Seeing Phantom of the Opera tonight. If you know anything about me, you know just how important this story is to me. Sure, Leroux's Phantom wasn't exactly anything to fangirl over, and ALW's new musical Love Never Dies destroys everything that's good and magical about the original in the way that only poorly written fanfiction can, but the original Phantom is amazing. Susan Kay's novel, Phantom: The Story of his Life, passed my incredibly difficult test of Does My Fangirl Approve of this Erik with flying colors.
I don't really know why I love the story of Erik, Christine, and Raoul as much as I do. I've tried to figure it out, and I think it comes down to this. It's a story of how we perceive love and how we react to our surroundings when we're out of our comfort zones. Christine loved Erik in his lair, when she was still suspended within his magic. She loved him within her soul -- where his mask and the deformity it hid didn't matter. She loved Raoul because of convention and youth: Raoul was the right one to love, and Erik was not.
Erik, oh, oh Erik. He is the most intriguing character I've ever read. And I've read a lot of very intriguing characters. How can someone who is so totally broken and perverse inspire so many like he does me? I know that Americans love an underdog story, but damn, he was first written in pre-WWI France (if I remember the original date of Leroux's novel's publication correctly). So what if he was a little more crazy, a little more deformed, and a little more maniac in Leroux's novel? That's the purest form of Erik, I think. Kay gave him a backstory and a life beyond Christine and the Opera Populaire; ALW gave him the voice of an Angel while still keeping true to the insecurities that define Erik's character.
Raoul's the character that I love to hate, though reading Susan Kay's novel changed that slightly. I was able to make it through the 2004 Phantom without gagging or jeering at the screen whenever he came on, which is a first. He really just is the "good guy". He's the quintessence of cute and chivalrous and he's loved Christine since they were childhood sweethearts in the attic after he saved her scarf from the sea.
And Jesus H. Christ, that makes me gag.
ALW's Love Never Dies screws with all that is good in the world: Raoul becomes a drunk, Erik runs a freakshow from his tower on Coney Island under the name Mr. Y and Christine's kid is actually his.
Did they pay the fanfiction writers they stole that from? 'Cause I think my thirteen year old self deserves some compensation for that plot that was obviously mine.
Anyway, the point of this post isn't actually to prove that I'm a total and complete Phantom phangirl. It's to wonder what the hell makes some characters so damn alluring as Erik to make his followers completely ignore and forgive all of his mistakes, crimes, and otherwise cringe-worthy behavior. Somehow, I doubt even Leroux would know what's become of his character.