Saturday, 6 June 2009

Phantom of the Opera

xposted from my LJ


Ooooof.

Phantom of the Opera teaches girls bad, bad, orful thingz!
Of course, to call it a two-and-a-half-hour musical about rape vastly understates the bizarreo-world factor of this musical, although it's hardly an inaccurate statement.

At first, I was merely staggered by what this show must do to thirteen-year-old girls. I mean, it's just utterly designed to be seductive to anyone who doesn't want to own their sexuality and is drawn to any sort of narrative of submission, ordeal or apprenticeship. I should have, in fact, been all over this shit. At thirteen, I surely would have been. And the gaggle of girls that age we saw in the bathroom surely were.

....What a completely bizarre and vaguely intellectually offensive show. Man, when this first came out, gender and sexuality scholars must have been like "happy birthday to me" -- what a goldmine of crazy!
Where do I even begin?

Perhaps with "It didn't make me any less dominant..."

I wanted to be Christine for a few months, sure.

Then I asked myself "Why shouldn't he be singing my music?" and it was all over but the shouting. :)

And of course, rather than asking whether stories like that one attract people who have D/s leanings, we have to ask the same old tired "won't people get D/s leanings from this?" question.

And, honestly, what all the stories like this about D/s-y romance taught me was not "Be submissive!" but rather "If you be your dominant self, you will never be happy. Dominance is for the villains, and the villains are always either vanquished or voluntarily give up what's presented as their only chance for companionship because they realize they can never be themselves without doing harm."

These stories do not tell you that D/s is harmless, or is awesome, and I'm always stunned when feminists say they do. These stories are very, very, very clear about erotic power dynamics' destructive potential. They have to be. It's not socially acceptable for them not to be.

It may well be socially acceptable for them to be in romance novels and such geared toward adults, but all the stories I was allowed to see as a youth? None of those said that submission ultimately leads to fulfillment. They said, as I stated above, that dominance was what made the villains hot. The villains, by definition, lose.

Submission is something the heroine experiments with -- Hell, gets hypnotized into experimenting with -- and ultimately rejects. Do you really think Christine has the same dynamic she had with Erik with Raoul?! Yeah, right.

Why, when we examine this stuff, do we ask how it will affect a child we assume to be a vanilla tabula rasa? Why don't we ever, ever, ever ask what this says to people who are already dominant or submissive? Because they usually say "Your relationships are tragedies waiting to happen." If not "You're gonna grow up to be a homicidal maniac who can never be responsible about sex and love, kiddo. Sorry to tell ya, but we thought you should know."

If y'all need me, I'll be cranking Point up to max volume (and, yes, it is about rape, and yes, that is problematic. But FFS, the guy is a homicidal maniac! It's not like the show says "woo, rape!")...

...provided I can freaking find my copy of the OCR, anyway.

28 comments:

SnowdropExplodes said...

I can't think of anything better to say than my comment over at your LJ, so I may as well repost it here:

Not seen Phantom of the Opera, but that whole thing of Because they usually say "Your relationships are tragedies waiting to happen." If not "You're gonna grow up to be a homicidal maniac who can never be responsible about sex and love, kiddo. Sorry to tell ya, but we thought you should know." is exactly what I grew up with, and exactly why I was convinced for most of my teens and a few years of adulthood, that I was destined to be a serial killer and not a nice person at all.

All the people in fiction who had desires like mine were evil murderers, rapists, bad guys - and always ended up getting shot, or imprisoned, or otherwise coming to a grisly end. Fiction didn't give me any way to see myself as someone positive or good in society.

And these themes aren't limited to musicals, or mass-media - they go right back to the old fairy stories told to kids (Beauty and the Beast, for example, the "villain" only wins the girl when he gives up being "beastly" and dominant).

clarissethorn said...

Have you seen this?

http://www.hulu.com/watch/52149/legend-of-the-seeker-denna

electronic doll said...

I don't especially like Phantom, because I don't especially like musicals, except for the costume joy.

But I do like villains, and anti-heros, and anyting with a touch of the sinister: masks, dungeons, ropes and evil plots. I couldn't be a submissive, or enjoy submitting, if there weren't people who wanted to put on those black hats and tie me to the train tracks. So here's my support for anyone who wants to take on the role.

No, there aren't a lot of stories that have happy endings for villains. But the same goes for submissive heroines. You always end up with some awful vanilla prince who is taking you away from your engaging and exciting lifestyle with your masked stranger. Bastard. And then it has you painted as meek, and unthinkingly subject to the whims of whichever bloke (and it's always a bloke) snatches you up, for good or for evil.

I think a lot of tales are missing the epilogue. The bit part way through their honeymoon, where Beauty suggest that Beast tries a little rough and tumble to get back to the good old days of animal attraction.

Also - re Legend of the Seeker - don't read the books, whatever you do...

Trinity said...

"But the same goes for submissive heroines. You always end up with some awful vanilla prince who is taking you away from your engaging and exciting lifestyle with your masked stranger. Bastard."

Hee hee! Yeah.

jemand said...

I guess to be fair there is an underground of religious communities who DO produce literature for their girls promoting "submission" in all things as the only way to properly be a wife (and wife is the only proper way to be female).

But that has NOTHING to do with healthy D/s relationships where both parties are enjoying their particular kink.

Just wanted to mention it though-- there is children's literature advocating domination and submission along gender roles or you'll face hell. And to be honest, even among long term D/s couples in BDSM, I'm pretty sure the number of subs who aren't allowed to have a preference for a particular kind of toothpaste for their sensitive teeth because their partner prefers something else is... probably nonexistent, yet I did find such a story in the context of religious spousal abuse under the name of "submission."

I really don't have any trouble distinguishing between the two groups, pathological religious submission and kinky sex-positive submission, but maybe popular culture can't separate the two.

Brie said...

Interesting post. I always thought the Phantom (the charactor) was a creepy perv, not a responsible dominant lover. Afterall, he lies, manipulates, and lusts after her since she was a child. The movie version strongly suggests he used to spy on her in her dressing room. However, I still think the overall story is one of feminism.

As an orphan child, Christine is drawn to him as a figure of authority and, therefore, safety. She is orphaned again, when she realizes he's a crazy serial killer. This time she turns to Raol as her protector and guardian, and looks to him as her source of safety.

But, in the end, it is Christine who has to rescue herself, Raol, and the Phantom. She does this by sacrificing herself for Raol. She offers to go with the Phantom. But this time she is not doing it as an innocent, but with full knowlege of herself and her former mentor. She has the strength to give up everything she wants out of love and compassion for another human being.

Perhaps it is the strength of Christine's selfless love that finally allows the Phantom to realize what true love is. Or perhaps it's because Christine comes to him steeped in the truth, rather than as part of their joint illusion, that he is forced to realize the truth about himself. Either way, it's at that point that he realizes that he can never posses her if she does not come to him freely. I like how this transformation occurs in him after she kisses him. It is the kiss of true love that transforms him from a Beast into a man, although it is true love of a more complex nature than people usually think of.

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