The Phantom of Rape Culture

Megan and I were on our way up to Sterling to check out the housing market up there (it sucks, but we managed to find something in a registered ghost town nearby), and instead of listening to an audiobook, like we usually do, we decided to do the thing everyone else does: listen to music.

After a couple of rounds of Enya and Jack Johnson, Megan pulls out her soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera (the new one, with Gerard Butler). Okay, I kind of liked that as a musical. Hated the new one, it really underscored deformity, and Gerard Butler really shouldn’t sing. Cover it all up with a mask that’s more of a fashion accessory, and it turned out an almost resounding ‘meh.’

“You know this is about rape, right?”

I had to stop when she said that. She had spent about twenty minutes talking about why she used this same soundtrack to teach her choirs how NOT to sing ( “sharing in my tri-Ahmph”), and how the only voice worth listening to was Emmy Rosen/Christine. Then she turns around and says that. That is how you get a writer’s attention.

She explains that the phantom actually used chloroform to get Christine into his underground catacombs. What do we find in the Imagecatacombs while he talks about the music of the night and commanding her to “turn her face away from the garish light of day” and to look away from “cold, unfeeling light”? He’s planning a wedding. He’s got her wedding dress already picked out and dressed on a mannequin that looks exactly like Christine.

Probably even talks to it.

You’d think the insistence of turning away from something medically necessary for humans would be a bit of a red light, but it gets better. Eventually, she’s allowed to return to the surface and to the now adoring fans of her voice. See, the phantom’s been arranging “accidents” to ensure that the voice he trained got the time in the spotlight his obvious skill demands.

While he has invested a lot of time making her voice be talked about through all of France, Christine hasn’t been noticing all the strings he’s attached. I say strings, but chains are more appropriate here. She’s going along with this because just before her father died he promised he would send an angel of music to help her. And sure enough, the guy in the pathetic mask shows up and starts teaching her.

In short, the phantom is operating under the rape notion that accepting a gift implies consent. Or, “I did X for you, now you have to do X for me”:

I gave you my music, made your song take wing
And now, how you’ve repaid me, denied me and betrayed me
He was bound to love you, when he heard you sing, Christine

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And then Raoul does the unthinkable: he proposes to Christine. This sets off the phantom. This is against his plan. Christine owes him, she is his angel of music. He has spent so much time enforcing the belief that their souls were together, that she fuelled him as much as he fuelled her. Translate that to today’s rape jargon, and it becomes “I’ve done everything for you, and this is how you repay me? You won’t even give me the one thing I ask for?”
You will curse the day you did not do
All that the Phantom asked of you!
But, she’s had enough and summons up a backbone she didn’t know she had, which only serves to drive the Phantom into a fervor. So, he threatens to kill Raoul and the only way to save Raoul (the person Christine really loves) is to give her love to the Phantom, who has committed murder and will easily do it again. How remarkable that he gets so narrow in his thoughts that he would force her to love him, or he’ll kill the person to whom love comes naturally. How could she love him with Raoul alive? How would she love him if he killed Raoul?

Then the truth comes out. The Phantom is unmasked, we see the deformity (or relatively small and unobtrusive birthmark in Gerard Butler’s case) and all he really wanted was some compassion and mercy.

This is where you rip your hair out. She gives him a kiss and suddenly he’s not bad? One tiny fact about his past and he’s instantly forgiven of everything? Really? That’s about as bad as seeing Darth Vader’s ghost show up at the end of Star Wars beside Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. This guy blew up planet’s and just because he doesn’t kill his own son he gets restitution? Really? This guy defines rape culture, and the women today still fawn over him. Seriously, search “phantom of the opera wedding” on Pinterest. There isn’t a single groom dressed like Raoul. Every single one is the Phantom. The manipulative, smooth-talking, murdering but somehow vindicated Phantom.

I don’t usually write about stuff like this, but it was a shocker to hear it explained. I had listened to the music from this musical for years, subtly ingesting the messages (I could sing most of the songs) and it never clued in the deeper message.

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7 thoughts on “The Phantom of Rape Culture

  1. I know this is a couple of years late, but thank you for this. Thought I was going nuts when I realized how messed up this show is. I was a fan for over ten years, and I never clued in to the subconscious messages. Then I looked at the fan community and it was like “How do you guys not see it?”

  2. I’m still a huge fan of Phantom. But at no point have I shipped the Phantom with Christine. I like the Phantom in terms of psychology. The psychology behind him is fascinating. I also like the music, but that’s just a bonus for me. I have always been interested in the psychology of villains. The Phantom, Loki, and the Joker are the three characters I’ve analyzed to death. I’m 100% of the mindset that Christine didn’t love Raoul but I don’t think she loved the Phantom either. i believe she feared so much for her life and safety that when Raoul presented her an opportunity to escape her fate she said yes. She may have grown to love him and at the very minimum they had a deep friendship. I believe love cannot thrive without friendship. But after multiple viewings of Phantom with multiple leads I have to say a lot of it depends of the duo playing the Phantom and Christine.

    • There is so much psychology available about villains and it’s wonderful. And that brings up a great point. Christine got stuck in a hard spot to where any help got her full attention. My understanding is much the same as yours that friendship is the basis of a string relationship, but a friendship alone is what Raoul and Christine had, strengthened by her need to escape the Phantom’s manipulation

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