Also Paul is having a games night (I cooked a chilli - OM NOM NOM) so I can't watch the Giles+Sue Royal Wedding (though, yeah, WTF is up with the no advertising, Beeb?! I only found out via Twitter that it was tonight.)
Okay, without further ado, here is the first catch-up post. I might post another one later. We'll see.
Day 19 - A Ship From Your Favourite Boxset / Book Series / Etc
I'm counting an original novel, a brilliant prequel and a god-awful sequel - not to mention several films and musical plays - as a 'series'. :P (Aside from the fact the only other book series I’ve read is Harry Potter and I don’t have a ‘ship for that…)
Erik and Christine from The Phantom of the Opera.
Also, I just couldn't think of anywhere else to put them...
This pairing is so ingrained into my knowledge of the fandom that I honestly can't remember how it started. It's a somewhat obvious pairing, given my propensity for tortured souls and doomed romance, but I can't recall a 'trigger' or a specific event that kicked it off. It sort of grew naturally with my interest in the phenomenon.
I've mentioned my own relationship and history with POTO several times on LJ; that I heard the soundtrack a lot when I was small, and listened to it properly (and several times) aged 16 in preparation for the UK tour production. I think I had an inkling of Erik/Christine at that point, and I can remember when I saw the musical properly for the first time (the time when I was six doesn't count as I can only remember the staircase from "Masquerade") that the 'choice' scene caused some kind of a stirring in me and may even have made me cry. After seeing it my mum recommended I read Phantom by Susan Kay, the infamous and much-sought-after prequel novel, and that rooted the pairing even further.
POTO shippers are a strange breed, the female ones at least; our preference on whom Christine ends up with depends entirely on which of the male characters we ourselves prefer. Some of us want a dashing hero to sweep us off our feet; the rest of us want a murderous sociopath to spirit us away to his underground lair. (Actually, now I can see why people might be icked by the concept. :D) Kay's novel (which fills in the gaps of Erik's early life, before going into the territory of the original source and the musical [narrated by Erik and Christine respectively], and providing a very satisfying ending) has an awful lot to answer for; in giving Erik a voice, and in making Christine more than a weak 19th century heroine, Kay makes us feel for them. Erik was honestly the very first fictional character I fell in love with - properly, actually in love with, at least as far as my adolescent brain understood the concept - and that probably accounts for the pairing more than the material itself.
Thankfully, I am not alone in my weirdness. There are thousands of POTO fangirls (sorry, 'phangirls' :P) who feel the same. Ask us to explain why and we would play you a recording of Michael Crawford singing "Music of the Night" and gesticulate at it flailingly. "BECAUSE GUH" doesn't just apply to Norma/Joe - Crawford's MOTN came along well before those two ate my brain. :)
I wander in and out of this fandom regularly; the good thing about movie/book/musical fandoms is they don't "end" like television shows, and thus have more longevity. Also there’s usually very little time to establish things, and they’re a lot more challenging for that. I have been less active in seeking out fanfic since the 2004 movie because the fandom is becoming populated by horrible Gerard Butler phanbrats and the quality of the writing has deteriorated - nearly everything is a Mary Sue or "high school" story. I'm writing a POTO story at the moment myself but haven't posted it anywhere yet, because I fear it is too erudite for the idiots on FFN to appreciate. (Aside from the fact I still need to finish "Sweet Intoxication" and if I post something new I'll probably get lynched by any of its remaining followers. :P) Anyway, despite my fluctation in the fandom, the pairing continues to capture my imagination. My stories, like so many others, take place after the event, and nearly always involve Christine returning to Erik instead of marrying Raoul - or even after marrying him!
Raoul is boring, and that pairing is boring by default. It's built on a childhood incident where he ran into the sea to save Christine's scarf, they spent a few days being bestest friends, and then didn't see each other for years. He describes her as "gawkish" from the off (although admits she isn't any more) and their interaction is based on nostalgia about her dead father, childhood nicknames and a sense of familiarity. For all those Erik/Christine bashers who moan that Erik only loved her for her voice: isn't that exactly how Raoul notices her again?
I can't explain Erik/Christine... not really. I think it's about wanting to redeem the characters. Erik needs Christine's light in his darkness; he obsesses over her because that's all he knows how to do. In applying modern psychology to the story, he has no social skills, no experience of proper human interaction, and even though he has a friend in Nadir (in Kay's canon, anyway), even that is laced with an underlying suspicion. He can never bring himself to fully trust anyone, Christine included, and of course she doesn't exactly help that situation by secretly getting engaged to Raoul.
As for Christine: she's experienced loss in her life, and spent her childhood travelling. Her natural instinct in any difficult situation is to run from it, move on elsewhere. I like to think that tying herself to Raoul would instil that same reaction after a while; that even her future career might tie her down too much. She is drawn to Erik because she thinks he's the ghost of her father, then latterly the Angel of Music sent to comfort her. The discovery that he's nothing but a man throws her off guard. Leroux's writing of her is typical of his time, but she's more than a fawning, swooning girl. She has enough strength and courage to look under the mask (okay, perhaps she's a bit dim sometimes...), and manages to overcome her fear. In the end she only fears his unpredictability, which is actually quite a reasonable response.
Would they really end up together? Or stay together, even? That is the big question in the fandom. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Susan Kay and generations of fanfic-writers seem to think they would; those who don't have no imagination. :P Frederick Forsyth mangled the concept horribly, but there are shades of the same idea in ...Manhattan. I am loath to even speak that travesty's name; the fans will never forgive him for the only Erik/Christine scene in the ENTIRE BOOK not even being 'seen' (it's overheard and thus recounted by an incidental character), as well as the many other crimes against the fandom.
It was very difficult to find picspam for this that didn't involve Gerard Butler or Emmy Rossum or some combination of the two (good lord, the fanart!! *scrubs eyeballs*), but by narrowing the search I managed to find what I was looking for. It could really only be this version...
Picture source: poto_daily and subsequent link to Facebook album
Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, back in 1986 when it all began, when they invaded my five-year-old brain and lay dormant for another decade before dissolving it into the fandom-broken mess it is today. The top is two of the now-infamous publicity shots, the second is from the performance itself (though I think it's actually from the Broadway production in 1988). Despite the visual, artistic differences in the musical compared to the original novel (the half-mask, and Christine is supposed to be blonde), Michael and Sarah are forever my Erik and Christine, both in voice and appearance. They are the voices and the faces, and they probably always will be. That is Erik; the lithe, tall, morphine-addicted man of indeterminate age; not the perfectly-toned, Miami-tanned-and-mildly-sunburnt, mid-30s "hero" of the 2004 movie. I know, I know, I keep going on about this, but it still makes me SO ANGRY over half a decade later. Being angry was all I could do then and it's all I can do now. I make no apologies, but I will probably still be angry in another five years, unless something happens in the interim to erase the fail.
This is one of my favourite fandoms (and thus also one of my favourite pairings, up there with Mulder/Scully and Norma/Joe), but it's broken me on so many occasions that I rarely have the energy to fight it any more. ...Manhattan was horrible; the 2004 movie was predictably disappointing; there are countless other awful film versions telling the story as a 'horror', when all it needs is to be told as a romance. The word 'phantom' in the title blinds people as to what the story's really about. Producers and directors are too keen to paint Erik as a monster, perpetuating the misconception. I'm tired of my fandom being mangled into unrecognisable shapes. That's exactly the word: tired. It's exhausting to keep on fighting, to keep on whinging. I hate that I'm so emotionally invested in this thing, that I can't accept the mistakes and move on; I hate how powerless and tiny and persecuted it makes me feel, even in an internet full of like-minded fans.
And yet there is always hope. One day someone will make a film - whether that's another version of the musical, or an adaptation of Kay, or a proper interpretation of Leroux - and it will be what the fans have been waiting for, what we deserve and what we've fought for. No stupid Hollywood casting, no idiot directors misinterpreting the story, no focusing on the horror over the actual plot, no stupid bloody sunburn/caves/dumbing-down... just Phantom as it should be, dark and romantic and perfect. The story has fascinated film-makers for generations, and continues to do so. There is hope, no matter how miniscule it is. (That same hope which tells me they cannot possibly fuck up the Sunset movie any more than they've tried to already...)
I knew this post would be long, but I didn't quite anticipate it would turn into a general rant about the fandom. :) That is the trouble, though - the pairing is basically the fandom's DNA. Erik/Christine shippers feel so passionately for this pairing that it eliminates all notions of sanity, and the fans in general are rabid and terrifying. It's for this reason that I have mixed feelings about the fandom these days; I adore this musical, this story, from the very bottom of my heart, but it takes so much out of me that sometimes, I wish I'd never found it. I wish it weren't so popular; but if it were as obscure as, say, Sunset Boulevard or Jonathan Creek, I doubt I would be happy with that either. Great things deserve to be found sometimes, but POTO is the prime example of why, equally, it's often better if they're not... Ambivalence, thy name is teylaminh.
LONG CATCH-UP IS LONG. Thankfully I wrote most of that at work back on 19th February. :P