Poor fools, they make me laugh… A Rant

Disclaimer: the following rant should not, in fact, reveal me to be other than of a decidedly romantic bent. Having seen The Phantom of the Opera in several forms (and in the theater twice this week), reading the rabid fangirl postings in the various fora has made me sick of the disappointed squealing over the romantic side of things. If it were any other story, I might also disparage the denouement, but to change this particular plot would betray the very characters we profess to love so well.

The fatal misstep in judgment was not Christine’s, but Erik’s. While love is blind (and in some cases, deaf, dumb, maimed, and with a nasty case of insanity as well), Christine was too young and naive for him. Yeah, after experiencing the Original Cast (with Brightman and Crawford – squeeee!) the actors chosen for the movie seem too young – but that was the point of Leroux’s novel. She’s young, she’s innocent, and she chooses what she’s been trained to choose: music and aesthetics. Regardless of Erik’s violence, he’s neither handsome nor anything approaching acceptable by the majority of society.

The novel’s Christine Daae was a young Swedish girl raised by her patroness (Mme. Valerius, if anyone’s interested) to a mystical sort of Christianity wherein it was perfectly acceptable for the Angel of Music to tutor her. This particular naivete was a perfect opening for Erik to exploit – he assumed a fatherly role in her training, which was naturally difficult to transform into that of a romantic partner. She’s a product of her era – beautiful but rather vapid, trained to a career in the Opera but not for rational thought. Disregarding his penchant for violent mischief, he has no recognizable role in society except that of the outsider. He can offer Christine no stability – even were he to accept her choice in the grotto, they would be forced to flee France. If you follow the Leroux canon, Raoul would be perfectly capable (and indeed likely) to pursue them even beyond those borders; the Phantom receives the kiss he has craved, and at least on some surface level, the love he desires, but he comes to his senses in time to send her away.

Romantic as it might be for Christine to remain with Erik in his subterranean wonderland, eventually survival would dissipate even the thickest clouds of sweet sparkly pink love. How easy would it be to continue his seduction while fleeing through the sewers of Paris? With a mob on his tail, Erik makes his choice. Given his personality profile, the demise chosen by Leroux is the logical conclusion – Erik dies having received his wish, even if it’s only a shell. While Christine may eventually have learned to see past his masks and disfigurations, such a development would have changed one of the very qualities that Erik valued most about her. She would no longer have been innocent.

To borrow Webber’s lyrics: “Stranger than you dreamt it / can you even dare to look / or bear to think of me / this loathsome gargoyle / who burns in hell, but secretly yearns for heaven / secretly . . . secretly . . . But, Christine – / Fear can turn to love / you’ll learn to see / to find the man behind the monster / this . . . repulsive carcass / who seems a beast / but secretly dreams of beauty / secretly . . . secretly . . . Oh, Christine.” Even Erik cuts his dream short and returns her to the Opera. Her romance with him is best left to his imagination – and that of the squealing fangirls.

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~ by jackelopette on December 30, 2004.

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