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If you are unfamiliar with the hit musical The Phantom of the Opera, then some of this won’t make sense. To get you up to speed, it’s a musical about a French opera house and the masked man that lives beneath it, who has fallen in love with a young actress, Christine. Also, it is based on a classic novel of the same name (though it’s in French)! At first glance, the relationship seems to be somewhat sweet, though still concerning. At least, this is what I thought when I first watched the 2004 movie version, which also starred Gerard Butler as The Phantom! For context, I was young and in middle school so I had no idea what a healthy relationship was like when I watch the movie. Now that I’m older and more knowledgeable, I cannot stress how many things make The Phantom of the Opera creepy. 

The first red flag was The Phantom’s torment of the theatre’s primadonna Carlotta, who, admittedly, is a bit of a diva. He is constantly sabotaging performances and demanding that someone else be the production’s lead. After one instance of The Phantom’s ridiculous demands, Carlotta quits and Madame Giry suggests that the young, yet very talented, Christine is given the lead role. This choice wasn’t completely random — Madame Giry works for The Phantom and knows that Christine is as talented as she is because The Phantom has been her mentor for the past several years. This manipulative personality is already something that would make anyone uncomfortable, so it couldn’t get worse than that, right?

Of course, it gets worse.

During her breakout performance, Christine’s childhood sweetheart Raoul is in attendance and we see that they both still carry a torch for each other! Raoul wants to take Christine out, but she declines, stating her mentor is adamant she can’t entertain courtships. Before we understand that The Phantom is in love with her, we think that he just wants Christine to be solely devoted to the craft, and being in a relationship means less time practicing. That entire idea is thrown out the window when the iconic title song is sung when The Phantom appears to Christine in her dressing room. This is, in and of itself, super creepy since there is only one exit and he came through a secret passageway hidden behind her mirror. It’s safe to say that the room was Carlotta’s before it was Christine’s, but that still means The Phantom was able to watch the people in the dressing room without their knowledge.

During the title song, The Phantom whisks Christine away to his chambers in the catacombs beneath the opera house. She falls asleep during this transition and at some point, he shows her a mannequin that looks way too similar to her. To make it even creepier, the mannequin is basically wearing a wedding dress. If I were Christine, I would have BOLTED out of there. 

The creepiness increases as the plot thickens. It is revealed that Madame Giry is close to The Phantom because she helped him escape a circus where he was on display for being a monster since half of his face was burned. This was years ago when they were children. The movie portrays them as pretty close in age, which makes it believable that Madame Giry would help him since she could sympathize in some way. Present-day Madame Giry is much older and has a daughter the same age as Christine. Basically, The Phantom is old enough to be Christine’s father. This is a terrifying thought when we remember that Christine was orphaned at a young age and has lived at the theatre since her father’s death. The musical is unclear of when The Phantom’s teaching began, but regardless, at some point in The Phantom choosing Christine as his pupil, he has to have convinced her to accept his teaching. Christine’s father told her he would send an “Angel of Music” to her, which she believed to be The Phantom, making it easy for her to go along with this odd mentorship. In some way, The Phantom manipulated and groomed Christine at a young age, becoming a very controlling and jealous man in the process.

Of all of the issues in The Phantom of the Opera, one scene makes me more uncomfortable than the rest. The Phantom, who is also a musical genius, demands the theatre to perform an opera he wrote with Christine as the lead. The usual male lead is sabatoged by The Phantom before a rather risque scene of the opera and The Phantom himself goes on stage to perform. It is very tense and he essentially gropes Christine, though the cast and crew were expecting this to happen so they were prepared to try and take The Phantom down. As any good movie, they succeed in doing so and Raoul and Christine are able to live happily ever after, though Christine is probably traumatised, and rightfully so.

The Phantom of the Opera is a classic musical with gorgeous music. However, there is a general creepines to The Phantom outside of being a mysterious and troubled musical genius that lives in the catacombs. The fact that I even thought this was a relationship goal when I was younger is apalling. I’m very happy that I know what I do now because The Phantom is one huge red flag that shouldn’t have been ignored!

Paige Pennebaker

Chapel Hill '21

Paige Pennebaker is an aspiring writer who attends UNC-Chapel Hill as a Senior during the day. She enjoys writing fiction and has been published on shortfictionbreak.com. While fiction is where her heart is, Paige also has a lot to say about the real world and how to get by.
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