Do you love musicals? How about love stories? Well-acted and menacing villains? Joel Schumacher's The Phantom of the Opera wildly excels in all three aspects, as well as dozens more. I'm very strict about the musicals that I watch, but I could watch The Phantom of the Opera endlessly, as long as I fit in some time for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.
The more I watch Phantom, the more I see one major problem in the plot: The Phantom is considered the villain. I've always felt a certain sympathy for villains, Loki and Dr. Horrible in particular, but I can't even call the Phantom a villain. I just see him as someone on the wrong end of a love story. As much as some people might disagree, there is plenty of evidence that points to the Phantom being a tragic hero.
The Phantom Trained Christine
When Christine is selected to sing for the Opera, she shocks everyone with how beautiful her voice is. She explains herself by saying that an Angel of Music has been teaching her to sing, but as we later learn, the Angel of Music is none other than the Phantom himself. While the Phantom lived below the Opera, he spent his time teaching Christine how to sing, and she became the best singer in the entire opera.
Without the Phantom's influence, Christine might have never received the opportunity that she did. Other than the fabled Angel of Music, Christine never had a tutor. She never had a person to nurture her talent for music. Without the Phantom, Christine might have been a back-up dancer for the rest of her life. Not even Raoul would have recognized her.
He Loves Christine Unconditionally
The Phantom didn't just train Christine because he wanted a talented Opera singer. He nurtured her voice because he loved her. After spending a lifetime in the shadows, being mocked by the rest of society, he found one person that he loved with all of his entirety. All he wanted was for her to love him back. And at first, she did.
Sadly, the Phantom's angry nature scared Christine, and her childhood friend Raoul was there to comfort her. Even though she loved the Phantom, she fell for Raoul. The Phantom quickly learned of her feelings for Raoul, which made him increasingly angry. The Phantom starts killing people and Christine gets even more afraid, but the next time the Phantom brings her to his lair, she falls in love with him all over again.
No matter what Christine does, the Phantom never stops loving her. Even after she dies many years later, he still visits her grave and gifts her with roses, wrapped in his signature black ribbon, showing that his love for her is undying.
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Raoul Didn't Deserve Christine's Love
Christine grew up in the Opera, where the Phantom served as her Angel of Music for most of her life. They grew up together, where they developed a mutual respect and even a sense of love for each other. Raoul on the other hand, was a wealthy friend from Christine's past who simply popped up one day and declared his love for her.
Now think about this. If it wasn't for the Phantom, Christine might have never taken the spotlight. And if she never took the spotlight, would Raoul have ever recognized her? As the Phantom said in the song "The Mirror": "Insolent boy, this slave of fashion, basking in your glory. Ignorant fool, this brave young suitor, sharing in my triumph."
Raoul came to her because she was beautiful and successful, but if she was still a back-up dancer, he wouldn't have even noticed her. And just because Raoul is wealthy, attractive and successful, Christine falls for him even though she had been building a relationship with the Phantom for years.
The Phantom Just Needed Help
The Phantom is labelled a villain because he kills people, and while I agree that murder isn't an admirable quality in a character, can you really blame him? When Madame Giry talks about the Phantom's origin to Raoul, we learn that the Phantom was held in a circus as a freak because of his deformity. He was mocked and ridiculed by anyone who came by, which led the Phantom to kill the ringmaster.
Madame Giry helped the young Phantom and let him live underneath the Opera, where the Phantom lived in seclusion for decades. He barely clung to sanity by communicating with Christine, the one shining light in his life. When Raoul comes along and takes Christine from him, he gets angry and threatens to kill him in the third act. However, the Phantom realizes what he has become and lets them both leave. If he was truly evil, he would have killed Raoul then and there. But he's not. He's truly good and he just needs help. Unfortunately, that help is never given to him.
Yes, he's hurt people. Can you really blame him? He's lived an entire life living in isolation, being mocked and tormented by the rest of society. He lived alone with only music and Christine to keep him sane, but even Christine was taken from him by a pretty boy who shows up out of nowhere. The fact that he leaves Raoul alive at the end proves that he's not a bad guy, he's a potential good guy who just gets the wrong end of the stick.