Friday, May 21, 2010

The Phantom is Everywhere

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,


Anonymous said...

Vicki I really can't wait for reading your novel, greetings from Spain!

nicky said...

Wow, so sorry to hear you've been deleted and unfriended on some sites. The lengths some 'phanatics' would go just boggles the mind. Why bother going online--literally a melting pot of opinions--if you can't take others' opinions in the first place?

Within this 'Church of Erik', I also dislike the snobbery, divisiveness and elitism between book phans and show phans and film phans. I love the movie and I can't tell you how many times I've had to put up with self-righteous fans of the book or the show who think, "You only love this Phantom because it's hawt Gerik and you obviously don't get the point of the story and you're not a true phan!" But I love the book, too. No Gerik there. What do they say to that? Is it so impossible that a person could be a 'phan' of more than one version? Must they think less of someone who appreciates a version they don't?

To answer your question, what drives me toward Erik, what draws me to him is his lonely, tragic life. I can't help but be moved by it. The line in the book that had the most impact on me was, "He had a heart that could have held the empire of the world; and, in the end, he had to content himself with a cellar." Such a waste of genius. Imagine this man who has so much to offer, but could never share his considerable gifts with the world and be accepted as a man, simply because of the way he looks. Add to that Erik's pitiful pleas of "All I wanted was to be loved for myself." It makes me want to weep. And I did cry all of the three times I read the book. No other story has touched me so profoundly the way Erik's has.

Thanks for another thought-provoking post. Congrats and good luck on your novel!

rhapsody said...

My introduction to this story was the 2004 movie, but I saw it in August of 2008. I'd heard of it of course, but knew nothing really about it except that it was an old story done many times, and that Andrew Lloyd Webber turned into a hit stage play...

I saw this movie at a time when I was suffering from diffulties, and somehow it helped to get me through them. It gave me a different perspective - I don't know how or why, but I found it to be a beautiful distraction and I thanked God for the gift of it. And then I found out I was not the only one who had this reaction.

The end of the movie in the lair was one unexpected occurrence after the other. My jaw dropped when she chose Erik over Raoul. Raoul was willing to sacrifice himself to save Christine, Christine was willing to sacrifice herself to save Raoul, and Erik sacrificed his happiness for her's.

I was hopeful for Erik's chance at happiness when Meg showed concern for and went after him. And I am sure that Erik honored his vow to leave Christine and Raoul alone all their lives.

The story combined with the music was overwhelmingly beautiful to me.

As far as the ALW sequel goes - as magnificent a production as it seems to be, what I know of the story confuses me, as it has no continuity to the original story that he presented. But I will address that in another post.

I understand that people have their favorites - I do too. However, I believe that each person brings their own uniqueness to this amazing character's story. And too, that we respect each others' preferences without being insulting. I can (and hope!) I see Patrick Wilson as the Phantom some day (in the original story), but all the different Erik/Christine/Raouls have all added their special touches to this amazing story...

Best with your book. I will add it to my Christmas wish list! =)

God bless you.