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COM Students Produce Les Misérables Parody

Trailer features BU students struggling to find work

| From BU Today | By Amy Laskowski

Watch Kevin Wang and Mike Irving’s version of Les Misérables.

It’s easy to see why Les Misérables resonates with young audiences despite its 19th-century setting: it tells of an authoritarian government, a society crippled by unemployment, and university students fighting for socialist ideals.

Fans of the Tony Award–winning musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel had to wait more than 25 years to see it on the screen. Since the film, starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, opened in late December, it has earned more than $234 million at the box office. On January 13, it won three Golden Globe awards, and it’s up for eight Academy Awards.

Inspired by the movie’s contemporary themes of social injustice and poverty, BU students Kevin Wang (CGS’10, COM’12) and Mike Irving (CAS’13, COM’13) recently made a parody of the film’s trailer, poking fun at the dismal job market staring down soon-to-be college graduates. Since the COM students’ video was posted to YouTube in late December, it has been viewed more than 56,000 times.

Wang, who graduated in December, describes himself as a “Broadway geek.” He says he got the idea for the parody after watching the trailer for the movie and listening to Hathaway sing “I Dreamed a Dream.”

“When Anne Hathaway sings, it’s like you’re hearing the lyrics for the first time,” says Wang, who admits to having fallen in love with Les Misérables when he saw it on Broadway as a child. “As I listened to her sing, I realized that the song could be tied into the American dream and college students. I thought, here’s a chance to do something in conjunction with the movie that could be funny and resonate with a lot of people.”

The BU parody features fictional students majoring in anthropology, journalism, philosophy, and theater as they battle banks and are rejected by potential employers (“Dear 2013 graduate, you need five years work experience for this entry-level job,” reads a rejection letter in one cutaway). Text throughout the mock trailer—“From crushing student debt…and the worst job market since the Great Depression…the dream dies this graduation”—is sure to strike a chord with students graduating this spring.

Wang approached Irving with his idea for the parody. It took them two-and-a-half weeks to plan, shoot, and edit—with a slight delay for final exams. Wang estimates that he watched the real trailer at least 100 times, even replaying it during the shoot to ensure that he and Irving had the actual trailer’s camera angles exactly. Like the trailer’s, the parody’s soundtrack features Hathaway singing “I Dreamed a Dream.” “We wanted to emulate it as closely as possible,” Wang says. “I think I memorized the whole thing.”

The project was a BU-wide effort, with a BU-centric cast and scenes shot at Espresso Royale and the Lower Depths.

Recent labor statistics may explain the popularity of the COM students’ parody. A National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey of 2012 graduates found that only a quarter had managed to find a job before graduation, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 8.2 percent of college graduates 24 years old and younger were unemployed last month, more than twice the rate for older graduates.

As the parody’s viewer numbers climb, Wang’s and Irving’s project has been drawing lots of attention, including an article in the Boston Globe and a story in the Huffington Post. But, Wang says, the best feedback has come from BU peers.

“People told me that we captured what it feels like to be a college student: depressing, but funny at the same time,” says the still-unemployed Wang (he hopes to work in advertising in New York City). “Some people have wondered if we should have made a more uplifting film, but I call it ‘chicken soup for the persevering spirit.’ Everyone knows how you feel; this parody doesn’t mean to say your life is over. The job hunt may be a little harder, but we can do it.”

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