Friday, April 2, 2010

Meg Giry in LND

"The pursuit of approval usually ends in disaster."
(Chris Morris)

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.


Swansong said...

Vicki, my dear...almost you convince me that the Meg character is plausible. Almost. I just have a very difficult time transferring over from the sweet little blond Meg Giry in POTO to the unbalanced showgirl Meg in LND. If the Meg character in the original show had been developed in such a way as to suggest the personality flaws you've implied here, then I might be able to take the leap. But as it stands, all I see of Meg in POTO is an obedient young girl who admires her friend, Christine. There is no indication that she is jealous in the slightest.

Yes people can change drastically in 10 years, but in a fictional stage play where we are supposed to draw a connection between the same characters in 2 different time periods, there needs to be a more obvious thread of recognition and plausible motives. Much as I love you, woman...I just don't see that between the POTO Meg Giry and LNDs.

Great insight, as always!

Vicki Hopkins said...

Love your comment, Swannie. However, I don't feel that Meg was ever jealous of Christine in the original - she was her friend - I totally agree; but I have often wondered what she felt for the Phantom herself during that time.

Her motivation, as far as I can see, only changes in LND when she realizes she'll never have the Phantom's affections because of Christine. For the past 10 years, he's been in her life only.

Ryan Lobo said...

The change does not seem so drastic if you take into consideration the character portrayed in the last POTO movie. It is as if Webber wanted to create some base for what was to be expected in LND.

In the movie I could sense the jealousy inside Meg Giry. Her excitement when she wandered into the passage behind the mirror and her enthusiasm in going after the Phantom when he took Christine with him.

Cheryl said...

Doesn't Meg in the POTO sing to Christine 'I only wish I had your talent, who is this new tutor?' in Angel of Music?
I felt that there was a touch of regret that Christine was always going to eclipse her, that after she was made Lead in Hannibal (after Carlotta flounces out so wonderfully and dramatically) that there was a touch of sadness about Meg, coupled with the fact that she did everything her mother said.. out of love? respect? fear? Mother knows best...!
Some people have commented that Meg has an American accent, and that was a no-no, and yet I fail to see why? She was young when she and Mm Giry arrived in America, 10 years of being surrounded by American accents and yes, it is highly plausible she would have an accent. I only spent 4 months there once and ended up with an accent! If she spent the time trying to fit in, please her mother, please the Phantom, then the accent, the Ooh La La Girl show is just as it would have been. People definitely change, circumstances change us. Megs' life had been one of extremes, she reinvented herself to please other people, to gain acceptance and love,and to fit in, not just from her mother but from the Phantom as well, although I don't think it was romantic love, I feel more as though it was as a father figure she sought his attention,I could be wrong on that. She also wanted to cast off the poor little Meg Giry chorus girl tag of the Opera Populaire and become someone,famous on her own terms,her own talents and somewhere, she lost herself. She realises this in the tete a tete she has with Raoul on the Pier, but after so many hopes raised by her mother ('he is writing again, something beautiful, an aria, not this vaudeville trash', for me? says Meg, 'Maybe' says Mm Giry, but be good and see what happens) to the crushing cruel put downs from her,('Cant you see the Master is Busy?'and 'He's with HER!') its very unsurprising she flips out, and terribly sad as well. I like the character depth of LNDs, there are so many layers to dissect!

Anonymous said...

For some reason, I somehow came up with the thought that Madame Giry and the Phantom had a fling, resulting in Meg? Madame Giry has a different bond with him to everyone else, she isn't at all surprised that the Phantom and Christine had a child out of wedlock and Meg and Gustave's characters have lots of similarities in LND (both sing songs starting with Mother - Mother please I'm scared, Mother did you watch, both sing "yes" to the phantom (the beauty underneath and please miss Giry I want to go back) and at the end of Phantom when Madame Giry won't let Meg go down the the lair I thought that perhaps it is that she doesn't want Meg and the Phantom to know that he is her father? What do you think?

Vicki Hopkins said...

Huh, never thought about it that way, but it's another plausible plot twist! Thanks for sharing.

nikitaz kolibri said...

Look closely at the end of Beauty underneath and the scene that am when Gustav terrified, looking to rejoin his mother, the Phantom on his heels. Meg Giry arrives at that moment with Christine. If we look at the scene, we see Meg giry stretch out his hand and start a movement as if to take the Phantom in his arms, far from being disgusted or horrified by the appearance of the phantom (then without a mask). She is stopped only because Christine asks Meg to take Gustav and take her somewhere else. Meg is in love with the phantom, the latter is in love with Christine, and Christine seems to no longer know too much (we are not yet at the scene devil take the handmost), we see a kind of embarrassment, and we finally notice a love triangle: Personally, that's how I decrypted the scene.
Now, it depends on the version you saw, but I saw the Australian version on DVD, and Meg Giry gave me the impression of loving the Phantom.

PS: sorry for my english, i'am belgian.