Letter Challenge Day Twelve – The Person I Hate The Most & Has Caused Me Much Pain
In a perfect world I would skip this letter. In a perfect world I’d have no one to direct it to. The first time I read this assignment I must have tricked myself into thinking I was in a perfect world because I just couldn’t imagine anyone who had done me more injury than myself.
Then I remembered… I’ve read The Phantom of Manhattan. I’ve heard Love Never Dies.
I don’t want to begin by addressing this letter to the author of that book, or the composer of that musical score. It would signify a level of respect I don’t feel they deserve from me at this moment. I’m full of bitterness and angst. There will be blood tonight!*
You could say all this new found hatred is my own fault. You could blame it on the fact that my curiosity is such that I must read, see, and hear any version of my favorite story I can get my hands on. But I like to blame the source. If these two things hadn’t been created, well, they wouldn’t be around for me to get curious about, would they? A clue: No.**
But why does it hurt? Why so much pain and suffering over a badly written fan fiction and a crappy musical sequel? I’ll tell you why. Because it’s Phantom.
If you want to skip the details of my longest and dearest obsession, that’s fine. But I really want you to understand why this matters so much to me.
[It all started with a movie. Before the 2004 film adaptation, Phantom of the Opera was nothing more to me than a semi-familiar image with a habit of popping up in strange places. I’d heard of it, seen snippets of the famous Crawford/Brightman duet on TV, even glanced at the score once, but hadn’t managed to get my interest piqued until a search on Emmy Rossum brought up her then-just-made movie. The words romance and musical caught my eye and I decided it was worth a shot. At the time, the only musicals I was acquainted with were the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein’s like The Sound of Music and Oklahoma! Thanks to a best friend who owned the soundtrack before the film was even out, I was able to hear the whole plot of the thing and fall in love with the music early on.
By the time I saw it on DVD, I could mouth along with each major song. I cried my eyes out. I laughed with delight. I watched it nine times the first three weeks it was released. I bought the original and extended soundtracks. I memorized them–and the movie–front to back. I reenacted the films in costume, via soundtrack, with my friends in candlelit rooms. We had Masquerade balls. I had–I still have–a Phantom song for every occasion. I became a Raoul defender and frequently entered debates with fellow Phanatics online. I bought Phantom bracelets, Phantom music boxes, a Phantom mask. I took up piano again just to plunk out whatever Phantom songs I could. It became an obsession. People said I’d grow out of it. They thought it was just a phase I was going through, and like so many of my other short-lived passions I’d soon let it fade into obscurity and move on to something else.
It’s been nearly five years. This “phase” isn’t going away. I’ve now seen the 2004 version 27 times–three of those in French. I’ve read the book at least five times, and I do not reread books very often. I’ve seen Charles Dance, Lon Cheney, Herbert Lom, and even that notorious Julian Sands play the lead. I’ve seen the quirky Cartoon Phantom and a weird stage version via YouTube. I joined Phantom forums, Live Journal sites, and fan lists. I went to see the live production when it came to my city and paid for my Dad’s ticket to get me there. I have a look-alike Phantom ring, and I made a dress copy of Christine’s glorified petticoat from the rooftop scene. I’ve started at least five fan fictions. I squealed like a toddler and cried a bit for joy when Mum pulled the Phantom plushie out of a pile of thrift store toys. I bought the Yeston/Kopit soundtrack. I named my computer after Gerard Butler’s Erik. I went to Paris and threw a terrible fit when I thought our tour wouldn’t pass the Opera House.]
So for those of you who say or think, “It’s just another spin-off of an old tale and makes no difference.” No. This is a big deal. Because it’s Phantom.
Now to my point…
I hate you, Frederick Forsyth, for having no respect for Gaston Leroux, the brilliant man whose work you tore to pieces, whose person you trashed and dishonored in your preface and then benefited from when that treacherous piece of filth you wrote actually managed to get published and sold. I can’t believe the egotism of a man who thinks he knows Leroux’s characters better than Leroux and then demoralizes them to such an extent that not even the illogical bands of Raoul-bashers can win. How dare you!? I hope your money mongering soul rots in hell. Wait. Let me rephrase that. I’ll pray for you.
I hate you, ALW for being such a musical genius, writing the most gorgeous scores and tear-inducing things and then wasting your brilliance on this sequel. I hate you because I like some of the Love Never Dies (But It Really Should) songs, but I can’t listen to any that even hint at the perverse storyline because my insides get uncomfortable and my eyes pool with hot, angry tears. The part of the musical that tells the story is always my favorite part. Music can only go so far. Music will carry it a long way, but without the preservation of canon, without the core elements and pivotal plot structures that made Phantom of the Opera a sensation, ‘Love‘ flounders, it sputters, and ultimately it dies in a fiery whirlwind created by incensed fan-girls who conveniently fell into a vat of toxic ‘Airbender‘ elements in order to wreak vengeance upon canon reviling atrocities such as this musical. I hate Forsyth for having the lunacy and gall to write what he did. I hate you for putting the idea into his head and then continuing the madness. Remember when your cat destroyed the first score you were working on for this sequel? You should have taken it as a sign and stopped right there.
Just so we’re clear; I’m not at all exclaiming an anathema for fan fiction or variations of my favorite story. When the original author is respected, when there’s a humility in the reinvention or revival of a classic, when characters may be tweaked but still recognized, and when more than personal biases and the anticipation of monetary gain are consulted, I can sit back and enjoy the creativity of others. What you two have done is revolting; a prime example of why most remakes and rewrites deserve their poor reputations.
I’ve often heard the phrase, “If I can bring just one person happiness…” Well, gentlemen, (and I use that term ironically) if you wanted to spare just one person all the heartache, despair, disgust, and suffering, yes, the emotional pain I’ve had to endure from these mutant creations, don’t you think it would have been worth it not to be a—s and write such crap?
Someday you will have your comeuppance. I pray it will be at the end of a Punjab lasso.