Since I came home from London, I’ve thrown myself into my own Phantom novel. It’s completed and will probably be available in the United States sometime in July, with worldwide distribution hitting August/September. Right now, the book is in final editing, and I’m taking a moment to step back and reflect.
It’s been an interesting experience crawling into the head of the Phantom himself and writing him from the inside out. “Poor unhappy Erik,” as Leroux describes him, is quite the multi-faceted character. I’ve played with his petty irritations, his deep-seated anger, his manipulation, need for control, obsession for beauty, drive for perfection, his physical desires, his self-loathing, depression, and inward anguish. Of course, in my version, Erik is how I see him – unlike Webber or the hundreds of other Phantom books, movies, and plays on the market. He’s sort of personal to each of us creative folks, like he is to each of the fans.
After dissecting him in my own novel, I’m back to asking myself once again, what is it about this character that is so profoundly important to fans? How we relate to Phantom, in a lot of ways, is almost tantamount to a religion. Even the obsessed, within the Phantom community, have a tendency toward Erik’s characteristics of little tolerance and a need to string others up when we disagree. Love Never Dies is the perfect example, and sadly enough even I’ve been deleted and unfriended on various social networking sites because I held a different opinion. I’m sure my Erik would disapprove highly of your inability to understand my need to be accepted even with my opinions, while yours probably said delete the #*&*^% anyway! It's all how we perceive him, which is really uncanny when you think about it religiously as well. How we see God is how we relate to others.
Whatever we all think about each other in this "Church of Erik," as I've heard it been called, we relate to the same Phantom that embodies within each of us our dark tendencies, bitterness, and pain of our lives. We sort of feel just like him, whether it’s through physical deformity or emotional pain. It’s what I call in my earlier posts – Erik’s humanity. In the end, we all want to redeem him from his hurts, like we wish someone would redeem us from our own.
The Phantom of the Opera will never die in popularity, because it will always speak to the deeper need in each of us as humans – “All I wanted was to be loved for myself.” It’s a place where we feel understood. We watch the play, see the movie, read the book, and we see ourselves in another human. Is it comfort or therapy? Whatever it is, there’s a reason you’re a Phantom fan and why you wear a mask. What drives you toward Erik? I'm always curious to know.
Back to poking,