Why the Phantom of the Opera Did Not Deserve Pity
I recall falling in love with 2004's The Phantom of the Opera in the year 2006. I hadn't yet had a chance to see the film, and when I did, I was blown away. The music, the beautifully vibrant aesthetic. Each scene was carefully cultivated to evoke an emotion with its color and lighting.
I also found the relationship between Christine and the Phantom to be something tragic and unfortunate. Though I pitied the Phantom and identified with his emotional isolation, I knew it was for the best that Christine eventually chose Raoul, a man who (in this film, anyway) was depicted as sane and morally sound.
Imagine my shock, then, when I got on the internet only to discover people criticizing Christine as "cold" and "shallow" because she didn't choose the Phantom over Raoul.
The Phantom was indeed a tragic figure, but he was not to be pitied, as the saying goes. I say this as someone who actually pities him. The difference is, I'm fully aware that he doesn't deserve my pity and he is not entitled to Christine's affections just because he is lonely and emotionally unstable.
He Literally Murdered People
What is murder? Is it not the pointless slaughter of an innocent?
Gerard Butler, who also played Dracula in the 2000 film so aptly titled Dracula 2000, was perfect as the Phantom. He was sexy and charismatic, and played a psycho killer well, while still pulling off that kicked puppy persona that made you pity him. It's no small wonder, then, that most fans failed to see what an absolute monster the Phantom was -- and it had nothing to do with his disfigured face, as Christine says in the film itself.
The fact of the matter is, the Phantom was a murderer. He killed people who -- while not very likable -- really hadn't done anything worth sneezing at.
Joseph Buquet, the stagehand who occasionally hit on the ballerinas, was strangled to death by the Phantom and his body hung from the rafters during a play. Sure, he was kinda gross and annoying and no one really liked him, but did he deserve to die?
The Phantom also murdered Piangi, the diva Carlotta's lover and a star performer, just so he could take his place in the "Don Juan" play.
And lastly, he attempted to murder Raoul several times for the sin of loving Christine.
He Basically Raped Christine
The Phantom watched (see: stalked) Christine Daae (played by the lovely Emmy Rossum) from his hidden rooms and tunnels. She was an innocent child praying in the soft light of candles, and being the complete antithesis of the dark and uncaring world he had known, he was drawn to her purity and light.
But he knew he couldn't hope to get close to her if she knew who and what he truly was, so he pretended to be an angel and lied to her about it for ten years.
It's easy to pity the Phantom because he was lonely, but he lied to a child and made her believe her dead father was still around. As a result of this, Christine never really grieved, believing her father and his "angel of music" were there guiding her.
Once Christine became a woman, she confused her sexual feelings for the Phantom with a longing desire to have a father figure, guidance, and comfort. Because of the Phantom, even as a young woman, she remained a bewildered and grieving child who was emotionally vulnerable, and the Phantom basically took advantage of her because he was lonely.
And by "took advantage of her" I mean that he deceived her to get into her figurative pants. It is heavily implied by the film that he and Christine have sex after he initially leads her through the mirror post-debut. He is sleeping with this emotionally vulnerable and confused girl under the pretense of being someone he is not.
This is rape.
It is rape because Christine does not have enough knowledge to consent. She doesn't know what's really going on and is being mislead.
I can't even begin to explain why this is messed up, and I shouldn't have to. It is emotional manipulation to the extreme and should not be viewed as something romantic.
The Phantom is not an emotionally healthy lad.
He Was Physically Abusive
On top of being emotionally abusive, the Phantom was physically abusive.
A man should never, ever put his hands on a woman in an aggressive way. Not unless she is Kathy Bates and is beating him to death with a typewriter.
The Phantom may have only shoved Christine to the floor (that sounds bad enough on its own), but his violent anger and aggression could have killed her, let alone physically harmed her. And all because she took off his mask and had the gall to want to actually see the face of the man she just had sex with?
Yes, I believe Christine and the Phantom were having sex. It is very much implied. And in the sequel, she even has the Phantom's child.
The fact that Madame Giry looked the other way while this was happening to a young girl -- even helped the Phantom seduce Christine like some kind of brothel house madame -- is especially despicable.
He Was Emotionally Abusive Multiple Times
Once it finally sinks in that her father is dead and there is no "angel of music," a disturbed Christine goes to the cemetery to finally say goodbye to her father.
And of course, the Phantom stalks her there, then attempts to kidnap her again by pretending to be her father . . . again. Because continuously deceiving and kidnapping someone is something you do when you love them.
Thankfully, Raoul shows up to save the day.
What Christine feels for the Phantom is a deadly mixture of pity and pure lust. He gave her the first sexual feelings as a woman, which obviously delighted her, but because he did it under false pretenses, she is disturbed as well. This is something she will remember for the rest of her life: her first pleasures given to her by someone who pretended to be her father.
Her relationship with the Phantom is purposely juxtaposed alongside her relationship with Raoul. Her feelings for Raoul are presented as pure, childlike love. Raoul respects Christine and truly loves her and would do anything to protect her. He doesn't stalk her or lie to her, and when he has sex with her, it is honest, not done with rapey tricks or deception. (Again, sex is implied, this time between Christine and Raoul, who are seen sharing a bedroom (and presumably a bed) before the scene in the graveyard.)
The Phantom, by contrast, is deceptive by his very nature. (I mean, he literally wears a mask.) He is a magician and an actor. He knows how to lie and he does it well. And considering that he spent all his life immersed in the arts, perhaps acting is the only thing he really knows.
Someone like the Phantom can not know love because he was never loved. All he has ever known is abuse, and now, all he feels is desire, which is selfish and consuming in and of itself. It is little wonder, then, that he would be so selfish with Christine. In longing for her love, he longs for something he can't even comprehend.
Having lived in isolation all his life, he is emotionally stunted and has the emotional development of a temperamental child. In this light, it is truly poignant -- and creepy -- how he sits in his underground cavern, sewing wedding gowns for Christine and sculpting busts of her. He is fixated and obsessed. He's already sewing the dress for her before even speaking to her face to face!
Like a child, he truly believes Christine will be content to marry him and live in the sewer, even though she doesn't know the first thing about him and he is basically a stranger. Meanwhile, he has watched her from the shadows like the creep-stalker he is for ten years and knows everything about her, enough to manipulate her emotionally into dropping her knickers.
The "relationship" is one-sided and predatory.
By the end of the film, a desperate Phantom knows he has lost Christine, who has "betrayed" him by setting a trap for him during a play. In anger, he kidnaps Christine, intent on forcing her to live with him under the opera house. (Tell me again why she should have chosen him.)
Raoul arrives to save the day again, and the Phantom threatens to kill Raoul if Christine doesn't choose him. This is the Phantom at his most selfish. He would keep Christine against her will and kill her lover, destroying her and crushing her spirit for the sake of his own happiness.
A fed up Christine rightfully calls the Phantom out, stating that he deceived her, killed people, and used her for his own lustful ends. Eventually, she realizes what a broken man he is, and in a moment of misplaced pity, kisses him and says that she will stay with him.
The Phantom, through a Magic Kiss, finally realizes what a bastard he is and that true love isn't selfish. He realizes that if he truly loves Christine, he will let her be happy. He will let her go.
Christine then takes the opportunity to leave as fast as she can. And honestly? Fans should be proud of her for choosing the sane, emotionally healthy relationship.
The Phantom can't be fixed through DA POWA OF LUV. Healthy relationships don't involve "fixing" the other person. People are responsible for themselves and for fixing themselves. If you can't offer someone an emotionally stable, healthy relationship, then you shouldn't be in one. Period.
Again, relationships are not about fixing someone or looking for someone else to fix you. And yet, people continuously make the assumption that if they can just find that one person, they can raise their self-esteem, feel complete, feel happy, stop being a murderer and a rapist.
But that's not the way it works.
Everyone is responsible for getting their own crap together before entering a relationship. It's not right to burden someone else with your issues. In fact, it's abusive.
Even the Phantom -- the unapologetic murderer and rapist -- realized this. So he lets Christine go, and she goes on to be a happy mother and wife, free from emotional manipulation, tricks, and lies, and while it's sad that the Phantom winds up alone, the reality is, he didn't have to live that way.
The Phantom thought his face alienated him from other people, but it was his psychopathic tendencies all along.
© 2018 Ash Gray