This, totally!!! Phantom in a nutshell!!!
So I’ve been meaning to post this for a while too. I started it over on my other blog, but it struck me that it’s relevant here as well! So I thought I’d post links to the posts I did over there so the discussion’s accessible here too. 🙂 Hope you all find it interesting and useful!
Anyway, as those of you who are Phans know, probably the most controversial thing ever to hit the Phantom community is the so-called Gerik, aka the 2004 movie adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical (Gerard Butler, who played the Phantom in the film,+Erik, the Phantom’s name in the original novel = Gerik). LOL Phans either love it or hate it! Though, all of us do have to give it credit for bringing lots of new young Phans into the Phandom. And thank goodness they don’t stop at the Gerik but, with the typical rabidity of new Phans, quickly familiarize themselves with other, better incarnations of the story – the Leroux and Susan Kay novels! LOL You can probably tell from the above which camp I’m in?
Yes, the Gerik bothered me immensely from the very first time I saw (heard) it, but it would take me years – literally – to fully unpack why. What struck me most was the contrast to the way I reacted when, after seeing the Gerik, I saw the stage-version again! The Gerik brought me down. It deeply depressed me. Whereas, the stage-version gave me the same powerful sense of what the Eastern Orthodox call “bright sadness” – sadness, but with the uplift of a powerful message of hope – that it always has. But, as I said, it would take me a long time to process why I reacted so differently – to begin to articulate what it was that bothered me so deeply about the movie. And I have to give my Mom huge credit for helping me finally work that through too! She really likes the Gerik! And it was in arguing with her, struggling to articulate why I increasingly disliked it, that I was finally able to put the problem in words. Actually, to put it into one word: ableism. For, what I ultimately realized was that the Gerik, through the changes it makes to the Phantom’s and Christine’s back-stories from the stage-version (among other things), takes the critique out of POTO, leaving the 2004 movie to present an almost Disney-like parable in support of a cisgendered, straight, able-bodied, sanist normate (to use Disability scholar Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s term for that construction of the Western ideal subject). In effect, the Gerik took POTO and made it ableist! And this was a horror to me because, for me, Phantom, and especially the ALW musical, has always resonated as a call to exactly the opposite – a call to resist the normativity that allows society to get away with excluding people like the Phantom!
So I did a comparative analysis on my other blog to show, from the texts of the two works, how this is so – what it is about the changes in the Gerik from the stage-version that make it ableist. And I thought I’d share that analysis here, because it strikes me as very relevant to what this, my main blog, is about too! 🙂 Feel free, though, to ignore/bracket off the overt Christianity if that’s not your thing. I am a Christian (though admittedly an eclectic and, by some standards, heretical one), and my understanding of the Gospel message very much informs my Phanship and vise versa! But I totally get that that’s not so for everyone. So this first post simply compares the Gstage-version and the movie, focussing on the ways in which changes to the Phantom’s back-story serve to deflect the social critique so powerful in the stage-version of the musical. Then, in this second post, I focus on what those changes, as well as alterations to Christine’s back-story and to their joint back-story, do to the love-story that is at the heart of Phantom – in particular, at how they tame it from the radical power that it has in the stage-musical. Finally, in this post, I explore what those changes do to the Final Lair – the final scene of the stage-version and the penultimate scene in the Gerik (from the end of the song “The Point of No Return” to “It’s over now the music of the night”) – and how they alter its meaning. And no, that’s not a typo! The posts really do skip from “Tale of Two Phantoms part 2” to “Tale of Two Phantoms part 4”. No fear, you haven’t missed one! I skipped ahead and wrote part 4 so I could get it posted without having written part 3 yet because I felt it was so important. So stay tuned for part 3, either over on Phantom of the Cross or here! Actually, stay tuned for it on both, as I’ll definitely post a link either way.
Anyway, I’ve been meaning to post that for a while. I hope it’s useful, and that it gives you all lots to think about – whether you’re a Phan or not, a Gerik Phan or not, or an old-school stage-version Phan like me!
So a couple of weeks ago, I went to my friend Camille Turner’s new art-installation/happening. It was really cool! Her work, both artistically and academically (:-) she’s also one of my colleagues in Ph.D Land), is all about trying to unearth Black histories that have been buried by the White settler enterprise, and reinsert them into our narratives of what Canada is. Her stuff’s very much part of what inspired me to get started!
Anyway, this piece, called “The Afronaughts Have Landed”, explores slavery in Canada. It imagines that the Afronaughts – the people/beings who, in ancient times, shared wisdom from the Sirius star-system with the Dogon people (of what is now Mali) – have come back to help because they’ve seen the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into here. And they’ve unearthed evidence of slavery. So the Afronaughts (Camille and her fellow performers) stood silently around us while we, the audience, sat at a table and looked at their discoveries – old adds for or about slaves from newspapers from what was then Upper and Lower Canada (present-day Ontario and Quebec), as well as from the Maritimes (especially present-day Nova Scotia). And while we did this, a recording played of a voice (it sounded like text-to-speech) reading out these adds along with other information about Canadian slavery. It was really fascinating! Though, also, pretty dreadful. I didn’t even know we’d had slavery in Canada! 😦 They tend to neglect that part in our history classes, focussing instead on our heroic role as destination of the Underground Railroad. But we were slave-owners too, of both Black/African and Aboriginal slaves according to Camille’s research! And this was so for both English and French Canada.
Anyway, it was a really cool piece! I can’t wait to experience her next work! As I said, Camille’s stuff’s been a huge inspiration for my own. I love the way she uses art to address politics, and to open up issues people would like not to talk about! You can check out more of her awesome work at her website. 🙂 Very awesome!