, Javert tells him that he will miss. We then get this: "Thenardier pulled the trigger. He missed." In other words, Javert somehow dodges a bullet fired at point-blank range.
Fantine's descent into prostitution and sickness, amplified by extortion by the Thénardier couple and the cruelty of Montreuil's townsfolk.
The story of Mabeuf's growing poverty and despair, and the whole book onwards from 'The Sleepless Night'.
"Javert In Disarray."
Threesome Subtext: A weird example. Two of Les Amis, Joly and Bossuet, are explicitly stated to be sleeping with the same woman, Musichetta; however, she is primarily identified as Joly's mistress who they occasionally "share", and to further complicate matters, Joly and Bossuet live together and are Heterosexual Life-Partners, while Musichetta (despite being a reasonably popular character in fanfiction) never actually appears in the story and is only mentioned, so her side of events are never explained. Thus, it's hard to say definitively if the relationship between the three is simply Joly and Musichetta having an open relationship, Musichetta being polyamorous with two platonic friends, or a straight-up ménage à trois.
Ugly Cute: Eponine is described as "wretched and beautiful".
Values Dissonance: Being over 150 years old at this point, the book runs into this rather hard in some places.
The most notable is the She Is All Grown Up example on the main page happening to Cosette and Marius becoming infatuated with her. Marius' behavior during all this can strike many readers as profoundly creepy, what with hanging about the places she and Valjean hang out for hours on end (and certainly Valjean gets annoyed with him in-story) and the fact that Marius is 20 while Cosette had just turned 15, but in the 19th century Marius' incredible shyness and his devotion to wanting to see her would have come across as extremely romantic.
Very modern readers may have some difficulty feeling sympathy for Valjean's initial plight: "so his sister's children needed bread, just wait to morning; so he gets five years hard time, so what, just wait it out, don't try to escape and make your sentence worse, idiot". Given how poverty in almost all Western countries in the 21st century still provides at least some way to eat and is much gentler than in any time in history, modern readers can have difficulty understanding the absolute depths of destitution and lack of learning that Valjean was subjected to as a young man and his subsequent lack of judgment, even when Hugo attempts to point this out himself.
A great many modern readers could very well rankle at Hugo's treatment of Gavroche; that is, the way in which he is portrayed as perfectly healthy and happy despite being a street urchin and technically a thief. Given modern attitudes concerning the necessity of children having a loving caregiver, Hugo's apparent tacit message that Gavroche is better off on the streets could shock or disgust many.
Then again, compared to his parents, the streets do seem to be the better option.
Cosette herself, though a feminine ideal in the nineteenth century, could strike modern readers as underdeveloped next to many of the other characters — she doesn't really serve any purpose as an adult other than the female love interest. Interestingly, the same can't necessarily be said for Hugo's other female characters; Fantine and Éponine in particular are given much more realistic personalities (even if they both wind up tortured throughout most of the story).
The extend of Cosette's underdevelopment tends to get exaggerated, though. And she does have her moments, approaching Marius first (as timidly as she does it, it's still more than Marius dares to do) and towards the end arguing with both of the men she loves the most when they get overprotective (even though she doesn't win). Even as a child she lies to avoid work and borrows a doll from her step-sisters without permission (both of which are of course perfectly understandable but not something you'd expect from a perfect ideal girl and both occasions tend to be missing from adaptations).
There's a section in the novel where Jean Valjean goes to the Thénardiers' inn and gives Cosette a doll (the first one she's had since she's been with Thénardiers; probably the first one she's ever had, considering how poor Fantine was). Hugo then goes off on a tangent to explain how important it is for a young girl to have a doll, since it is the fate and instinct of every little girl to grow up to be a mother. Although this was a perfectly natural outlook on gender roles in the 1800s, many women today would be insulted by the gender stereotype.
And in general, many of the narrator's thoughts about women and their behavior come off as overly stereotypical and backward by modern standards. Hugo is writing in good faith, but he was born, raised, and wrote fifty years or more before women's liberation was even an organized concept.
Values Resonance: For being 150 years old, many issues discussed in Les Miserables are remarkably pertinent today, as we see men persecuted simply for their past reputation, families divided over such petty issues as political fanaticism, and scoundrels who abuse their position of "caretaker" simply for the money. Victor Hugo's urging that these ills must be faced are every bit as relevant today as they were in post-Revolutionary France.
Accidental Innuendo: In the French version of "Stars," Javert sings that he will not slacken in his search "until [Valjean] is on his knees before me". Given the distinct Foe Yay in this song, that line could be taken a certain way.
Adaptation Displacement: The musical is arguably more well-known and more well-loved than the book it was based on. Except, unsurprisingly, in France, as Victor Hugo is considered one of the greatest novelists the country has produced.
Fewer still are aware that the English version is a libretto translation (albeit an excellent one) from Boublil and Natel's French lyrics, nor that said original version opened in Paris five years prior to its West End run.
Alternative Character Interpretation: Depending on how the actors play it, this can occur with many of the characters. For example, in the Champmathieu situation, a lot of the actors playing Javert play the situation as though Javert still suspects the Mayor despite the news of the 'real' Valjean, and is hoping to panic him into making a mistake. The 2012 film plays it as though Javert is genuinely ashamed at his accusal.
A few lyrics in the show are mutable, and subject to different interpretations by different actors. A small change that profoundly affects a character is the line "Be careful how you go, don't let her/your father know," sung by Marius to Eponine. The first version makes it clear that he's only thinking about Cosette and doesn't want to get caught; the second line emphasizes how he understands the risks Eponine runs, and wants her to be safe from her own family.
Similarly, Enjolras's lines can sometimes be read differently without changing a word. "Everybody keep the faith/For surely as the eagle flies/We are not alone/The people too must...rise," for example, has been played both as Enjolras trying to keep his friends' spirits up that soon their terribly outnumbered revolution will be supported by the people like they'd dreamed, and as Enjolras realizing he and all of his friends are going to die.
Eponine. In the book, she comes in as rather creepy and obsessed with Marius, while she's a lot nicer in the musical and all the immoral things she does are ripped off. Celia Keenan-Bolger in the 2006 Broadway revival, however, did manage to keep Eponine's initial madness from the book.
Oodles of 'em, but most notably Éponine and Les Amis, who have become affectionately referred to simply as the "Barricade Boys", which can make it sound like they're a freaking boy band.
A parody of Les Mis featured Éponine lampshading her extreme popularity by singing about how she's the true star.
Estrogen Brigade: Enjolras. Marius. Jean Valjean. Javert. Grantaire. In fact, pick a male character, and there is probably a sizeable group of fans who swoon at the mere mention of his name. Specific actors can also get this: notably, Michael Maguire (Enjolras) and Michael Ball (Marius) are probably responsible for quite a bit of the show's initial female fanbase.
Fan-Preferred Couple: Marius and Eponine. Sympathies tend to go to Eponine, since she has presumably been in love with him for much longer than Cosette, and she actually goes to the barricades to deliver him a letter. Cosette doesn't go to be with Marius, which raises the question of what she was doing when both Marius and Valjean were there. Also doesn't help that in the musical the sudden romance of Cosette and Marius often can be a little nausea inducing.
Since the 2012 movie adaptation came out, however, there seems to be more Marius/Cosette shippers than Marius/Éponine. This is probably because Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried insisted on making the relationship between Marius and Cosette more believable, and that Amanda played a Cosette with a backbone... their relationship is still rushed, though.
Right now, the big battle seems to be between Enjolras/Grantaire shippers and Enjolras/Éponine shippers...
Foe Yay: Javert's song about his obsession with finding Valjean and bringing him to justice sounds, well, almost exactly like a love song actually.
Some of Javert's lines in ''Confrontation ("There is no place for you to hide. Wherever you may hide away, I swear...") can come of as somewhat Stalker with a Crush-y, and the song ends with both Valjean and Javert singing "I swear to you - I will be there!". Valjean's line is actually directed at Fantine, since he is promising to save her daughter, but a lot of actors have him stare at Javert anyway.
And don't forget right before that, Javert's entering line is "Valjean, and last, we see each other plain..."
A twofer: Nick Jonas playing Marius instantly makes Éponine the original Jonas Brother fangirl. Nick Jonas playing Marius when he also originally played Gavroche means Éponine has the hots for her brother.
A threefer, because Nick actually dated Samantha Barks for a while, while they were in Les Mis.
There are multiple cases of actors playing different roles in Les Mis so you get this a lot. For example, Hugh Panaro has played both Valjean and Marius, Hans Peter Janssens as Valjean and Javert, Ramin Karimloo as Enjolras and Valjean, Lea Salonga as Éponine and Fantine etc.
Speaking of Ramin Karimloo, he and Hadley Fraser are the epitome of this: Ramin was Hadley's understudy when Hadley played Marius, then went on to play Enjolras in the 25th production with Hadley as Grantaire, and finally the pair played Valjean and Javert opposite each other. Plus Hadley was the army captain in the 2012 movie. So to recap: one has played Marius, Enjolras, and Valjean; the other, Marius, Grantaire, the captain, and Javert.
Drew Sarich, who managed to play Grantaire, Enjolras, Javert, AND Valjean... all in a single run of the musical!
In the German production, Uwe Kröger and Martin Pasching - Javert and Enjolras, respectively - previously played Death and Crown Prince Rudolf in Elisabeth. They lampshaded it by dueting "Die Schatten werden länger", the Elisabeth song which their characters share... making it canon that Enjolras, the character whose corpse is shown most prominently in the show dances with Death.
Enjolras and Grantaire. Depending on the production, they do everything from touch foreheads to hug closely during "Drink With Me". Anton Zetterholm buries his Grantaire's head in Enjolras' chest for the hug.
Of course, the fact that their actors in the anniversary US touring cast, Jason Forbach and Joseph Spieldenner, are dating (now married) doesn't help.
Nor does the fact that the 2012 movie restored Grantaire going to die at Enjolras's side and their clasped hands as they are shot.
George Blagden has admitted to intentionally playing Grantaire as in love with Enjolras.
He couldve been nicer about it, sure, but Javert - really, as he implies, any sane police officer - didnt actually have any reason to believe Valjean when he said hed be back in three days after going to get Cosette. Especially since repeated escape attempts and breaking parole for 8 years are among the things Valjean is most wanted for, and he did hide his identity around Javert when they were in M-sur-M together - it honestly shouldnt matter whether hes become a good person or not, because even if Javert did believe Valjean intended to go save Cosette as promised, he still shouldn't have reason to believe that he'd willingly come back to jail after being let out of sight.
Dog Eats Dog, arguably the darkest song in the musical, can be this for some. In one production, upon recognizing an unconscious Valjean, Thenardier gets down and straddles him, puts his face about two inches from Valjean's, and yells "HA!" vindictively. He also gave an Evil Laugh as he ended the song and left the barricade. Had the potential to be Narm, but came off as extremely creepy.
From "Attack on Rue Plumet", we have this when Eponine foils Thenardier's attempt at robbing Valjean by screaming and alerting everyone present to their location:
Somehow, the Thenardiers being Adaptational Comic Relief makes them even more abhorrent than their book counterparts—they cackle like lunatics over their rotten deeds and clearly don't show a shred of remorse nor a shred of empathy. Not even Madam can be bothered to care about her daughter's death.
"Lovely Ladies" is about how prostitution is the easiest thing women can do for money and anyone can fall into it if they are desperate enough.
In terms of casting, good luck finding someone who likes Nick Jonas as Marius.
Gavroche becomes this depending on the adaptation because his subplot is cut and he's just an annoying Tag Along Kid. Depending on the actor, he can either be a clever, witty, fiery little character or a cloying, irritating burden. Definitely NOT the case with the 2012 movie, where his spunk and intelligence make him an Ensemble Dark Horse.
Vindicated by History: Like the book, it wasn't a hit the first time it opened. Theater critics found it all flash, no substance, and literary critics felt adapting a classic novel into a musical of all things was in exceptionally bad taste. The English adaptation didn't fare any better yet fans kept watching, despite bad reviews.
Éponine, Fantine, Marius, Cosette and Valjean all have moments.
Hell, the entire cast, bar Monsieur and Madame Thénardier. There's a reason you're sobbing by the end.
Woolseyism: The original French version (1980) underwent many changes in the transition to English (1985), which in turn became the basis for a retooled French version (1991). Some songs/arrangements in the English version weren't in the original but were adapted back in with French lyrics, and some of the original French songs had their lyrics changed to be closer to the English ones.
The other adaptations
Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Eponine/Marius, Eponine/Montparnasse, Eponine/Enjolras, Eponine/Cosette, Eponine/Javert and Eponine/Valjean (mostly because of the 1935 film where they share a lot of scenes).
Narm: Javert's death scene in the 1978 film version. It's supposed to be depressing like all the scenes portrayed in most adaptations. But instead, he flipped over a few times before he hits the water, accompanied by a dramatic saxophone note.
Javert again in the 1935 version, where he's played by an extremely wimpy-looking Charles Laughton whom one fears will burst into tears at any moment.
From the 2012 film, Javert's suicide. While the event itself is heartbreaking and serious, when he hits the water the sound effect used sounds less like the the likely intended Sickening "Crunch!" and more like a cartoonish "splat".
Ron the Death Eater: Look at any bad Les Mis fan fiction. There is a fifty fifty chance that it involves Marius realizing Cosette is a "preppy bitch" and dumping her for Éponine, who got better.
Several adaptations do this to Javert, of all people. Now, Javert was never exactly warm and cuddly to begin with, but some adaptations play up the Cruel and Harsh part of his personality and tone down the integrity and honesty that made him such an interesting antagonist to begin with. For example, in the 98 version, he viciously kicks Fantine into the show over and over again, which seems out of character for him. In most versions of the story, Javert has Lackof Empathy and is a very cold man, but he's not sadistic in the sense that he enjoys being cruel to people.
There's a small, bizarre subgenre of fanfics where Enjolras succeeds in overthrowing the government and immediately becomes a Castro-style dictator, though most if not all of these are intended as Black Comedy rather than character-bashing. Enjolras also semi-officially received this in the 1935 film version, up to and including casting John Carradine, better known for many, many horror movie villain roles, in the part.
The Scrappy: Certain character archetypes that repeatedly appear in adaptations often get this. Several adapted versions give Valjean a sort of "sidekick" character who is never someone from the book and who is usually disliked, as is the "Marjolras" archetype; that is, a Composite Character with Marius' name and Love Interest status but Enjolras' role in the plot, which happens more often than one might expect. There's also the 2000 TV miniseries'... interesting interpretation of Valjean.
So Bad, It's Good: With so many adaptations out there, there's quite a few that fans consider Snark Bait, with the 1952 American film version being seen as especially terrible. General consensus is, if an adaptation excludes both Eponine and Enjolras, run.
Special Effect Failure: In the 1958 movie, a bat or something similar scares Cosette in the forest. The string on which that thing is attached is clearly visible.
Values Dissonance: In a marked departure from the norm, Enjolras is the Big Bad (and played by veteran horror film actor John Carradine) in the 1935 version. The film was made during the Second Red Scare in the 1950s, and thus a positively portrayed revolutionary would've been abhorrent to the public at the time.
Widget Series: Arm Joe: a game based on the musical. It features Enjolras attacking people by building a barricade on top of them, Cosette throwing Valjean as a weapon, an evil robot clone of Valjean, and Javert shoots firebolts from his fingers.