Friday, January 14, 2005

PHANTOM of the OPERA ~ Great Movie! BAD PLOT!

The Phantom's Hidden Plotline
I LOVED the Phantom of the Opera movie! Gerard Butler kicked fucking ass! He was a joy to watch and a total pleasure to listen to. I already have this soundtrack. The Phantom should sing like a Manly Man – not like some one with their balls in a vice. (I will NEVER listen to that whiny tenor’s music again.)
The movie was FANTASTIC! I shall endeavor to watch it as many times as I can scrape up the cash to do so.
But the Plot-line for the 'Phantom of the Opera' - the actual STORY -- IS WRONG!!!

Somebody Fucked Up
the Author’s Original Plot!

My 'theory' is that 'The Phantom of the Opera' that we have come to know, from the original magazine published edition, (it was published as a book a year later,) is Not the story Leroux actually intended.

My guess is that the very first publisher made the Leroux Change the Story - so as not to offend anyone during the time when 'The Phantom of the Opera' was first published in France, in 1910.

Why would a Publisher CHANGE a Manuscript?

This Changing of Manuscripts is a COMMON occurrence. Publishers REGULARLY change whole stories – ripping them apart to suit what they think their reading audience will buy. It still happens. Ask any published author.

The 'Phantom of the Opera' was first released, as installments in a magazine, only four years before the start of WWI when tempers were running very hot. Whether or not Leroux's publisher paid his bills depended on the public liking the story enough to BUY his magazines. Additionally, he could not afford to piss off anyone with any real power to shut his publishing house down -- such as the MILITARY.

Before I go any further...
Let me make this crystal clear -- I am not a critic, and this is Not a Critique of the movie, the play, the published book that the movie and the play comes from, or what Leroux's publisher released in those long ago magazine installments. I am referring to what I 'suspect' was in the original manuscript that Leroux submitted to the publisher.

I am a FICTION AUTHOR following clues in a PLOTLINE using the latest movie/play as a model because THAT is the story most people are familiar with -- those are examples that can be followed.

To any fiction author, it’s as plain and livid as an open wound; this Story was Changed before it ever saw print.

What gave me this idea?
Traces of the CORRECT PLOT are still there
-- even in the current movie.

Let us begin by unraveling:

The basic audience assumption:
Christine and Raoul were young and stupid.
They deserved each other.

Christine may have been young and stupid
– but Raoul definitely WASN’T.

Raoul was neither stupid – nor Young. Raoul was a lord, and lords were highly educated. Raoul was also stated as being a Captain fresh from the field. The amount of field experience it takes to reach captain is measured in gruelling battle-hardened Years. You did not survive to BE a field Captain without brains - and ruthlessness.
The character of Raoul could not have been younger than his early to mid 30s.
According to the story’s clues, the PHANTOM is actually Younger than Raoul! 

Poor Sweet Not-So-Innocent Christine…

The story begins with Christine as an Opera DANCER who later becomes an Opera Diva.
There was a REASON Raoul was pursuing Christine - and it wasn't LOVE. During this time period Lords like Raoul, pursued Opera Dancers for their mistresses.
Lords keeping Opera Dancers as mistresses, was not only common - it was EXPECTED, (even in 1910.) This is how the Opera Dancers made a living. An Opera Dancer was kept in her own little apartment - paid for by the lord, and rewarded with jewels and cash. The lords were called Patrons.
Opera Dancers BECAME Opera Dancers to Make Money - not from the Opera, but by being good enough to catch a Lord that would pay for everything: housing, clothes, jewels... Opera Dancers were members of the Demimonde - ladies of the Evening.
In this day and age, Opera Dancers are referred to as Exotic Dancers -- strippers.

The Diva Issue

Divas were professionally trained Artistes and often titled though impoverished, nobility. Christine was NEVER presented as being nobility. She was the daughter of a Musician - a violinist.
The Diva had damned good reason to be pissed with Christine. An Opera Dancer - a common-born untrained stripper - taking her place?

The Phantom - NOT your Common Psycho.

PHANTOM was not your ordinary weird guy hiding in the sewers. No ifs, ands, or, buts, about it. There was absolutely, positively Nothing common-born about the Phantom. EVERYTHING about him screamed: NOBILITY! His character, his dress, his ability to WRITE - never mind compose music and design an entire opera house!
PHANTOM was clearly a lost - or hiding - nobleman.
As a lost noble, Phantom would have had a STAFF to maintain him and that fancy cave. Lords of the 1800's couldn't do diddly-squat for themselves, so someone had to cook for him, clean his place, shop for food, sew, and tailor that neat-o keen wardrobe of his...etc. There are traces of a fanatically loyal staff in the original book, but they are gone by the time you get to the big productions. 

The REAL VILLAIN of the Piece – Raoul

Raoul was Not Young - and definitely Not Stupid. Nor was he in love. Raoul's pursuit of Christine began with her first leading performance and was very deliberate.

THINK: A 30-year-old handsome and experienced Lord chasing after a 17-year-old celebrity? Where's the Stupidity?

The Villainy was right there in front of everybody:
 -- Lords DID NOT MARRY Demimondes. EVER. 

Lords had their Family honor to protect - they did not marry whores. (How would you feel if your son announced that he was marrying an acclaimed Stripper -- or a Porn Star?)

The fact that Christine thought she might have a chance marrying Raoul, just shows how Stupid her character had become. The Diva, who was likely an impoverished noblewoman, had a better chance of marrying Raoul than Christine did.

Phantom was free to chase after Christine, because while he was noble, he was also dead to his family. It didn't matter who he married - his family's honor was being protected by someone else.

The Warped Plot
There's a rift in the plot about halfway through, when Christine visits her father's grave. THIS is when discrepancies begin to appear, and the plot goes awry.

It is at this point that the story no longer plays to the characters as they are actually presented: Raoul becomes heroic, Phantom becomes a murdering psycho and Christine becomes TSTL (too stupid to live.)

However, there are Still traces of the correct plot within the unfolding events themselves.

1) Christine visits her father's grave

This visit should have underlined the fact that Christine was a commoner, and Demimonde (a prostitute), verses what Raoul was -- Nobility. This should have snapped her out of her dream world and made her see Raoul for what he was -- a man pursuing an exciting and decorative mistress, and the Phantom as what he was -- someone who actually cared.

Phantom had watched over her and guarded her since childhood. He had seen that she had something of a noble's education and had even taught her some of the noble arts - MUSIC.

Of COURSE he loved her.

How did Phantom end up being Christine's guardian? All kinds of ways. Christine's father and the Phantom were both musicians; they may have been compositional associates. It was more likely that Christine's dad was part of the Phantom's personal staff. Nobles of that day cared for their staff as Family, so of course he would watch over his staff's child as well.

After realizing the truth of what Raoul was asking of her - sex - Christine would have come to the realization that it was the Phantom that actually loved her. Phantom had had a number of opportunites to seduce her - and had never used any of them.

2) Raoul's Purpose in the Graveyard

Raoul had been openly and blatantly STALKING Christine since her first performance. When Raoul showed up in the graveyard, it was quite obvious that he had followed Christine expecting to find her alone, and unprotected.

There was no question in anyone's mind what Raoul wanted. The duel happened because the Phantom was defending Christine against a rapist.

Once Raoul incapacitated Christine's only defender, Raoul would have taken immediate advantage of Christine's brand-new guilt towards the Phantom (he truly loved her - and now he was going to die for her) to pressure Christine into submitting and becoming his mistress. 

"I'll kill him right here, right now, if you don't come with me!"

This is also when the Phantom would have been unmasked for the first time -- by Raoul. Raoul would have been trying to force the point home: that Raoul was better because he was Prettier.

Physical Appearance was a HUGE issue back in the 1800's when this story was written. Ugliness was considered God's Punishment. If you were ugly, you MUST be Evil.

3) The Phantom’s Sword Wound

Raoul was a skilled and practiced swordsman. There is no way in Hell that the bookish and reclusive Phantom had enough sword-training to successfully duel with a battle-hardened captain.

At the same time, Raoul would have known better than to kill Christine's beloved guardian right before her eyes, but he was not about to let Christine's one defender live. By the time the duel stopped, Raoul would have made very sure that he had already delivered a mortal wound.

Note: A small sword cut in the armpits or in the juncture of the legs will pierce a major artery, causing massive amounts of blood-loss and DEATH in a very short period of time.

When Raoul forced Christine to submit to him - at the price of her guardian's life - Raoul was convinced that the Phantom was already dying.

4) That chandelier would still have fallen.

Phantom wasn’t a murdering psycho – he was PISSED OFF!

Recovering from the near-fatal duel is a more logical reason why the Phantom disappeared for so long from the opera. (He was gone for several months. It’s still there even in the plays!) He was obviously recovering from his wounds.

Once he regained his strength, Phantom would have been furious with Raoul - and in a panic to save Christine. Only now, he knew that there was no way he could take Raoul in a fair fight - because Raoul did not fight fair. The only way to beat Raoul was to get him with a sneak-attack.

Unfortunately Raoul was too much of a battle-seasoned survivor to catch that easily.

5) Raoul – the Real Psycho

Once Raoul got out of the way of the falling lighting fixture, the Captain would have gone out of his way to hunt down the young and idealistic Phantom to make he sure was well and truly dead
Why? Because as long as the Phantom lived, Christine could escape him at any time. 
Being a man's mistress had One Advantage over being his wife.  
A wife was legally owned by her husband, he could have her arrested and brought back. A mistress was legally outside his reach.

As long as Phantom lived - Christine could leave him.

What probably confused Raoul the most, was that Christine actually Would leave him -- and he knew it.

6) In the final Battle between Raoul and Phantom
-- Who Captured Who? REALLY?

Raoul was the better fighter, and the Phantom was STILL recovering from his last fight with Raoul. Logic points to the fact that the Phantom would have been captured, and threatened with death, rather than the other way around, as the current plot has it.

Raoul would have been the one to force Christine into choosing between them -- with the intent to kill her if she chose the Phantom over him.

7) Christine’s Actual Love Dilemma

The REAL pressure on Christine should have been:
  • Go with the man she'd been sleeping with for the past few months and accept her role as whore.
 - or - 
  • Die with the one man who proved time and again, that he loved her.
The original Author's obvious Ending? 
  •  Christine left with Raoul to save the Phantom; breaking everyone’s heart, including her own. True Love as Sacrifice.

What the hell Happened
- to the REAL Love Story???
In 1910, with WWI looming, when this book was first penned, it was UNTHINKABLE that a handsome military man, and a lord would be represented as anything other than heroic while a man who was disfigured (cursed by God) could possibly be anything other than villainous.

The story HAD to be changed, for the sake of public proprieties. (Keep in mind, DRACULA, published in 1897 --only 13 years earlier-- caused a major uproar among the British nobility because the Vampire was a Noble.)

So Raoul got white-washed into a hero, Phantom got black-washed into a common basement-dwelling psycho, and Christine became TSTL (too stupid to live) when in fact she was a woman who sacrificed her honor and her life to save the man she loved.

What am I trying to Prove?
The purpose in this article is to show that sometimes a deeper --and better-- story is present within a published work. As writers, it is our job to ferret out these hidden stories and bring them to light.
What am I trying to Say?
There are enough clues in 'The Phantom of the Opera' to construct an entirely different story. Anyone who writes fiction professionally can see exactly what I saw. The current story as presented is WRONG.

What was obviously a “love story” about sacrifice had been changed into a “descent into madness” story, with only a few cosmetic adjustments made to accommodate for those changes.

Somebody PLEASE do this story RIGHT, damn It!!! 

Because if "I" have to do it, I will write 'The Phantom of the Opera' as the true EROTIC HORROR it obviously should have been.

Morgan Hawke


  1. OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    We can all love monsters, but wait a minute!--it's only a movie!


  2. The original premise to ‘Phantom of the Opera’ was not about LOVING monsters - it was about RECOGNIZING monsters.

    ‘Attractive’ does NOT always equal Good.
    ‘Ugly does’ NOT always equal Evil.

    The focus of this rant is on the fact that a gorgeous story was DESTROYED because the original Publisher was too afraid of Public Censure to leave it be. (The story wasn't mainstream enough.)

    And yet - 'The Phantom of the Opera' though mangled far from its original concept, endures anyway. The images return to us again and again, in each generation. They prey on the mind… "Two men - one hideous, one not, and a foolish girl trying to see True Love from False."

    Why does the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ haunt us so? I think that somehow instinctively, we all recognize the real story under the false. "What makes a man? / What makes a monster?"

    The premise of Sacrificed Love has been lobotomized from the tale - but a piece of the secondary premise: "Look Below the Surface" has somehow remained. In fact, the more recent the production, the closer to the story's original twin premises the tale comes - Sacrificed Love / Recognizing Monsters.

    Sooner or later, someone WILL write this story of tragic love as it was Meant to be told. I just hope it’s not me that has to do it. I really don’t want to spend three solid months crying tears of rage as I type.

    Morgan Hawke

  3. "Crying tears of rage as I type."

    I'd love to read this. Sounds to me like you SHOULD write it!!

  4. I think it would be most romantic if Phantom *was* a psycho -- and still she loved him. Dark, dangerous and insane. So she'd love him Despite what he is, not because.

  5. Morgan Hawke said...
    Sooner or later, someone WILL write this story of tragic love as it was Meant to be told. I just hope it’s not me that has to do it. I really don’t want to spend three solid months crying tears of rage as I type.

    I say do it! Write the book. Tell the true tale. Besides crying is good for the soul, that's what I say.

  6. I would totally read your version of the story, especially if it had good Erik/Christine stuff in it and less raoul/christine stuff, I hate raoul.