In the past few months, I've braved the world of role playing on MySpace as Christine Daae. If you want to role play the Phantom of the Opera, you pretty much have to profile yourself as a Phantom or Christine to get any attention.
If you're not familiar with role playing, most role players are anonymous. You never know who you are playing with at the other end of the cyber network. Frankly, I was terrified to try this form of entertainment, but pushed myself during the months I was taking an advanced fiction writing class. My instructor even encouraged the behavior as an excellent way to keep my pen flowing every day by forcing myself to write character and storyline. I have met some absolutely amazing writers who pen themselves in circles around me; and, frankly, I think are much too tolerant of my dabbling in the area of fiction.
Do I enjoy it? Yes, but I'm cautious. It certainly brings you into a world of illusion - a make believe place that isn't real. I've sucked my brain into Christine Daae's body -- love her body and looks, but not too keen on her brain. I'm molding my Christine the way I wish her to be, not the Christine I've dissected in my posts -- one who used and betrayed two men. My Christine contains a huge amount of myself woven into her character, only because it enables me to birth my writing from my heart.
If I've learned anything in role playing, illusion is a powerful medium of control. It can take you to a place that brings strange comfort, but also great danger. After reading enough psychology articles on the subject, I've come close to throwing in my pen afraid I'll take this entire world I've created too seriously. So why do I continue? I stumbled across this quote last week regarding illusion, which explains part of why continue to login every day and post another thought on behalf of my make-believe Christine Daae:
"Man seeks to escape himself in myth, and does so by any means at his disposal. Unable to withdraw into himself, he disguises himself. Lies and inaccuracy give him a few moments of comfort." (Jean Cocteau)
I'm taking you down a road to make a point regarding our dear Erik, so you can recognize the world of illusion he built around his own life. What were those illusions? His mask, for one, was an illusion. He designed and molded a mask that would hide his appearance and make him look like anyone else. He designed and created a home for himself under the Opera Populaire, an illusion of normalcy. He dressed a wax figure of Christine in a wedding dress, creating illusion of Christine being his wife. The world of illusion led him down a road of obsession. (If you have not read my post regarding obsession, I encourage you to do so.) The Phantom not only used illusion to comfort himself, he used illusion to control others. The entire Opera House was an illusion, filled with secret passageways and trap doors to catch the unsuspecting, which he help design and build for his own use.
So what is illusion? If you need a cold hard dictionary definition, it's basically something that deceives. Illusion produces a false or misleading impression of reality. You may not believe your own life is influenced by illusion, but I assure you it is. Every time you watch a movie, read a book, wish you could fall in love with the Phantom or be a Christine Daae, you've left reality and crossed into illusion.
Why do we do it? Creating illusion through storytelling is nothing new. It's been around for centuries as a tool humans use to cope. Reality can be harsh, life cruel, living in our world hectic and draining. We find ways to compensate and comfort ourselves. We often find characters we can identify with and hold onto them deluding ourselves in an illusion we are like them, or as in role playing, we live vicariously through the character. Again, buried in the Phantom of the Opera, and embodied in Erik, is another interesting facet of our humanity. He's quite the complex Ghost using illusion and myth to find comfort in his life.
Remember too, the story is an illusion, a character created in the mind of Gaston Leroux, a writer. I know that many believe that Erik truly lived, and I am not here to argue that point or dispel anyone's beliefs or offend anyone by my next statement. However, I find it interesting that Gaston Leroux lived during the Victorian age when magicians and illusionists were enjoying a golden age of their own. It makes me wonder how much of an illusion is woven into the book itself and Leroux's statements that Erik truly lived.
Your Obedient Servant
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