"The pursuit of approval usually ends in disaster."
Meg Giry, is the little ballerina from the Opera Populaire. We remember her as the one who held the mask of the Phantom when the curtain came down at the end of the original production. If you’ve read my posts about Meg beforehand, you already know that Leroux and Webber portray her differently.
Since we’re looking at Meg from Love Never Dies, let’s focus on this version and see what’s happened the past 10 years to so drastically change this woman. In order to understand the current Meg, we need to take another quick look at the original Meg.
What do we know about her as a person? Well, the most obvious is that she is the daughter of Madame Giry. She is in the ballet corps of the Opera Populaire; and in Webber’s version, her mother is the ballet mistress, who by all accounts is a bit rigid and stern. Her mother demands to know, “Meg Giry. Are you a dancer? Then come and practice.” Little Meg always does what mother says. Perhaps it’s that black cane she keeps pounding on the floor.
There is, however, one glaring gap in Meg’s life that is never revealed in Webber's version and that is one of a father figure. We are given no indications who her father is, whether he’s still alive or dead. In fact, we don’t even know if Meg is a legitimate child born in wedlock either – an interesting thought to consider, is it not?
From the point of her holding the mask at the end of the original Phantom of the Opera, 10 long years have passed. She has continued to do as her mother asked. Meg has followed the Phantom to New York, and for 10 years she has supported him along side her mother. Why? Is it because her mother required it of her? She states in Love Never Dies that she “did as mother said.” Does her motivation go beyond that though?
In my original post about Meg, I call her the woman of possibilities. Even then, it wasn’t unreasonable to think that this man who her mother served faithfully for years hadn’t produced in Meg some type of deep emotion. What kind of emotions are they though - romantic in nature or fatherly in nature?
In Love Never Dies, Meg does everything to get noticed by the Phantom. She has an insatiable desire to please him. She wants to hear the words that were spoken to Christine, “he is well pleased.” She wants to shine only for him – she wishes to sing only for him – and she wants him to know – know what? That she loves him? She even goes to the extent of giving herself in sexual favors in order to advance the Phantom’s career on Coney Island. (See footnote below.) She desperately wants his favor, but he never sees her sacrifice because he’s too busy with his own obsession, while Meg is obsessing over him.
When I look at Meg in the version of Love Never Dies, I see a woman who is desperate for approval. She’s been raised by a stern mother, who no doubt pressured her into being the best. Perhaps she never received enough approval from Madame Giry in her early years. Even now in Love Never Dies, she’s always asking her mother “how was I?” after a performance. She’s a person with a constant need for affirmation, and it’s that flaw in her personality that creates the Meg in Love Never Dies.
So what pushes poor Meg over the edge anyway? The number Bathing Beauty is the place of no return for Meg. Her unveiling of naked flesh is an outward act of an inward cry. She is exposing herself to such an extent that she thinks the Phantom will finally see her. It's her sly way, perhaps, of upstaging Christine before her aria to show the Phantom she was somehow better. In any case, Meg takes extreme measures to make a point.
What happens, however, is the sad reality that the Phantom wasn’t there to see her desperate attempt for approval. Instead, he’s with Christine and that puts her over the edge. No longer is the desire for approval the motivation, it’s jealousy and despair that shoves Meg down the road to the pier with Gustav and gun in hand.
At the end, we see a Meg lose all control when she’s reminded by the Phantom that not everyone can be like Christine. The trigger is pulled, she screams she didn’t mean to do it, and her competition dies in the arms of the man she loves. During the ending scene, Meg gathers Christine up in her arms and holds her as the repentant little girl, no doubt looking for forgiveness because all she really wanted was just to be seen.
Do you still think she’s just a slut in the story or do you perhaps have an ounce of sympathy for her now? I will ask this question often as you read more posts ahead: Do people change in 10 years because of life circumstances and events? The answer, of course, is yes.
As you consider how much Meg Giry has changed from the Phantom of the Opera, perhaps you’ll see all those tendencies were really buried underneath all along. It was just a matter of circumstances, pressures, and her own desires for acceptance and approval that drove her over the edge of no return.
We all want approval from those we love – whether it’s from a parent, friend, boyfriend, or spouse. She’s like anybody else really crying on the inside – please see me and tell me you care! In reality, her cry isn't much different than the Phantom's in Leroux, "All I ever wanted was to be loved for myself."
The Phantom’s Student
FOOTNOTE: I’ve read negative comments regarding Meg turning sexual favors in this version, but in reality during the late 19th century, especially in the world of Paris Opera, those that performed often did “service” patrons. The morals of the day were quite different. Most female performers were considered morally loose and akin to prostitutes. If we are to portray the actuality of the day, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that Meg was aware of that practice back in Paris and hence used it in her new role on Coney Island to further along the Phantom’s success. Whether it's right or wrong or you like it or not, it was merely a fact of life.