i loved your thoughts about the monsters and female sexuality, and i was wondering if you had anything specifically about the phantom? or any thoughts on the phantom of the opera in general i would love to hear them
You know those pieces of media you can’t read/listen/watch without being transported to your first go-through, with all the exact emotions that come with it? And it doesn’t matter if these were profound Great Works of Art, they were just there at the exact right time to crawl under some bit of skin, to find the exact right string to pluck—and you will never, ever get rid of them. They are inside you, all you can do is accommodate them.
For me, that’s what Phantom of the Opera was. I stumbled over it at twelve-thirteen, already knowing that I was a fucking weirdo but not really sure how I was planning to deal with that, and it just—blew the fucking doors off the place. I cannot listen to a single song, watch a single frame of the 2004 movie, even glance at a picture of Sarah Brightman without the all-over cringing embarrassment of being that thirteen-year-old again and feeling things that were enormous and sweating-hot and nameless and much more than I was even sort of prepared for.
Which means that I am largely incapable of talking about it in a rational sort of fashion. I will say that Phantom takes…something an opposite tack towards the monster romance. Typically, a monster romance is Beauty recognizing the humanity of a Beast, and ennobling the Beast because of it; it’s a redemption-thorough-love narrative. In Phantom, Beauty (Christine) recognizes there is something also monstrous in her, but ultimately rejects that monstrosity. She’s really he one who undergoes through the transformation, not the Beast, though he ultimately does recognize her transformation.
I generally put this down to the addition of the Svengali narrative—while there’s always a power imbalance between Beauty and the Beast, it’s acute in Phantom. (The Beast just wants Belle to come to dinner and avoid the West Wing, Erik watches Christine through her fucking mirror and kills people.) The Phantom’s real monstrosity isn’t his face, it is the demand Christine sacrifice literally everything to him and capital-A-Art. The absolutist mania is monstrosity in itself. Monstrosity is just another way of transcending the ordinary, and isn’t that what artists are meant to do?
Christine’s desire to be an Artist is part and parcel of the monster romance of the Phantom; if she didn’t sort of want to be an artistic monster herself, there’s no draw. The 2004 movie is….awkwardly blunt about this, making the Phantom a transgressively sexual figure. (While I don’t think it’s incorrect, I also think it obscures some of the real motivation there. Desire for a basement dwelling weirdo can be two things, ALW.)
I realize my previous meta was about monster romance-qua-monster romance, monster romance as an expression of desire, but monster romances represent a hell of a lot of different things—each slightly different, but drawing on the long legacy of transgressive desire in all senses.
Also, the overture remains A True Banger.