men_in_full: (daniel lambert)
[personal profile] men_in_full
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 (, 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.

Date: 2007-02-16 06:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, Stefanie, someone has to "go there". And I can't think of anyone better suited to the job.

I can remember one sympathetic portrayal of a fat man in a novel. In book two of the Angélique series, by Sergeanne Golon. The series is set in 17th century France, Morocco, and America/Canada, and the gutsy (and beautiful) heroine lives through an incredible and fascinating series of adventures. Her first husband, the Comte de Peyrac (tall dark, handsome except for a disfigured face, and with a Golden Voice) has been executed for witchcraft, and Angélique is cast out to fend for herself and their two sons. I haven't read the books for a long time now, but I've saved them, they're in a box in our attic.

To get to the point. Angélique is arrested (unfairly) for prostitution, but manages to wheedle the chief of police in Paris (called "The Ogre" or "Gargantua" I think) to let her go to make sure her children are allright, and promising to come back spend the night with him later. She keeps her word, and while I don't remember all the details about their encounter, I can remember my surprise when I read about it.

The chief of police is fat, with a large appetite, and has Angélique checked out by the police surgeon before he goes to bed with her. Undressed, he is massive in his nightgown, and the sight of his head covered by a handkerchief (he's taken his wig off) makes Angélique giggle and breaks the ice. He pokes and prods her, appreciates her body, and is surprisingly deft and gentle during the act. To her relief. I think she did enjoy it, but I can't remember for sure.

I remember this scene, because it was so unusual. Most of Angélique's lover were handsome men, and "Gargantua" stood out by comparison.

Date: 2007-02-17 02:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You're too kind ... ; )

It must be destiny - my library actually has Angelique and the King, which is Book 2 of the 9-volume series. I can't wait to see how that scene is treated. However, I will be getting an English translation, so there's no telling what I'll wind up with in that circumstance.

Date: 2007-02-17 08:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In the series I have, Angélique and the King is the third book, I think. I'm not sure about this, but some publishers split the first book into two. I can't remember how much of Angélique's life at the Court of Miracles, etc is in the second and third books of the series I have. You may have to look at the first book, too, to find the interlude with the Ogre, if Angélique and the King is book two.

Here's a link to reviews of the books:

Ah, they also have a list of the books:

1957 - Angélique, The Marquise of the Angels (Angélique, Marquise des Anges)
1958 - Angélique, the road to Versailles (Angélique, le Chemin de Versailles)
1959 - Angélique and the King (Angélique et le Roy)
1960 - Angélique and the Sultan also known as Angélique in Barbary (Indomptable Angélique)
1961 - Angélique in Revolt (Angélique se révolte)
1961 - Angélique in Love (Angélique et son Amour)
1964 - The Countess Angélique (Angélique et le Nouveau Monde)
1966 - The Temptation of Angélique (La Tentation d'Angélique)
1972 - Angélique and the Demon (Angélique et la Démone)
1976 - Angélique and the Ghosts (Angélique et le Complot des Ombres)
1980 - Angélique à Québec (not translated yet)
1984 - Angélique, la Route de l'Espoir (not translated yet)
1985 - La Victoire d'Angélique (not translated yet)

I'm afraid I can't say where you'd find the Ogre interlude. Second or third book above. Hmm.. am feeling nostalgic, may just go and dig out those books, I know where they are. I think.

I wonder how they'll have stood up to time. When I first read them, in my teens, I thought they were marvellous. This heroine got on with things in her life, and survived all kinds of ordeals. Including raising an unwanted child, the result of a rape. Can't remember how many children she had... Two boys with her first husband, one boy (murdered by the king's soldiers when she rebelled agst the king) by her second husband, one girl after being raped, and then I think she had twins...

Date: 2007-02-19 04:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks for the heads-up - it turns out that our library doesn't have "Road to Versailles."

It sounds like a remarkable romance series. I normally don't read romances, but I could be tempted...

Date: 2007-02-17 10:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In the outer corner of our attic I found my treasure trove of Angélique books. A quick look-through revealed that it's in book two in the list above that we find the encounter between Angélique and the colossal chief of police. Angélique and the Road to Versailles. Let me know if you can't get hold of it. I'll photocopy the relevant bits & send them to you. Oh, and it is in English! I started reading the series in English, moving over to French when the translations weren't keeping up.

The workings of the human mind never cease to surprise me.... I haven't read those books in at least 20 years or so, but they are so vivid in my mind. Had a quick peek at the Angélique -Ogre chapter and it's pretty much as I remembered it.

The Angélique books are often put down as sensationalistic breastsellers... but there is more to them than that. There is a wide spectrum of characters, even the "bad guys" are human and painted with a warm hand. The research and historic detail make them fascinating. IMO.

Date: 2007-02-19 05:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ah, just saw this post now. I found it, in another library! So no need to send anything, although I thank you very much for offering.

The series must have really made an impression on you. I'm re-reading Little Women and Little Men, and it's amazing what I forgot from them - and what all came back to me as soon as I opened them up again.

Those don't sound like conventional "breast sellers," especially for the publication dates you mentioned. Now I'm intrigued...

Date: 2007-02-19 07:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Glad you found the book. Have glanced through it, been getting flashbacks to la Sorelli... Angélique steals the dagger of Rodogone the Egyptian, one of the gangleaders of the Paris underworld and puts it to good use. Cuts the throat of the great Coesre, king of the thieves, with it, among other things.

I wonder if la Sorelli got her dagger from a gypsy, too?

Yes, the series did make an impression on me. Enough for me to have kept the books all these years. As I've said of other books, Angélique isn't Great Literature perhaps, but it's a good read. I was fascinated by that period of history, too, and the books are full of background, and an interweaving of fictional and historical characters. Angélique is gutsy, and has an incredible amount of adventures, she isn't the "standard" heroine.

Not so much a breast-seller, as a (bodice-)ripping yarn of adventure and lust, perhaps. ;-) Romantic? Definitely. But never soppy.

Let me know what you think of her encounter with the Ogre, when you've read it. That episode stuck in my mind, for some reason, and popped up again when I read your livejournal. I can't think of any other account of a sexual encounter with a big man, that is described with such ... ? Can't think of the word here. The Ogre is very human, there is no hypocrisy about love being necessary for the act. Perhaps I'm trying to say that the books are non-judgmental from a moral point of view, even though religion does play a part, too. Will stop rambling now!

Date: 2007-02-21 02:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I can't think of any other account of a sexual encounter with a big man, that is described with such ... ? Can't think of the word here. The Ogre is very human, there is no hypocrisy about love being necessary for the act.

Sometime I will write at more length about Robin Hobb's character Nevare in her fantasy trilogy Soldier Son, but I personally found it very unsatisfying writing (mostly because the story is told from the 1st person POV of the man in question, who hates his body and never stops whining about it.)

I'll definitely write about Angelique when I get ahold of it!

Date: 2007-02-21 01:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The Ogre certainly does not whine. He rather sees himself as a fine figure of a man, and liked by the ladies. I warmed to the character when I re-read the chapter. His size and rough love-making do come over as rather attractive, in parts. But, like Angélique, I think I would giggle at the sight of the handkerchief-covered head when he takes his wig off.

If you don't get anything more out of the book, at least you will have read a piece of "Ravishing green-eyed Marquise meets Massive Ogre for Nightly Romp" fluff. With both parties getting something out of it physically, which in itself is unusual.

But oh dear, I'd forgotten how many different men Angélique encounters!! No wonder I hid the books from my mother!

Date: 2007-02-19 03:22 am (UTC)
my_daroga: Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera (phantom)
From: [personal profile] my_daroga
I find this idea, including the prospect of you writing it, endlessly compelling. I really want you to do this. I, too, have been wondering what the modern-day equivalent of this story would be, and I think you've hit upon something, here. We're all quite "enlightened" now about deformity and difference, at least when it comes to "accidental" problems (scars and the like). On top of that, the huge media industry puts forth primarily "conventionally" attractive people but also a few well-loved characters--there are so many "odd" looking people who have huge followings who desire them physically but whose fame is based on their abilities. I'm thinking of lots of musicians, here.

So I can see how your idea would work. At any rate, I think you're the person to explore it, and I await the day you do.

You allude to the "basic" fashionablness of Erik in these times, and that's very true. Have you read that old article about "Tall, Thin and Tortured" characters? It just so happens I, too, fall in this fandom--I can't tell you how wild I am about my husband's absurdly skinny legs. I don't know what it is. Perhaps it's my own boniness. Anyway, I'm just really impressed by this point--in this day and age, why *wouldn't* the Phantom be hot?

Date: 2007-02-19 05:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What musicians, in particular? Meat Loaf comes to mind - but I am not much up on musicians ...

Thanks for the vote of confidence. It would be a great challenge. Anyway, I have to finish my current project. But this one just has its teeth in my butt and won't let go.

Thanks for the link to the "Tall, Thin, and Tortured" article. I hadn't seen that. Very relevant quote: "The Human Hanger Factor: Their clothes have to flap in the breeze. All TTTs look great in raincoats, hats and evening dress."

Since then, I'd add Adrien Brody ( to the TTT list.

Our Phantom certainly has "the look" down pat. That's why I just cringe whenever someone on a forum says, "Oh, Christine didn't have any sexual feelings for Erik; he was just her beloved teacher and father figure..." Puleeeze. At least before the unmasking, Christine was fangirling all over his TTT self.

That's good that you go wild over your husband's skinny legs - how awful if it were otherwise! It's a wonderful thing to be partnered with someone you really desire.

Date: 2007-02-19 05:41 am (UTC)
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (Default)
From: [personal profile] my_daroga
Yes, definitely Adrian Brody--though I don't like him. Anyway.

When I said people were more receptive to the less-than-hottt, I didn't so much mean fat as not facially beautiful. Lyle Lovett, for one. And I have many favored performers who aren't so much hot as compelling. Of course I'm blanking on them now. I just think that we're able to sample such a wide range of people-types that it's easy to find someone who thinks the unconventional is hot. Hence the Erik-is-sexy thing.

Funny... when I met my husband, I decided he was too attractive to be interesting to me.

Date: 2007-02-21 02:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Funny... when I met my husband, I decided he was too attractive to be interesting to me.

Just goes to show you, a lot of it's out of our control...

Date: 2007-02-21 01:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
And when I met my husband, I just knew he wasn't, and never would be, my type...

Date: 2007-02-21 03:51 pm (UTC)
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (Default)
From: [personal profile] my_daroga
It does often work that way, doesn't it?

Men in full

Date: 2007-05-08 12:13 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Hi Stef, it's me, winnie. Thank you for inviting me here. I find this topic fascinating. I told Stef about something that has never failed to irritate me to no end, and it was an innocent remark made by a friend to me. I love the movie, 'Only the Lonely'. It's funny, moving, and comes together nicely. If none of you have seen it, it's about a 38 year old man, who's very overweight, single and living with his mother. But he wants what other men have....a family. He ends up asking, and getting a date with a very introverted girl. Anyway, they fall in love and eventually end up together. I was talking to my friend about this, and she made the most insulting remark about John Candy. Basically in real life a pretty girl would never ever love him, much less marry him. I kept thinking to myself, "are people really that narrow minded?" Yep, they are.

Re: Men in full

Date: 2007-09-15 03:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I looked it up on IMDB, and that film seems interesting. I'm keeping my eyes open for it.

That really *is* an insulting comment. But not surprising, given current attitudes.

Date: 2008-12-20 04:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have browsed through more than a few modern-day updates of Phantom, looking for something interesting, but I never quite found one that "clicked" with me, because you're right--the facial deformity is pretty much cancelled out by our reformed attitudes toward that sort of thing in this day and age--as well as the ready availability and relative ease of plastic surgery, which is one of the hugest factors in making the deformity issue moot, I think. It just always seems unrealistic and out of place, like writing an 18th century historical fiction where all the characters wear blue jeans.

By contrast, a fat Phantom would make so much more sense in a modern context--it can be a highly sensitive issue for those who struggle with it; overweight people are far more vilified by society than deformed people nowadays. I think a big reason for that is because deformities, disabilities, etc. all fall under the big umbrella of protection that is Political Correctness, but fat is unfortunately still an open target, because it's seen by society as something that is entirely the "fault" of a person, rather than completely out of a person's control like a birth defect. Even if someone has a naturally endomorphic body type, society doesn't seem to take that into account--it practically insists that any person could slim down to slender proportions if they "really wanted to," resulting in a lot of unnecessary grief for naturally heavyset men and women. Also, with the issue of plastic surgery, it's (from what I understand, anyway) a whole lot harder and more dangerous to make a "fat" person "skinny" than to make an "ugly" person "beautiful," which is yet another reason why a fat Phantom in a modern setting would be far more realistic than a deformed Phantom.

I think it's a fantastic idea. If you ever do decide to write something along those lines, I look forward to reading it!

Date: 2008-12-20 08:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes, it strikes me as anachronistic too.

fat is unfortunately still an open target, because it's seen by society as something that is entirely the "fault" of a person, rather than completely out of a person's control like a birth defect.

What makes a fat Phantom even more applicable is that often in the 19th century, the "sins of the fathers" were seen to be writ large on the victims themselves. If you had the signs of congenital syphilis, it didn't matter that it was one of your parents who'd passed it on to you - you were "tainted" irreversibly. Birthmarks or facial deformities in the late 19th century were seen as inextricably linked to moral failure and criminality.

I brought up this little obsession of mine on a Phantom forum, and someone said that a fat Phantom "wouldn't work" because fat wasn't scary; it was just seen as ridiculous. The Phantom, however, instilled fear because of his stealthiness, his ability to strike at will and without warning from the dark (the punjab lasso, etc.) Fat people were seen as powerless, whereas in his domain (the Opera House) the Phantom had power.

It was a good point, one that I'm still pondering.

fat Phantom

Date: 2009-08-25 06:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have been going through this wonderful blog and completely enjoying it. I had to reply to this entry and put in my 2 centimes that I would also be very interested to see what you ultimately came up with along these lines. If anyone could pull it off, it would be you.Being a fat woman, I have been utterly fascinated with this insight into the fat male.

Thank you for this endeavor. It has me thinking that maybe it's really OK to be me and that some wonderful man some day might find me attractive.

AS always, you are one of my idols.


PS-the gentleman in the photos as fat Phantom and fat Sweeney is a fox. WOW!!


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