Is the Phantom of the Opera abusive or romantic? (You can discuss the musical or the book version, or the differences between the two.)
Ugh, this guy.
Let me be upfront: my judgment is on Joel Schumacher’s 2004 Phantom of the Opera movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical. I haven’t seen any other film or stage version, nor have I read Gaston Leroux’s novel.
I believe I was in high school when I first saw the movie. It struck me as rather weak overall, and particularly infuriating in how it seemed to romanticize the abusive, creepy, criminal Phantom.
Oh sure, he has a tragic backstory to explain his deformed appearance and antisocial behavior. Although, if you ask me, the movie’s version of these “deformities” are less severe than I’ve seen on several other real-life people who nonetheless live their own lives with compassion, healthiness, and a fair bit of normality. Likewise many people have overcome far worse abuses than he is said to have suffered and live functional, non-murderous lives. Still, this is the reason the story gives us as to why he tends to murder people out of vengeance, or, you know, if he happens to see them during a ballet performance he really doesn’t like (R.I.P. poor stagehand). He’s given passionate songs with passionately creepy lyrics to sing, and I guess some people are impressed by the rose he leaves on Christine’s tomb nearly fifty years after the whole affair. Honestly, I find it difficult to sympathize with him.
This is a fellow who:
Uses a young, naïve woman as a tool to get revenge on society, despite the fact that the specific people who harmed him in the past won’t be affected by this revenge (making it not really revenge, but mere criminal actions)
Uses said woman to vicariously live a life of musical fame denied to him by his deformity, criminal activity, and general hatred of other people
Tries to seduce said woman with various techniques designed to strip her of her ability to make informed decisions, including:
lying about his identity and intentions
threats of violence against those she cares about
physically holding her captive
physically holding captive the man she actually loves
forcing her to wear a wedding dress and commanding her to marry him
blatant emotional manipulation in general
murdering an innocent stagehand
threatening terrorist acts upon the theater if they don’t do what he wants
At the end, he shows some remorse for his actions, and he does leave Christine and Raoul in peace for the rest of their lives. But he’s never brought to justice for his crimes, and his crimes are in no way romantic. It’s all the worse because the film musical never seems able to acknowledge the severity of his sins or the sort of repentance he really needs in order to be redeemed. I felt that it paints him as tragic, but sweet and impressive in his devotion and dramatics. I find him kind of disgusting.
It also hurts that he dresses so very similarly to the heroic vigilante of my own fiction for which this very blog is named. But that at least is without his control, and so I will try not to hold that against him. I like his dramatic style, but not his morals or actions.
What Tolkien book would you recommend to a reader after they’ve read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings?
There are a few possibilities for this one, depending on your tastes. But my first answer would be The Silmarillion. This is the book with all the tales of how Middle-Earth came to be. It has the history of the Elves, Men, Dwarves, and a bit of hobbit history too, although for such unadventurous folk their origins are rather mysterious. It is a magnificent tapestry of hundreds of stories that all form a cohesive, meaningful whole. Anyone who reads the tales of Bilbo and Frodo and wants to know more about Middle-Earth should turn first to The Silmarillion.
But perhaps you’re intimidated by the size and density of The Silmarillion? You’ve heard it described as “the Old Testament with Elves” and worry that it will be too dry or complicated to jump right into. Even in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien’s language has a dense, old flavor to it that can be hard to swallow for readers unfamiliar with that style, and the promise of more stories told in a still denser, older style can intimidate even those who want to experience the stories themselves. In that case, I would recommend The Children of Húrin. This book tells one of The Silmarillion’s stories in an expanded form closer to a short novel. The language is still high and beautiful, but it’s a quicker, more self-sufficient read, and will give you a good taste of what to expect in The Silmarillion. I do warn you, it’s a dark, tragic tale, but as epic and moving as they come. If you like it, you can rest assured that you will find more of that quality in The Silmarillion, but also many stories that are happier and more hopeful.
Next up: Is the Phantom of the Opera abusive or romantic? (You can discuss the musical or the book version, or the differences between the two.)
“I hardly saw any other children; only one was my friend, and my blackness did not keep him from loving me.”
Recommend a diverse classic. Or you can argue that a diverse book should be a classic or should be included in the canon. Or you can argue that the book should be a classic, but that you don’t want to see it in the canon.
A diverse classic? That’s an extremely vague phrase which could technically be interpreted in countless ways, but I get the gist. In the English-speaking world, the standard literary classics almost entirely come from Europe and the countries which developed from European colonies. It can also be argued that the most famous, mainstream works tend to deal with similar subjects, perhaps from similar or familiar perspectives. This is a chance to discuss a book that either comes from a different cultural milieu or deals with subjects or perspectives that are rare or unique in the Western literary canon. Continue reading “Classic Remarks: Recommend a Diverse Classic”
Lewis’ message is that we should all look at Susan, see ourselves, and shuddering turn from folly to wisdom.
Susan Pevensie’s fate in C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle has been criticized for being sexist. Do you think it’s sexist or is Lewis trying to do or say something else?
[Obviously, there will be SPOILERS for the final book of the Chronicles of Narnia, and by extension for some of the previous volumes.]
The scene in question comes at the end of Chapter Twelve of Lewis’ Last Battle. Our heroes—Tirian the last King of Narnia, the Earth-children Jill and Eustace, and a few loyal friends—come unexpectedly face-to-face with the most legendary visitors to Narnia: Diggory and Polly, who witnessed Narnia’s creation in The Magician’s Nephew, and the original Pevensie children from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—minus the oldest sister, Susan. Aslan had told them all at the end of previous adventures that they would never again come into Narnia, for they had grown too old. The reason for their apparent return is revealed in later chapters, but at the moment they are merely glad to be back. But Tirian immediately has a question for High King Peter:
“If I have read the chronicle aright, there should be another. Has not your Majesty two sisters? Where is Queen Susan?”
“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”
“Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says ‘What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.’”
“Oh Susan!” said Jill. “She’s interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up.”
“Grown-up, indeed,” said the Lady Polly, “I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that way. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”
High entertainment for lovers of fantasy. Especially if you’re the kind who likes to play as a rogue or mage-thief in RPGs.
a.k.a. Mistborn: The Final Empire Series: Functions as a standalone, but is followed by The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages. This Mistborn Original Trilogy is itself followed by another series in the same universe, called the Wax and Wayne Series. Author:Brandon Sanderson Pages: 643 Published: 2006, Tor Books Spoiler-free Synopsis: Teenaged thief Vin falls in with a crew of rogues, and learns that she, like their dashing leader Kelsier, is a Mistborn, a person born with a rare ability to magically manipulate metals (Say that 5x fast!). Using a variety of magical and criminal skills, the crew plans a rebellion against the Lord Ruler, a tyrant of immense and mysterious power who has ruled for a thousand years and just might be immortal. Reason for Beginning: Accolades online gave the impression that it was a fresh, creative twist on high fantasy. Plus, I liked the title and cover art. Reason for Finishing: Excellent, page-turning writing. Plot and characters both kept me invested, while the pacing kept me up late reading many nights. Story Re-readability: Moderate. I’m more immediately interested in pursuing the next book in the series, and perhaps other titles by Sanderson. It has enough depth to reward at least a second reread, and the Thrilling Adventure and Intrique quotients should be high enough to counteract any restlessness from knowing the story’s conclusion in advance. Prose Style: Sanderson’s style is approachable and direct, keeping the story focused and the characters lively. He successfully engages with some fairly serious themes without getting ponderous or preachy. In prose, there is a definite preference for directness, sometimes at the expense of beauty of phrase, but that seems the right side to err on for this story.
Recommendation: High entertainment for lovers of fantasy. Especially if you’re the kind who likes to play as a rogue or mage-thief in RPGs.
One of the most important reasons I love fantasy fiction is the way it makes me look at things in the real world with new eyes. Reading of the beauty of Lothlórien in The Lord of the Rings only enhances my admiration for the redwood forests of California or the wet woodlands of Scotland. The chilling, dramatic tales of the Wild Hunt throughout various cultures makes me listen more closely to the variety of sounds in awesome storms.
Yet a work does not have to be fantasy in order to accomplish this. Darklight simply shows us some modern mountain bikers riding through landscapes in the Pacific Northwest and Utah at night, illuminated by bright colored lights. In doing just this, with no narrative or dialogue, only the visuals and carefully chosen music, it creates something potent and beautiful. These forests and deserts will be familiar to many, but shot and lit in this way they look alien and magical. But they are our Earth, God’s creation.
Yeah, I know, as a blogger I’m becoming sort of like that uncle you used to like and spend a lot of time with, but who now is never around except when he pops in randomly with a treat or something and is always promising to continue taking you on awesome adventures just like you used to in what is fast becoming “the old days.” But seriously, this short film is cool enough that you should forgive me anyway. It’s got airships, and hang-gliding pirates, and love. Why don’t more films feature these things? Is it because they’re afraid of joy?
“Breathtaking. One of the best short films I have ever seen.” – Kazu Kibuishi, Author of New York Times Best-Seller Amulet
Cloudrise is a short animated film directed and animated by Denver Jackson. It was created in the span of four months from conception to completion.
Set in a fantasy world above the clouds, Cloudrise follows a pivotal moment in the lives of two lovers as they face a great challenge. Watch as Miko and Tenku fight to survive an attack on their new airship and take the necessary measures to help each other. Hold on to your seat as you witness how far someone is willing to go to rescue the one they love. This is an action-packed short film that ties together various fantasy/science fiction influences.