Close your eyes for your eyes will only tell the truth and the truth isn’t what you want to see
Let me preface this by saying that I love the musical “The Phantom of the Opera” and just saw it last night at Pantages Theatre on its last run. If you haven’t seen it yourself, and the chance remotely presents itself, TAKE IT. Now that my daily quota of free advertising is finished… I’ll get on to the subject of hand.
I have noticed that amongst fans of “Phantom,” many girls find themselves drawn to the character of Erik (the Phantom), even to the point of preferring him over Raoul. I never have, but it was only recently (as in, this morning, as a matter of fact) that I realized the reason why.
Erik represents to me everything that I am pulling away from and distancing myself from. He is the epitome of the emotional and mental abuse I suffered throughout my time in fundamentalist Christianity. I see in him my parents, my pastor, my priest, the rules, the expectations, the unspoken understandings all rolled into one.
Wandering child . . . So lost . . . So helpless . . . Yearning for my guidance . . .
This… is what we were. This song could be song as a duet between the authority figure in fundamentalism, and the child they are trying to mold.
Too long you’ve wandered in winter . . . far from my far-reaching gaze
The lyrics say more than any commentary ever could. Where would we be without these rules they place around us? It’s all for our own good, and we need to submit ourselves, to come back… more importantly, to obey.
Angel, my soul was weak -forgive me . . .enter at last, Master
There are several important things to remember here. Firstly, Christine did have a wonderful gift–her voice was truly beautiful. Secondly, it cannot be denied that Erik was a masterful tutor. Thirdly, I do not doubt that he cared for Christine.
The problem comes in with how he displays his feelings toward her, and the unhealthy obsession to which he takes them. There is nothing wrong in loving something beautiful. There is, however, something indisputably wrong with demanding blind obedience and fealty.
Close your eyes start a journey through a strange new world / Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before / Close your eyes and let music set you free / Only then can you belong to me
In fundamentalism, it is very clear what is right, and what is wrong. If you do what you should, you will be set free from the shackles of this world. There is good and there is bad, there is light and there is dark, there is perfection and there is failure.
As a girl, I was to be the perfect daughter, grow up, marry the perfect man, and raise perfect children. You might take one look at that and ask something like “Is that all?” or “What if you want to do something else?” or even “Not interested.” As with Christine, there isn’t a choice. We can only be the best we can by going along with what our authority figure says. They know more than we, and we need to trust them.
If we do not trust them, our faith is weak. If our faith is weak, then we are helpless… would we do that to ourselves?
The promises they make sound enticing at first glance. A spotlight on a stage… what is that? Mother of the Year Award? In the end… do we really want the limelight, or would we be happier in the chorus, or in someone’s arms? Yes, we might want the crowd to call out our name, but at what cost?
In Erik I see every nightmare I’m fleeing from. The sweet outer taste… the mask that promises so much… the face behind it that delivers so little. There is the insistence that I do things his way, regardless of my personal feelings. There are the threats that warn of doom if I do not obey, and the ever-present guilt-inducing reminder that if anything happens, it will be on my shoulders. Could I damn someone else to death… or damn them to hell for eternity?
When promises of a better life don’t work, threats are resorted to. When threats don’t work, there is one choice left for the abuser… outright manipulation.
So distorted, deformed, it was hardly a face / in that darkness…darkness… / But his voice filled my spirit / with a strange, sweet sound…
They will take away that which we hold dear. They don’t approve of our relationships? Then they will force us apart. They will forbid us to speak, to think, to love. They will insist that they know best, that we need to go along with them. They will kidnap (figuratively), threaten, cajole… they will do anything they can think of so long as they can keep a hold over us.
And yet… it is so hard to say no… because we are afraid. Because we don’t want others to hurt because of us, because in some twisted version of reality, we think that maybe if we just were better, things wouldn’t be so bad. And maybe we deserve that fate.
We had such hopes and now / Those hopes are shattered!
And so it is with Erik. He molds, he trains, he brainwashes… but when the child he raised suddenly wants something different or more, he freaks out. The idea that there could be anything different is foreign to him, and he does not like it. He wants to stay in control, to be certain of what he knows. And he overreacts. He doesn’t think. He exercises any method he can to maintain control, and no manipulation is too low for him.
Past the point of no return… the final threshold… [your] life is now the prize which you must earn
Angel of Music you deceived me… I gave my mind blindly