Date of Award

Spring 5-19-2021

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


LACS: French

First Advisor

Blase Provitola


Inspired by his youth in the Parisian suburb of Montfermeil, Ladj Ly’s first feature film explores the presence of the police in the banlieue from the point of view of a special crime unit. Released in 2019, after the murder of Adama Traoré and increased debate on police surveillance, Les Misérables portrays the contemporary reality of life in the suburbs through a shocking act of police brutality caught on camera and the events that follow for the policemen. This thesis explores the systems of the banlieue and their representation in the film and discusses how the shortfalls of the French government in serving the banlieue have attributed to the corruption of the police. Further, this paper analyzes each of the three members of the special crime unit. Despite their stark differences in upbringing, personality, and work ethic, each member contributes to the atrocities of the team as a whole. Because of the prejudices that exist against the banlieue and the relationship that the police have with its inhabitants, acts of police brutality are rampant. The symbols and characters in Les Misérables demonstrate that it is not simply an immoral police officer that commits acts of violence against certain citizens, but rather that the entire law enforcement system, governed by the administration’s nationalistic ideology, is at fault.