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Erik: The Man Behind The Phantom


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Interesting blog post about Erik

http://qoafwjm.edublogs.org/2009/11/09/eri...nd-the-phantom/ (Link is dead, but I'll leave it up so we know where it came from)

In the literary world, there are few villains and monsters as sympathetic and as “human” as Erik, the Phantom of the Opera. The man behind the monster has been labeled as the villain of Gaston Leroux’s novel just as often as he has been named a misunderstood protagonist. He was the ghost that haunted the halls of the Opera Populaire, terrorizing the diva Carlotta and several other performers who were housed there, as they clashed with his artistic sensibilities. In almost all incarnations of the character outside of the novel, there is almost always only a small measure of sympathy accorded to the deformed and persecuted Erik. The focus had always been on the horrifying visage he presents before the public, and less on “Angel of Music” persona he bore when he trained the young ingénue, Christine Daae.

However, behind the mask was, ultimately, a man. Erik was not the overwhelming force of evil that people had portrayed him to be. Indeed, along with many of his contemporaries, Erik shared traits and attributes that were all too human. He needed to feel loved by the ones he believed he loved… he craved for recognition for his achievements… and desperately needed to interact with the world without having to strike terror in the hearts of those who see him. In this way, he echoes earlier figures of horror, such as Quasimodo of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and the Frankenstein’s Monster from “Frankenstein.” His quest to love and to be loved, as well as his aristocratic demeanor, also mirror the nobler qualities of an earlier literary figure, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In the end, like all of the above literary icons, Erik was more than the “Phantom of the Opera.” Erik was, underneath the mask, a human being, albeit one with a number of issues, including social anxiety and paranoia. Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical, despite having taken a number of liberties with the story, has lyrics that echo the various complex emotions that Erik had to endure in his lifetime.

This face that earned

A mother’s fear and loathing

A mask my first

Unfeeling scrap of clothing

From an early age, Erik instilled fear and anxiety in the people around him because of his deformed face. The interpretations and versions of the story vary in the details, but in the original novel, he was described to have looked like a living corpse. From Leroux’s description, one could deduce that his face was deformed such that it appeared more like a skull than a normal face. His mother, feeling overwhelming fear and anxiety over her son’s monstrous appearance, eventually abandoned him. He managed to make an early living in a carnival, where he inspired mockery rather than fear and anxiety. That mockery would eventually evolve into a total dislike of society and people in general, morphing into a twisted form of social anxiety.

Masquerade!

Paper faces on parade…

Masquerade

Hide your face,

So the world

Will never find you!

His social anxiety forced him into seclusion, though he was not completely without contact with the outside world. He gained a good handle on architecture and engineering, building palaces for two prominent rulers, while also serving as an assassin for one of them. His fear of society led him to go to great lengths to remain unseen and hidden in the shadows. With his mask, he was able to conceal his disfigured features to those whom he chose to reveal his presence. He also attained a high sense of appreciation for music, which turned out to be a natural talent for him. Indeed, it was this natural aptitude for performing and composing music that would eventually lead him to seek out Christine, which he probably saw as an outlet for his status anxiety.

Those who have seen your face

Draw back in fear

I am the mask you wear…

It’s me they hear.

It is easy to speculate that Erik’s initial reasons for training Christine stemmed from his desire to overcome his status anxiety. As he discovered his talent for music, it is possible that he developed the idea to showcase his talent to the world at large, and let them see how much musical brilliance can be produced by someone who was scorned by society. He wanted to use her as his mouthpiece, his “avatar” to the world and society above his shadowy lair. However, even a man that has lived a life alien to concepts such as love and devotion can be made to feel them, in much the same way as Frankenstein’s Monster and Quasimodo did in their respective stories. In a way, his pursuit and desire for the love of Christine was his own twisted way of achieving a sense of emotional healing.

Pitiful creature of darkness

What kind of life have you known?

God give me courage to show you

You are not alone

There is little argument on whether or not Erik loved Christine, albeit he expressed that love in a rather twisted manner. Despite the emotional healing that came with training Christine in music, he still behaved very much like the figure of darkness that everyone perceived him to be. This is likely because, despite having felt more human emotions, emotional healing cannot instantly undo a lifetime of psychological damage. His mind was, unfortunately, still damaged and incapable of seeing his actions as anything more than things done out of necessity, unaware of how monstrous his tactics would seem to others. In the end, his music was not able to remove the terror that came with his persona as the Phantom of the Opera.

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Edited by Knight Phantom
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Thank you for posting this. I never tire of the Phantom, reading about him and learning insights into his persona. Leroux started it, Kay gave us his back story, many authors have given us wonderful fictions, and ALW ran with it - Broadway and then the movie - and rocked my world. I'll never be the same.

~~Chrisstine

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Simpley a fascinating article from a psycho-analytical perspective. I have often times myself pondered whom Erik really was from a psychology point of view and really looking at him in that way helps so much to understand the real man behind the mask.

He was never evil or bad the way you percieve a villian to be, but merely immensely misunderstood. When you live a lifetime without a soul in the world to watch over you and protect you, and most importantly love you, then I ask how on earth can you expect a person like that to be "normal". That is exactly the life Erik lead, all his life, and you wonder why he behaved as he did. He may have been a man on the outside and in the flesh, but at the end of the day, Erik on the inside was just a terrified, angry little boy who needed someone to love him. The character of Erik is so intriguing to study and to have him broken down b/c no doubt he had a couple screws loose, but again look at the circumstances in which he lived.

No I do no feel that the murder he commited was justifiable, except with that awful gypsy at the carnival he worked. Yes he was eccentric and stubborn, but most true geniuses are, and there is no doubt he was. Yes he was a man, but he was also the Phantom, he was a fallen angel trapped in his own personal hell desperately yearning for a flicker of light.....that light was his music:his mistress and one true love.

Edited by AngelofMusic
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Thank you AOM for this very interesting Post. :claphands: Although I saw Gerry's movie before reading Leroux' book, I did have an introduction to Phantom early in my life when I saw the 1943 version. Strangely, I never forgot it, and always felt sympathy for the Phantom portrayed therein. So it was not strange that Gerry's portrayal really took my breath away. :erik: He was able to bring the feelings of Erik so beautifully to the fore and I was mesmerized the first time I saw it and every time since. I never tire of it.

I even found some sympathy for Leroux' Erik. what a horrible thing he was put through by the people in his life. Having my own issues with weight, I deeply can sympathize with someone who finds themselves rejected by someone they love. Too many people only look at the outside of a person, but Gerry enabled us to see inside the Phantom, and how much he suffered during his sad life. :donjuan:

Of course this is why I felt compelled to write a book finding closure for him because I so deeply cared for this character that Gerry created myself, and therefore wanted terribly for him to find happiness. :phantom:

It is wonderful to see how this one book has created so many movies, plays books and friendships throughout the years. leroux should be proud. :tens:

Anne

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This is a really interesting article and thanks for posting it! I also agree with the rest of you in

your observations on the subject. THE PHANTOM as portrayed by Gerry was not nearly as

ugly as he percieved himself to be, but because of this he was (at times) ugly on the inside.

This is why a person who is 20lbs overweight can feel just as bad as someone who is 200 lbs

too much. It is how you feel on the "inside" that real makes you who you are. The many observations and discussions that have come about because of Lerox's book still continue to blow me away!

Judy

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  • 2 weeks later...

That was a really good article. Now I have the movie running through my head! I don't mind, I never tire of Gerry's portrayal of the Phantom--I think it's still my top favorite role of his.

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  • 4 months later...

That was a really good article. Now I have the movie running through my head! I don't mind, I never tire of Gerry's portrayal of the Phantom--I think it's still my top favorite role of his.

Ditto! an article to relish. In the Phantom we are all looking for the person behind the mask... the authentic self and many of us found that self. As in many Gerry's movies he only seeks to help us not hinder us. We rock our imaginary wings in salute, Gerry.

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I have to agree- Gerry's performance as the Phantom was the most terrific of all his performances that I have seen. :phantom: it was a performance from the heart, and he really felt all the Phantom was suffering, which made his portrayal so beautiful. I never saw Erik as an evil person. I have read the book, and I found sympathy even for Leroux' Phantom. How many of us cold cope with looking like that and being treated like that. I know as a fat person how badly and cruelly I have been treated.

I wrote my book feeling there was more to the Phantom than evil, meanness, anger, cruelty, etc. I gave him a chance at redemption. A few readers have not liked my version. That is their choice. I also don't like reading about a mean cruel Erik. I don't think that was Gerry's idea with his portrayal, and since the movie is the one I love so much, I find his Erik someone very special. :erik:

Anne

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