Friday, September 7, 2012

Character of the Month - September 2012

I missed last month...whoops. Anyway, here we go! This month's character is...drum roll, please!

*drum roll*

Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny (The Phantom of the Opera)

 Ha HA! Bet you didn't see THAT one coming! It seems to me that dear Raoul is browbeaten far too often by the more...erm...enthusiastic phangirls, and that's just not fair! So, I'm about to commit the unpardonable sin, considered by some a capital offense.

I'm about to defend him.

Come on, what's wrong with Raoul? Sure, you get the versions where he's unappealing at best and complete trash at worst, but when he's in character, he's a great guy! No matter what the version, he's perfectly ready to risk his life to save Christine from Erik, despite how little he knows about his adversary. He's kind, sweet, honest, dependable...and yes, he has his faults.

Take Leroux's novel, for instance. When it looks like Christine is playing him for a sap, he lashes out at her and wants never to see her again. While this used to make me spitting mad, I have to feel his pain now. How might you feel if you thought the one you love was lying to you and toying around with your heart? And be honest! Yet despite this, he still runs off to her rescue and nearly dies in the attempt. Does this bother him? No! His only concern is for Christine's safety. Something else that usually gets the Raoul-bashers' dander up: how he looks at his engagement to Christine as disgraceful for one in his position. Let's be honest, by society's standards, he's marrying beneath him. BUT--does it stop him? No! He loves her, really loves her, and that's the end of it!

I'll admit, though, my favorite interpretation of the character is through Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical (a bit ironic, since it was Webber who first trashed him in a professional setting in Love Never Dies). How can that be, you ask? Webber!Raoul is just a cardboard, stereotyped Prince Charming! Let me favorite interpretations of the character, period, are the performances given by Patrick Wilson and Hadley Fraser, termed by some as the fop and the jerk. What's up with the name-calling? Both actors made me not only respect Raoul, but actually (gasp!) like him! There's nothing Raoul wouldn't do for Christine, and these two made that obvious. He tried to do what he thought was right by everyone and wasn't afraid to stand up to the Phantom, even call him out! Everything that makes every other Erik-lover hate on Raoul is something I've come to regard as another reason to love on him some more. There, I said it!

In the realms of fan fiction, however...well, like I said, the poor guy gets trashed. Even reaching back before Love Never Dies, Susan Kay dealt him a raw hand in Phantom. He did all he could for Christine, the love of his life, and did it matter? No sirree, it did not! She was grateful to him and tried to be a "dutiful wife," but after all the hell he went through for her sake, she just didn't love him. *sniff* I'll say this for Ms. Kay, though, she didn't drag his character through the dirt in order to have her E/C ending. She kept him noble to the end. Brava!

If Raoul must be downplayed, I prefer to exploit faults he already has. No drunken, wife-beating, gambling butthead for me, thank you! I'll take him with an extra shot of Leroux arrogance, Webber hotheadedness, and his universal knack for being the "hero." Work with what's already there, peeps! Work with what's already there!

So there it is. I'm crazy enough to want to throw myself at the feet of a middle-aged, antisocial, homicidal, sexually frustrated, reclusive sociopath who needs to see a shrink himself. And I've still got a lot of love for his rival. No shame!

Your pal,

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