The mask embodies so much symbolism, that I will never be able to touch all aspects of its meaning in one article. You will see that I refer to its existence in others, as well as the agony that we find behind the mask. I know that Erik hates it when someone takes his mask off and reveals his ugliness, however, for this article, we really need to take a peek behind what’s there.
The physical mask was the Phantom’s attempt to make his appearance more appealing and to hide the deformity of his face, which brought him so much rejection. By wearing a mask, he could attempt to become like everyone else. In the original work, the Phantom states, "I have invented a mask that makes me look like anybody." In the movie version, I dare say most women would agree that Gerard Butler played an extremely handsome and attractive Phantom even with a mask. Of course, is that not the point of our masks anyway? To hide what is ugly and painful within us and allow us to play a more loveable and desirable role to find acceptance?
Christine is a curious woman. She wants to know what is behind the mask. She feels the need to see beneath it, to reveal the hidden face. Seeking to see what is there, she removes the Phantom’s mask without asking permission. In doing so, the Phantom cries out in grief and rage as that hideous part of his life is painfully exposed.
As human beings, we all yearn for love and acceptance for who we truly are. We are not transparent human beings. We all have masks on to protect ourselves. Frankly, humanity has been hiding behind masks since the Garden of Eden. Sure, it might have been a fig leaf for Adam, but the concept is the same. We are afraid of our emotional nakedness, so we hide ourselves instead.
We all live behind masks that cover our deepest hurts and darkest thoughts. For someone to pull our mask off uninvited and reveal to others what is underneath, is a painful experience. In grief and anger, we would react just as the Phantom did. Behind our masks, however, lies not a physical deformity. Instead, we hide the painful emotional dimensions of our lives from the world.
I think today’s society the majority of us will continue to wear our masks to protect ourselves in order to be attractive to those around us. It takes great courage to remove your mask and reveal your true self to another person. When you do so, you risk rejection; and once rejected, like the Phantom, we tend to pick the mask up, place it back on our face, and continue with our lives none the better. Nobody really wants to risk removal at the price of rejection. Right?
If we lived in a world where we could find love and acceptance for who we truly are without the fear of rejection, there would be no need for stories like The Phantom of the Opera that so deeply touch our souls. Millions relate to his pain. Sadly, human nature is cruel and superficial, and perhaps it takes a divine nature to love and accept us unconditionally.
Do you think if the Phantom lived in the 21st century, would we have given him love and acceptance? I don’t. I have the vision that he removes his mask and the first thing we do is take him to a plastic surgeon to fix it. Then after the operation, when his deformity is not as repulsive, we give him the love and acceptance he seeks.
Do I wear a mask? Of course, I do. It hides my deepest hurts and the rejection I have experienced throughout life. I dare say it will take some doing to remove it, and I kindly request that you not to remove it without my permission.
The Phantom's Student - With Her Mask On
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