I just got three seminary friends to agree to watch the three hour 25th anniversary Phantom of the Opera with me.
You know, the show I listened to every day after school when I was thirteen and reliably cry through the last twenty minutes of. The one with the dramatic, maladjusted, inappropriately intense antihero I strongly identify with. The show I have spent ten years accruing fun facts and strong opinions about.
They have no idea what they’re getting themselves into .
Hearken to me, haters of Erik, antishippers of E/C: “If I am the Phantom it is because man’s hatred has made me so and if I am to be saved it is because your love redeems me.” Or in the musical the fact that when the Phantom first tells Christine he loves her… It is also the very last thing he tells her. Or the fact that Erik in fact happily dies of a broken heart since he loves her so much and she gave him everything with so little. The fact that he never won, he never knew any kindness and he had to go through some extremely dark places and still – still he could believe in love and beauty, after a life where he’d had neither.
Erik is not a villain. Erik is no evil mastermind. He is a dreamer beaten down, a lover of beauty mocked by fate, a pure heart delving in loneliness, a magnificent mind held back by the sorrowful reality of the body.
And he wasn’t about taking, not until everything went wrong, not after he was redeemed. He was gentle and he wanted to give Christine everything. He did not care about fame or money – all that was for her. But in the end he gave her everything by letting her leave with the Vicomte.
All he ever asked for? A normal life. A living bride. Someone to touch him and not die.
This gif is from the triumph commonly known as the 25th anniversary. Ramin honours Erik’s character with his Final Lair scene. And Sierra does the same for Christine. This gif destroys me softly. Christine stops to glance back one last time and this is what the Phantom does. Nods. Let’s her go. Acknowledges that everything went wrong, that he “loved her too much and dived too deep”. She knows this, too. But that doesn’t stop love. In fact, it makes it spark, bloom, shine. This is the moment they both finally see clearly. (//In the book this moment is the one where E/C cry together.)
This right here is what makes The Phantom of the Opera a tragedy. Not the murders, not Erik’s own demise, not his spiralling into hurtful madness. The tragedy of his character comes out in the light of his redemption. The tragedy of all-consuming love which is unfulfilled and still gives all, takes life, makes one human.
This kind of love story never gets old. Innocent and easy as Christine and Raoul’s love might’ve been, their story alone wouldn’t have lived this long. PotO is the Ghost’s love story, and love he did, with a fervour unequaled. And that took the courage of a hero, as did seeing clearly, as did letting her go. The Phantom of the Opera is the hero of his own story, and he never knew it.