The incomparable fantasist John Crowley in the short story "Novelty" (in this collection
) has a character say, in essence, there are two kinds of poems - the kind you talk about in bars, and the kind you write.
Stories come that way too - there are the kind you talk about on your LJ, and those you actually write. A modern retelling of Phantom of the Opera
with a fat Phantom keeps tugging at my skirts for attention. It might be the first kind of story, but I hope not, because it's a pretty compelling idea - and one which I think could preserve the themes of POTO as laid out by its original creator.
I think I could even write it with an Erik/Christine pairing outcome. But one critical theme from Leroux would have to be preserved - and I think it would translate well - the "Raoul" character still has to suspect that "Christine" hides a love in her heart for "Erik" that's "like sins" - he has to experience that cold creeping dread up his back that she may actually *love* this man, and even on some level find him sexually attractive. Because the reader is (probably) going to be creeping out right along with him.
It puts "Raoul" back in the driver's seat of the narrative, as Leroux intended, too - because we see Erik through "Raoul's" eyes - that is, the condemning eyes of "society" as well as the eyes of an almost-jilted lover who really doesn't understand or sympathize with what the "Christine" character is experiencing. This does NOT make him the "bad guy" in any sense, but it does make him as baffled as the reader - who (as in Leroux's day) really should be shocked at "Christine's" gestures of generosity at the end.
There simply is no way to do it with a facial deformity, which has totally been evacuated of its symbolic meaning - especially not since movies like Mask
and Man Without a Face.
But just as skeletal men in evening dress were sometimes used in 19th century French magazine illustrations to symbolize evil and decadence, so do we use the image of the fat man as representative of our own ideas of self-indulgent evil (Baron Harkonnen in Dune
, or the fat programmer Dennis Nedry in the film Jurassic Park
) or absurdity (www.dumpcupid.com, anyone?)
Parenthetically, I think one reason Erik is so loved w/in the fandom (especially Kay!Erik) is *because* he's thin and looks fashionably lean in basic black. This is a reversal of the 19th century ideal, which favored the bigger and broader man as the ideal.