A few weeks ago I observed something curious in one of the personality type groups I frequent on Facebook. One member started a discussion about what kind of villain different personality types would be and there were a few types they didn’t even list. Their assumption was that most Feeling types wouldn’t become villains and especially not NF or FP types.
Rather than bask in the knowledge that we’re the lest villainous type a surprisingly high number of NFs jumped into the comments to defend our ability to turn evil. Most of their comments went something like this: “Well, I wouldn’t personally be a villain, but I could be because *insert reasons.* And on top of that, *insert fictional or real name* is a villain of my type.” I laughed at the number of INFJs who reminded people that Hitler was an INFJ while at the same time reassuring people they don’t feel Hitler-ish tendencies themselves.
Who Gets To Be The Villain?
I dare say when most people think about villains, they think of a detached mastermind. There’s a ridiculously high percentage of NT type villains (and correspondingly few NT heroes; it’s even harder to find heroic INTJs in fiction than it is to find NF villains). In real life, of course, people of any personality type can lean more towards the best version or the worst version of their type. No one personality type is inherently “better” than any other. However, society does stereotype certain characteristics associated with types as better or worse.
Prioritizing other’s safety over your own, a characteristic most commonly associated with FJ types, is often seen as a heroic trait. Hence, we see characters like Captain America with an ISFJ personality type. But what if you have an ISFJ character who decides only a certain group of people (or even just one person) is more valuable and it’s their duty to protect them? Suddenly the heroic trait doesn’t seem so safe any more. Especially when you consider the prime example of a villainous ISFJ is Norman Bates from Psycho. Read more →
I’ve been reading Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge (or rather, re-reading, though it’s been 6 or 7 years and I only realized I read it once before when I recognized passages that spoke to my heart the first time). One of the main themes, and the one that left an impression on me from my first reading, is how much God wants me. He truly longs for a relationship with each of us, and it goes far beyond what we often mean when we say “God loves me.” God loves everyone. He has to, right? But when God tells us He loves us, He doesn’t mean an automatic benevolence that happens just because “God is love.” He means a real, passionate desire to be in relationship with you.
To be spiritual is to be in Romance with God. The desire to be romanced lies deep in the heart of every woman. It is for such that you were made. And you are romanced, and ever will be.” – from Captivating
This is speaking directly to women, so perhaps it won’t resonate so much with my guy readers. But God’s longing to be in relationship with us applies to both men and women in His church. Perhaps a glimpse of how being romanced by God looks to a woman will give you gentlemen some insight into what it means when Christ calls the Church His bride.
Almost 10 years ago, I started collecting favorite quotes in a notebook. One of the very first things I wrote down were the lyrics to “All I Ask Of You” from The Phantom of the Opera. On the opposite page, I lined it up with scriptures that spoke about the love between us and Jesus. Years later, I turned that into a video I never shared. For today’s post, I went back and updated that video with a few new scriptures. I think perhaps this is the best way to share what I’m trying to say today. Enjoy 🙂
I choose The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux as the first book to read off my Classics Club book list for one simple reason. I had a dream about it.
Now, understand I’ve never read this book before. It’s not even one I checked out of the library, flipped through, and lost interest in. So when I dreamed about seeing the written pages of this book morph into film-like scenes that were not in the 2004 film or the play I saw this year, I decided I needed to read this book. It’s not unusual for me to dream vividly, but it was a bit odd to construct such an elaborate version of something I hadn’t thought about recently.
So I ordered it into the library and read it (in translation, unfortunately, since my French isn’t very good). And I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy the book. It must have been almost 10 years ago that I first became seriously interested in the musical The Phantom of the Opera, and at the time I decided against reading the book because so many reviewers I read said they were disappointed. They said if you like the play, don’t bother reading the book because Andrew Lloyd Webber somehow managed to pull brilliance out of a terrible novel.
It is not a terrible novel, though I understand why some readers didn’t like it. Many who love the musical expect a more romantic Phantom character, while Leroux’s Erik (a.k.a. The Phantom) is firmly rooted in a Gothic tradition of villainy. He sleeps in a coffin. His lair includes a torture chamber. He has no nose in his deathly-pale face.
But we’ll get to comparing it with the play later. For now, back to the book. It is written as if by a narrator who began studying the events surrounding the tragedy of the Paris Opera House about 30 years after its haunting by the “ghost.” This haunting coincided with the famous disappearance of Christine Daaé and the Vicomte de Chagny. Our narrator connects these two events, interviews the only witness who is both surviving and locatable, and happens into possession of some very intriguing documents attesting to the ghost’s antics. In short, he is uniquely positioned to be the only person qualified to uncover the truth regarding the opera ghost.
Parts of the story are told as we would think of a “normal” 3rd-person narration, others are the narrator’s conjectures about what might have taken place, still others are written as if borrowed from the memoirs of a few key characters. This rather disconnected narrative style works surprisingly well, and there were only a few places where I thought it jarring to be reminded that the narrator is supposedly piecing this story together from multiple sources of evidence.
Probably the main change from the book to the play is how Erik is portrayed. This blog post about The Many Faces of Erik collects pictures of the Phantom’s portrayal in film and on stage, both before and after Webber’s musical. I could have nightmares about that face from the 1925 version, but it’s probably the closest to Erik in the book.
Erik is described as having “a death’s head,” and his hands are skeletal and cold. Even the most ghoulish Phantom make-up in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals can be hidden under a half-mask. In the book, the entire man is deformed in some vague way that can’t really be hidden. The people who glimpse him even in disguise get the impression of a ghost or skeleton.
And his character is more twisted in the book as well. In the play, we know the Phantom as a genius who has gone mad and kills to protect his secrets. In the book, we are given more of Erik’s back-story and made to see him not as an unstable, unloved man who is carried away by his passion, but as a violent man without a conscience who has a history of inventing new ways to kill and torment people for pleasure. He captures our imagination, our horror, our pity, but not our love.
Angel of Music
Christine and Raoul’s back-story was very similar in the book and play, with the book simply being more fleshed-out. I liked Raoul less in the book, though. He seems a rather pale, helpless character who follows Christine around vacillating between hating of her for loving someone else and being willing to do anything to protect her from Erik. If he was translated perfectly from the book to the musical and the changes for the Phantom left in place, I doubt there’s be any part of me hoping for Raoul to win Christine.
Poor Christine, in the book and play, was doomed by her father’s promise to send her the Angel of Music. This is built-up even better in the book, with her father telling stories about how the greatest musicians heard the Angel of Music, who moved them from talented to unforgettably brilliant. Christine’s father was a great violinist, but never heard the Angel. His daughter, however, was waiting for him to send one from heaven, and when Erik first sings to her she asks if he is her Angel. He grasps the title eagerly, and she’s lost to his music.
His voice first appears in the book simply as a speaking voice — the man Raoul hears but cannot find in Christine’s dressing room and the invisible speaker in Box 5. Madam Giry calls it “such a lovely man’s voice … so soft and kind.” When Erik finally sings, the word “captivating” hardly seems to do the listeners’ reactions justice:
The voice without a body went on singing; and certainly Raoul had never in his life heard anything more absolutely and heroically sweet, more gloriously insidious, more delicate, more powerful, in short, more irresistibly triumphant. He listened to it in a fever and he now began to understand how Christine Daaé was able to appear one evening, before the stupefied audience, with accents of a beauty hitherto unknown, of a superhuman exaltation, while doubtless still under the influence of the mysterious and invisible master.
The voice was singing the Wedding-night Song from Romeo and Juliet. Raoul saw Christine stretch out her arms to the voice as she had done, in Perros churchyard, to the invisible violin playing The Resurrection of Lazarus. And nothing could describe the passion with which the voice sang: “Fate links thee to me for ever and a day!”
The strains went through Raoul’s heart. Struggling against the charm that seemed to deprive him of all his will and all his energy and of almost all his lucidity at the moment when he needed them most, he succeeded in drawing back the curtain that hid him and he walked to where Christine stood. (from Chapter IX)
Michael Crawford (original Broadway cast), Ramin Karimloo (25th anniversary cast), and Cooper Grodin (touring cast I saw in Columbus) have voices like this. That spectacular voice, which mesmerizes Christine and the audience, is the secret of Erik’s allure. Without it, he would just be a hideous man with an even more hideous soul hiding under an opera house. But add this voice, and he becomes something unforgettable — the dark menace who should be repulsive but is somehow irresistible.
When my cousin went to see The Phantom of the Opera, she was disappointed because the Phantom had a lack-luster voice. That was not the case last night at the Ohio Theatre in Columbus. Cooper Grodin turned in an amazing performance, which was well-supported by a talented cast including Grace Morgan as Christine and Ben Jacoby as Raoul.
This was my second time seeing a touring Broadway production in Columbus (the first was Wicked, last July). My sister and I are in serious danger of becoming theater addicts. We love the atmosphere (especially in a theater as lovely and historic as this one in Columbus), the excuse to dress elegantly, the quality of the music, and the set changes. Before going to Wicked, I had no idea set design was so elaborate.
One thing I love about Phantom is that since it is a play about stage actors, the audience switches from being viewers at the play The Phantom of the Opera to being part of the play as an audience for the plays enacted in the Opera Populaire. We became part of the Phantom’s opera house. Sometimes, he seemed to be singing just over my shoulder because of speakers at the back of the theater (which were only used for his character). Then, near the end when Raoul orders the doors bared against the Phantom’s escape, we heard doors shutting behind us.
Christine’s has long been one of my favorite roles to sing, and the English major in me also likes to analyze her character. From reading stage directions (included in the booklet that came with my copy of the CD), it often seems like she’s in a trance — as if the Phantom is a student of Franz Mesmer and has been practicing a form of hypnotism on Christine. She’s not mad — at least insofar that she’s not imagining the Phantom — and she’s not stupid. She, like the entire play and audience, is under the Phantom’s spell.