Sunday, May 15, 2011

Defenders of the Faith

"If they had read the original book they would have noticed . . ."

". . . suggests to me that the author herself has not even read Gaston Leroux's novel."

"This book cannot be 'legit' if the author clearly has no strong background on Leroux."

Where did those quotes above come from? Reviews on Lessons From the Phantom of the Opera and The Phantom of Valletta posted on Amazon in the US and UK. Interesting, huh?

If any of you know me and know this blog, it's filled with references and quotes from Gaston Leroux's work. Shall I take a picture of my ear-dogged paperback penned with notes in black ink and highlighted in yellow to prove I've read it? So why are all these scathing comments coming my way? I have my suspicions, but it mainly turns the spotlight on an increasing problem in the kingdom of Phantom.

I am not posting to bemoan one-star reviews from three narrow-minded readers. I'm posting because their comments finally pushed me over the edge to write a post I've thought about for some time. I've put it off because I didn't feel like getting strung up with a Punjab lasso. However, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. Apparently, in the eyes of some, there is a Golden Rule one must follow when writing anything Phantom - "Do unto Leroux, as Leroux has done unto you."

After receiving these three comments, it solidified for me once again that the majority of the die-hard Phantom community is strongly polarized into groups. In the lair, fans who love the story pretty much stake their allegiances in one camp or the other. I realize there are plenty of other versions, but these three appear to carry the biggest bucket of overly zealous fans.

Gaston Leroux's Original
Andrew Lloyd Webber's Stage Play
Webber/Schumacher Movie

The Leroux camp of late are the greatest defenders of them all. Why? Well, it's the root of their faith. He is the creator of Phantomdom. His writing is worshiped and revered, and those who have been enlightened by its words will protect it at all costs, even if it means crucifying fellow fans outside the gates to make a point. It's obvious by the comments above that my worth as a Phantom fan is being described as minuscule, because I apparently failed to show the proper homage and intelligence when it came to Gaston Leroux's Le Fantôme de l'Opéra.

The only analogy I can give to the original by Gaston Leroux, is that it's becoming akin to a religion. It's canon law in the Phantom kingdom. It's been deemed by the council of competent authoritative fans in the Church of Erik, that Gaston Leroux is the way and the only way. Those who deviate from the original are heretics. Apparently, that's my problem according to the comments above, because I don't focus merely on Leroux. Therefore, I am an amateur who knows nothing. I have not seen the light. I have not been born again by Erik's touch. I'm tainted by the hypocrisy and false teaching of Andrew Lloyd Webber's various versions; therefore I deserve to be excommunicated.

Like any religion in the world today, those who believe they are the only way have little tolerance for those who deviate from the path of puritanical righteousness. It's almost uncanny folks how this is happening in the Phantom community in many areas. It's not just in Leroux vs. Webber. The grievous part is that some fans seem to think it's their job to attack another fan in order to protect what they deem is the "right" way. There is no respect - no compassion - no tolerance - no acceptance. It's a sad state of affairs indeed that reminds me of a narrow-minded religion out to either convert the masses or destroy those who do not hold the same beliefs.

I will be the first to agree that without Gaston Leroux, we would have no story of Phantom. When I first read the text, I cried. I loved the story and still do. Webber would never have written the stage version if not for the book. There would have been no Music of the Night. What a sad thought indeed to never have seen or heard that masterpiece. We owe the man much, but it's a book ladies and gentlemen. Whether you believe Erik really lived or not, it's a book. It's not the Bible. It was not written by the finger of God, but by a mortal man who drank, gambled, and had a mistress.

It's not a law in the Phantom community that all must bow down to Leroux as the absolute in all things Phantom. It's the root of the story and our heritage that we need to respect in a healthy manner. As far as I'm concerned, I've done that again and again in all of my Phantom works, including this blog and my novel. However, when we start attacking others, then it becomes a religion of obsessive fans out of control who feel they are better and hold some type of sainthood due to their love and deep knowledge of Leroux. "Lerouxism" at its extreme is a form of prejudice against those fans who hold other versions just as dear to their heart.

I'm not writing this just because of three stupid statements posted on Amazon. You can probably tell by the tone of this post, I'm a bit irritated. I'm irritated on your behalf more than anything, and am writing it because I've read comments elsewhere directed at other fans in the community worldwide who have been ridiculed as ignoramuses, because they held a preference to a different version or never read the original work.

That's were I get up in the pulpit and start to preach my protestant Phantom beliefs, even if I may get burned at the stake by the end of this blog. I preach it because I know the people that visit this blog come from a large spectrum of fans and countries worldwide. All of you have been touched by the story in a variety of ways and by the various versions. You have a right to love the version that inspires you the most - whether it's Leroux, Webber, Yeston and Kopit, 2004 Webber/Schumacher movie, or the controversial sequel. The irony of it all, is that most people who are introduced to Phantom through other means, end up being directed back to the original book that they probably would have never bothered to read beforehand.

The beauty of the story is the message it contains. "All I ever wanted was to be loved for myself." Great words written by Leroux. They are words by which I dedicate all my Phantom books. Profound and touching indeed, and it's the cry of every human's heart.

People often say Leroux is tossing in his grave over Love Never Dies. Well I think he's tossing in his grave because the people who revere his work haven't been able to live the message he left between the pages. I'm sure his intent when he wrote the book was not to be worshiped 100 years later as some type of Phantom god. No doubt he merely envisioned writing a good story, with a poignant message, that would bring him some measure of success and nothing else.

In closing, if you're love Leroux, great for you. If you love Webber and other adaptations, great for you too. With that love, show an ounce of tolerance, please, to fans who may not hold your same level of devotion to the creator of Phantomdom.

The resident heretic,
The Phantom's Student aka Vicki

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Vicki...I agree wholeheartedly with you...though you expressed yourself with far more eloquence and grace than I have in regards to this matter.

The funny thing about this is, if not for ALW these uptight, Holier Than Thou, Leroux Phans...wouldn't even be aware of POTO.

I am still amazed at the depths some phans will sink to in order to dredge up as much poison as possible. Its really sad and ridiculous... These stories...whatever their adaption...are for entertainment...and the fact that there are different spin-offs based on the same beloved plot....is wonderful...everyone can have their different "phix" .... but instead...those that need to make themselves feel important or superior...or whatever their bizarre reason is...lol...will always always...take things to the most negative level they can.

There is no understanding it Vicki....you can only laugh....and know you are a talented writer & a great person.

~ Stef

Anonymous said...

Beautifully stated, as always, Vicki! As Stef stated...how many of these zealous fans would have never heard of, or read, Leroux's book had it not been for Webber's play?

A few years ago a punk rock band released their own version of The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin". It was a bit harsh, but you could still recognize the lyrics. When the writer of the song, Justin Hayward, was contacted and asked if he was bothered by the punk version, he stated that he didn't mind it at all...in fact, he felt it was the highest of compliments that they liked his song well enough to put their own spin on it. I feel that Gaston Leroux would not only be stunned that his book still holds such power after all these years, but he too would feel that the many versions of Phantom is the highest of compliments. And like any music genre that you don't care for...you have the right to ignore it.

I have no problem that people cling to their favorite version of the story, but this intolerance, name-calling and hate-mongering is a sick and sad state of affairs.

~Teresa

Alex @ The Blethering Bookworm said...

I can not help but smile and shake my head at the reactions of other fans towards the different versions and spin-offs of the Phantom story that are in the world.

Surely it is a marvelous thing (and something all we phantom phans should be thankful for) that there are people who are brave enough to self publish and that through them the Phantom's story is refusing to die or end.

Authors are bringing their own spin and their own vision to the story. I would not pick up any Phantom novel and expect it to be in the exact style and along the exact same wave length of Leroux.

Once again a wonderful post

Alexandria
http://phantomlit.blogspot.com/

nicky said...

The only analogy I can give to the original by Gaston Leroux, is that it's becoming akin to a religion. It's canon law in the Phantom kingdom. It's been deemed by the council of competent authoritative fans in the Church of Erik, that Gaston Leroux is the way and the only way. Those who deviate from the original are heretics. Apparently, that's my problem according to the comments above, because I don't focus merely on Leroux. Therefore, I am an amateur who knows nothing. I have not seen the light. I have not been born again by Erik's touch. I'm tainted by the hypocrisy and false teaching of Andrew Lloyd Webber's various versions; therefore I deserve to be excommunicated.

I love this. ;D

I'm a fan of the 2004 movie, but I have absolutely no patience for fellow movie fans who say dumb s**t like "I love hawt sexy Phantom. Book Phantom is so ugly. Eew, just...yuck." It's fans like those that make the rest of us look bad. There's a whole lot of them too. So to be fair to Leroux purists, I get where they're coming from. I think what they need to remember, though, is that not all fans of other versions are like the example I gave, and that it is possible to love and understand other versions without compromising your love and understanding for the original book.

Btw, I'm loving this blog's new look. Has it been like this a while now? Sorry, haven't been around for quite sometime so it's new to me, at least. Oh, I just answered your poll question. I've read the book three times. Can I vote yes three times? ;P

RoseOfTransylvania said...

Leroux created these characters, so fan fiction should show respect to them (what LND, for example, doesn´t do). And why turn tragic, dark, mysterious grandeur as bore is something I can´t fathom. I thought phans LIKE POTO and Erik? Still, I can enjoy entertaining canon rapes (again, unlike LND). And those who wrote that you have not read Leroux - could they at least admit their mistake? Have they enough class to apologize their snotty attitude? Probably not.

Vicki Hopkins, Author said...

Thanks for your comment, Rose. "Canon rape" an interesting term. I just see them as adaptations, which in itself is a new spin on an old tale. It's interesting to note too that not even all actors on stage who have portrayed Phantom have read Leroux. Anthony Crivello, the Vegas Phantom, has never read it and says he never will because it might taint his interpretation of the character. I almost wish I could do a survey of all the stage actors to see what their take on Leroux happens to be or if they have read it.

RoseOfTransylvania said...

ALW musical is actually pretty faithful to the original characters, with Erik as deformed and tragic and dark, Raoul as romantic hero and Christine in love with Raoul. I also enjoy - actually very much - 2004 movie, despite miscast Gerry Butler - too young, not deformed enough, etc. I like his acting and singing and visuals and music are magnificent. "Pitiful creature of darkness..."

janiegrace said...

If you look at the the other versions - the plays, movies, etc., as just another opinion of the same story everyone loves, it's much easier to enjoy all of them equally. The 'real' thing wasn't terribly spectacular writing - which may just be the translation. Also - has anyone read Leroux's other works? The Yellow Room is genius.