This month, Keke Palmer will be the first Black actress to take on Cinderella’s glass slippers on Broadway, following in the recent footsteps of the likes of Norm Lewis being the first Black actor to star in Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera. We’ve talked a fair amount about colorblind casting on this blog, and I’d say these are examples of the practice working for its desired benefits: making sure actors of color get a fair chance at playing a variety of roles, including leading roles that have long been considered “whites-only” territory. However, I’m asking the reader to consider: is Broadway seeing its first Black Cinderella, or merely the first Black actress to play Cinderella? What is the distinction and why does it matter? Allow me to elucidate.
“I know Marius was gonna try to ask you out. He totally didn’t do it, did he?” says Éponine.
Cosette sighs. “No,” she admits.
“Okay, then I’d like to take his missed opportunity.” Cosette looks blank. “Uh. Would you like to. Get coffee? Sometime?”
Cosette blinks. “Oh. Oh! I’m, um. I—”
“You’re straight, right, yeah. Worth a shot.”
“No, I— I mean, I’ve just never—”
“It’s fine, it’s okay, forget it. I’m gonna go back to work, it was great catching up.”
“No, wait,” Cosette insists, and Éponine stops in spite of herself. “Um, can I…?” She gestures to the pen behind Éponine’s ear. Éponine hands it to her hesitantly. Cosette takes her whole hand instead of just the pen, and it feels like an electric shock up Éponine’s arm. Which is nothing compared to when Cosette uncaps the pen with her teeth and holds out Éponine’s arm to write something on it. Something that’s a phone number.
“Call me,” Cosette adds needlessly, and smiles, and this is definitely the best smile yet. Éponine feels a little dizzy.
“Yeah,” she says. “Yeah, totally, I will.”
–from The Sad Orphan Kissing Society by Solshine
One of the only non-miserable things about Les Misérables is Marius and Cosette’s relationship, but even that, obviously, grew out of some pretty miserable stuff. Cosette used to be in the care of Éponine’s abusive parents, the Thénardiers, and Éponine had a massively unrequited crush on Marius which eventually led to her death. Aside from all that depressing stuff, though, I never really liked Marius and Cosette’s relationship. It’s not that I don’t believe in love at first sight, it’s just that the way Marius goes about it is so silly. Honestly, he sees a girl across a square, decides he’s in love with her, and then, upon finally being introduced to her, he tells her “I do not even know your name”? And in the book he even obsesses over a handkerchief that ends up being Valjean’s, not Cosette’s. I just. Marius Pontmercy, everyone.
That’s why The Sad Orphan Kissing Society, by Solshine, is so awesome. Not only does it have a kickass title, but it also includes a Marius Pontmercy who’s just as hopeless (and kind, and fair) as he is in the canon versions of the story, and that’s not easy, considering that this fic is a modern day AU of Les Misérables. In fact, everyone is fantastically in character for having been brought a couple centuries forward. Éponine is a little rough around the edges, a little unsure of herself, and Cosette is as innocent and as forgiving as she’s ever been. When the two girls meet, they instantly hit it off—and Solshine even gets into the sticky issue of the Thénardiers’ abuse without detracting from the fun, teenage feel of the fic.
And even though I dislike Marius, Éponine and Cosette clearly like him, so, just as a rising tide lifts all boats, an OT3 solves all problems—and make no mistake about it, it’s Éponine’s and Cosette’s joint decision to invite Marius into the fold. It takes Marius a hilarious scene to understand what’s going on, but when he finally figures it out, it goes very well for the three of them.
The Sad Orphan Kissing Society is a fairly short read at 10k words, and can be found here on AO3. Enjoy, and I hope you all found some good femslash fics during this Femslash February!
There’s this idea that if a guy is nice to a girl, he deserves something in return. A thank you? Sure. Some… other form of appreciation? Would be more appreciated. What if a guy was nice to a girl over a much longer period of time? Then they’re friends, right? Sure. But what if the guy wants to be more than friends, but for all his niceness, the girl still won’t go out with him?
Well, then the guy’s stuck in the dreaded “friend zone”. And what is the friend zone? It’s where girls relegate guys who are just nice enough to not make it into that erogenous zone where they actually get to have sex. Or, in other words, it’s a stupid social construct that implies both that a guy can’t be nice to a girl out of sheer altruism or friendship, and that if a guy is nice to a girl, she must reciprocate by sleeping with him. And whether or not it’s the girl doing the friendzoning, somehow, the pressure is always on the girl’s romantic interests.
Let’s take a look at some examples from pop culture so you can see what I mean. Slight spoilers for The Hunger Games and Les Misérables below.
Love triangles are by no means something that’s unique to the stage—they’ve been part of popular storytelling tradition for centuries. And if you’re anything like me, you’re starting to get sick of being asked which “Team” you’re on every time you consume some new media about a group of three people of differing genders. There are some very famous musical love triangles, though, and I’d like to look at a few of them and discuss why they’re problematic and why they almost always end up being unfair to the women involved.