You know, every time I see one of those posts that says, “I realize that Erik is insane and murderous and dangerous, but I still really want him to end up with Christine. That’s crazy, I don’t know what’s wrong with me!”, I think about that.
And what I usually come up with is that actually, most folks saying this really don’t want Erik to end up with Christine. What they want is for Erik to be happy. They want his lifelong sadness to be cured, at least a little. They want something good to happen to him, in spite of his behavior, because so very much bad has happened to him and it’s not fair and it’s hard not to respond to that. They want him to get rewarded, because he’s spent the entire book/musical/movie trying so hard at something he obviously isn’t good at and probably can’t succeed at. And they want, after a life of being disappointed and downtrodden and denied all nice things, for him to finally, finally get what he wants.
And those are all reasonable things for him to want, and reasonable things for us, as the audience, to want. He’s sympathetic in his sorrow and tragic past, even if many of his actions are inexcusable, and it’s 100% understandable for the audience to understand that and wish they could alleviate it.
But the base assumption in that wish that Erik end up with Christine is that she is the thing he needs to get to cure his sadness, make him happy, give him what he wants after a lifetime of unfairness.
And that’s where it falls apart, because Christine is a person. She isn’t a thing, and when we make this wish, we’re demoting her to that level: not a person, but a thing, a prize to finally reward the Phantom for his suffering, a medication to help alleviate his pain.
I don’t think most people making that wish have any ill intent; they’re just thinking that they want Erik to be happy, so they want him to get what he wants, and what he wants is Christine. They’re not intentionally thinking of Christine as a thing. It’s just that, if you don’t look at that particular wish too hard, it’s easy to default to it. And that makes me sad, because Christine deserves better (and so do legions of other female characters that fall prey to this phenomenon).
(BY THE WAY: Not an indictment of shipping E/C in the slightest! There are plenty of ways that I think the E/C relationship can be interestingly and romantically portrayed, and of course lots of ways that their original Leroux relationship can be read as complex, nuanced, and full of varying degrees and kinds of love. Plenty of ways to acknowledge it as having fucked up and problematic elements and still enjoy shipping it, too. I don’t have a problem with the idea of “I want Erik and Christine to end up together romantically” at all; I just have a problem with the idea of “I want Christine given to Erik regardless of what she might have done/said/wanted, simply because he wants her.”)
(Wishes that make me much happier and more excited to talk headcanons: “I wish Christine had loved Erik and wanted to stay with him,” or “I know Christine loved him and I wish she had been able to stay with him.” In both those cases, Christine is a person involved, instead of an object only defined in relation to Erik wanting her.)