Phantom of the Opera

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Fandom
Name: The Phantom of the Opera
Abbreviation(s): PotO, POTO
Creator: Gaston Leroux
Date(s): 1909/10 (serialized novel), 1925 (silent film), 1986 (Webber's musical), 2004 (Schumacher's movie)
Medium: literature, radio, tv, film, comic book, musical
Country of Origin: France, many others
External Links: Wikipedia on adaptations
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

You may be looking for Phandom (disambiguation) or Phan (disambiguation).

The Phantom of the Opera, originally a French novel, Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, has also been adapted many, many times in different media, for radio, theatre, musicals, television, film, comic books, as well as rewritten and expanded in other book versions. Though different interpretations of the story vary greatly, most of them retain some core elements of the original book: deformed musical genius wearing some kind of mask, said genius falling in love with a singer, opera or other music-related setting, overall dark tone.

Adaptations

The most well-known adaptations:

Other popular adaptations:

Crossovers

The Phantom of the Opera often features in crossovers with other works of fiction. Examples include: Batman, in Batman: Masque (1997) by Mike Grell; The Simpsons, several episodes of which have the Phantom as a character; the MacGyver episode Cleo Rocks, which is pretty much a fusion with Murdoc as the Phantom. Crossovers and fusions with the Phantom of the Opera are particularly popular in comic books, including Tarzan/Phantom of the Opera comic, a Sherlock Holmes/Phantom of the Opera comic (there are also book crossovers of those two fandoms), a fusion with Donald Duck (The Phantom of Notre Duck, 1965) and so on.

Crossovers, fusions and "Phantom of the Opera AU" also can be found in fanfiction based on other fandoms, most often other musicals.

Fandom

Naming Conventions

A very old feature of Phantom of the Opera's fanspeak is replacing "f" in fandom-related words with "ph" (after "Phantom"): phandom, phic, phan. Fannish nicknames, often used to discern between Eriks from different adaptations, usually are formed by adding the first letter from the name of the author (Lerik for Leroux's book, Kerik for Kay's book) or the actor who played Erik (Gerik for Gerard Butler's Phantom, Cherik for Charles Dance's). There are also nicknames for other Phantoms that don't follow this rule (Rat Phantom for the Argento's movie, Bird Phantom for Phantom of the Paradise).

Phantom of the Opera fandom rarely uses portmanteau names for pairings, though there are some exceptions like "Pharoga" and "Megstine".

Leroux's Novel

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux is the original Phantom story. It's rarely the version that draws fans into the fandom, but it's still one of the most popular and well-respected ones. It can be said that it has grown in popularity with time: while the early fandom was more centered around Webber's musical and later around Schumacher's movie, a lot of the Phantom of the Opera fanfiction written in the 2010s is based on the novel or at least has some elements of it. The most widely available translation of the book, made by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos in 1910, is heavily abridged, which might have influenced the perceptions of the story by the early phandom (e.g. a lot of text about Raoul and Carlotta was cut out, making their characters look less fleshed out.) [1]

The Musical

Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, made in 1986, is the adaptation that probably influenced both public perception of the Phantom story and the POTO fandom the most. While it used Leroux's book as a base, it made a lot of significant changes, one of them being to make the Phantom's personality and his deformity much less extreme than in the book thus turning him into more mysterious, attractive and sexual figure, which led to the intense romanticization of him by the fans of the musical. Webber's adaptation was incredibly popular and pretty much kickstarted The Phantom of the Opera fandom. The characteristics of the fandom formed at that period which continue to be staples of it to this day are the fannish focus on the character of Erik, perception of The Phantom of the Opera as a romance rather than mystery or horror and the popularity of the Erik/Christine pairing.

Many early fans of the musical were also fans of Michael Crawford, the actor who originated the role of the Phantom. In fact, fannish association of him with this role was so strong that some fans doubted that the musical could be successfully performed by anyone but the original cast, though such discussions died down with time.

The early phandom generally was more uncritical towards Erik and more prone to excuse and justify even the most extreme of his actions. Character bashing of Raoul was very common and intense, and even though the majority of fans were Erik/Christine shippers, many of them disliked Christine as well and harshly criticized her for what they perceived as unfair treatment of the Phantom. Such attitudes were so prevalent that some fans even considered them necessary for a "proper phan":

Some of you may recall the strange affair of the old school 90s Phandom getting into endless flame wars over topics like, who was a “real phan” (in short, according to the powers that be within the then-Phandom: you worshiped Erik as God, you reviled Raoul, and you called Christine a vapid bitch). <...> While the mid-90s internet Phandom was awesome in many ways, it existed in an environment that was often toxic, antagonistic, and misogynistic <...> [2]

Online Phandom

At first the fandom was zine-based but started transitioning to the internet in mid-90s:

So back in the late 80s/early 90s, the modern Phandom arose in response to ALW’s musical. These were the days before the internet (gasp!), and back then, phans communicated through ‘zines, or print publications that were photocopied and mailed to a subscriber list. Christine Daaé (a phan who had legally changed her name) ran the first international Phantom ‘zine in the early 90s. I still have a few copies of her 'zine packed up in storage (IIRC it was called Behind the Mask).

Fast forward to 1995. Dial-up internet access started to become more common, and it was suddenly much easier to communicate with people from around the world. There were chatrooms and emailing lists and other forms of relatively instantaneous communication that formed once people started getting online.

That year, Karin Willison, a Stanford University student and a member of Christine Daaé’s 'zine mailing list, decided to start an online discussion forum for phans. It was hosted on her Stanford account, and took the form of a group emailing list. I joined the list in 1996 after I heard good reviews about it from a friend. Every day, those of us on the emailing list would get dozens of Phantomy messages from fellow phans. For an isolated, geeky, socially awkward teenager, it was kinda like Christmas morning every day. I owe a lot to the friends I made on the old PotO emailing list.

The emailing list had a relatively small membership – even at its peak it only had about 300 people. Many of these folks were lurkers or posted infrequently, so there was just a small core of people who regularly contributed to the group discussions, and we all got to know each other pretty well. From that initial emailing list, there sprang up other satellite groups. There was an IRC group (Internet Relay Chat), a bootleg emailing list, various rp groups, and others.

Then by the late 90s/early 2000s websites became more sophisticated, and web forums started to become popular. Karin purchased phantomoftheopera.com in 1998 and moved her emailing list to that server after she graduated from Stanford. Eventually, the list was hosted on a Yahoo Group where it was managed by Bethany Cap (a diehard Carlotta phan), which you can still see here (it has been taken over by spam in recent years, but you can see posts from the original mailing list members until about 2002). In 1999, Karin and Christine started a web forum on the PotO.com site, which you can see on the Wayback Machine. People began more and more to migrate away from the emailing list to various web forums, and by about 2002, the original emailing list was pretty much disbanded.

Then social media sites like livejournal and eventually tumblr took over from web forums like PotO.com and PhansOnline (the last major phan forum I’m aware of is DesertedPhans), and here we are today! [3]

Kay's Phantom

Phantom, a 1990 novel by Susan Kay featuring the Phantom as the central character, has greatly influenced the phandom and the fannish view of Erik. Many details from the book have become strongly entrenched in the POTO fanon. Erik's backstory as portrayed in the book is treated by many fans as essentially canon and often is accepted as such even by the fans who didn't read the book. At first fannish reactions to the novel were very positive, but with time a more critical view became more prominent. The characterization of Christine and her relationship with Erik are often cited as the weakest point of the book; some fans also criticize the portrayal of Roma people and the scenes set in Persia as racist. Nevertheless, even the fans who dislike the book often appreciate it as an important part of the fandom history.

Schumacher's movie

The Phantom of the Opera, the movie adaptation of the musical by Joel Schumacher in 2004, received mixed reactions. On the one hand, it quickly became one of the most popular versions of the story and attracted a lot of new fans, on the other hand, those fans often were very young and unfamiliar with any other version of the Phantom story. There were also a lot of criticisms of the movie itself, e.g., fans claimed that it was a "dumbed down" version of the story, the Phantom was made too attractive, that the actors cast as Erik and Christine were too young and weren't good singers, that many director's choices didn't make sense etc. As a result, fans of the movie got quite a negative reputation among fans of the older adaptations and Leroux's novel[4], which in return led to accusations of elitism. Many older members left the fandom altogether after the movie was made. In the 2000s, lots of fanfiction was written by fans of the movie, but now phics based on it are rare.

Love Never Dies

Love Never Dies, Webber's "sequel" to his famous musical, has a very negative reputation in the fandom. The most common reasons cited by fans are OOC/poor handling of all the characters, nullifying Erik's redemption arc, protagonist-centered morality, saturation with badfic cliches (Erik/Christine secret night of love resulting in genius child, drunk gambler Raoul, Meg and Madame Giry being here for no reason) or just inferior quality of lyrics and music in comparison with its predecessor. Even fans who don't have a strongly negative reaction usually like the musical in a "so bad it's good" way. Most fics based on Love Never Dies are parodies or fix-its.

Controversies

Phantom of the Opera fandom produced a lot of discourse which often centered on Erik and Christine's relationship (see Erik/Christine for more details). Fans also criticise the racism present in many adaptations and fics, usually in the portrayal of Roma people and Persians and in the fact that most adaptations do not include the daroga's character from Leroux's book.[5] A common fandom opinion is that a lot of choices made in many modern adaptations and fanworks are actually more problematic than these in Leroux's book that was written in the 1910s.

Fanfiction

One characteristic specific for the Phantom of the Opera fandom is that it has an unusually large amount of published fanfiction. Those books are usually self-published, but professional publications also exist. Phantom by Susan Kay is the most popular example of published POTO fanfiction; other examples include Progeny, When Angels Wept and Unmasqued. Self-published phics generally are not very different from internet or zine phics, and sometimes are indeed first published in a zine or online before authors decide to turn them into books. There are also books by professional writers that are based on the Phantom of the Opera; they are less likely to follow fandom-specific tropes, at least in way that the fandom likes. The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth, on which Love Never Dies was partially based, is the most famous and the most disliked example of this type. Other Phantom-related books by professional authors include Angels of Music by Kim Newman and Maskerade by Terry Pratchett from Discworld book series.

Pairings and Genres

The Phantom of the Opera fanfiction is overwhelmingly het and focused on Erik. The most popular het pairings in the fandom are Erik/Christine and the canon couple Raoul/Christine. Erik/OFC is also popular, though more so at fanfiction.net than at AO3. Other, less common pairings include Raoul/Meg and Erik/Meg.

The most popular slash pairings are Erik/Raoul and Erik/Daroga (often referred to as "Pharoga" in portmanteau fashion). There is also a small amount of Raoul/Daroga. Femslash pairings include Christine/Meg and Christine/Carlotta. Poly fics are usually Erik/Christine/Raoul or sometimes Erik/Christine/Daroga.

Variety of pairings and acceptance of multishipping is a recent development in the phandom. Earlier fanfiction was almost exclusively Erik/Christine and fans tended to have this pairing as their OTP; this tendency is even reflected in the fact that Erik/OFC pairing is often called "Erik/Other Woman". While this approach to shipping is still common and most stories still focus on Erik/Christine, since the 2000s and especially the 2010s the fans became more willing to explore other pairings and write about other characters, even minor ones.

Gen POTO fanfiction tends to be either horror/darkfic, humor or explorations of Erik's backstory.

AU is one of the most popular genres in phics. The most common varieties are Canon AU and Modern AU, but other types of AU are also used. Futurefic is very popular in shipping works. A lot of phics can also be described as fix-it fics.

The majority of the Phantom of the Opera fanfiction is on fanfiction.net, though some authors upload their works on both fanfiction.net and AO3. Fics on fanfiction.net tend to be longer, often exceeding 100,000 words (very common feature of this fandom), and are less likely to have a m/m or f/f pairing than fics on AO3.

On the AO3, more recent than fanfiction.net and tilted more toward slash, the most popular ships are:[6]

AO3:

  • Erik/Christine (938)**
  • Raoul/Christine (368)**
  • Raoul/Erik (214)**
  • Erik/The Persian | Daroga | Nadir Khan (89)
  • Erik/OFC (68)
  • Erik/Meg (49)
  • Christine/Raoul/Erik (42)
  • Christine/Meg (37)

Fanon

Phantom of the Opera fanon is quite developed and detailed, borrowing from many adaptations of the canon and sometimes just from fannish interpretations. It may lead to the confusion, when, for example, a detail from Kay's book is treated by fans as canonical for Leroux's book. Authors often mix several different Phantom of the Opera canons (for example, Leroux's book and Webber's musical, or Kay's book with pretty much any of the most famous POTO canons) as a basis for the same fic. It can be done deliberately or accidentally; it also may be one of the reasons why characterizations in phics vary quite a lot even by fannish standards.

  • Erik is treated by fans as the Phantom's birth name, though his real name is not known in canon. [7]
  • "Destler" is often used as Erik's last name in fics, but it appears in only one adaptation, the horror movie made in 1989 and starring Robert Englund, and isn't universally accepted as the Phantom's name. [8]
  • Erik is very tall.
  • Madame Giry's name is Antoinette.
  • Madame Giry is the Phantom's friend/knows him well.
  • Christine is very young (sixteen is a common variation). The only popular adaptation for which it may be true is the 2004 movie; Christine is usually in her twenties in other canons.
  • The Opera has dormitories where ballet dancers/chorus girls live.

Tropes Influenced by Susan Kay's Book

  • In many fics Erik is abused by his parents as a child. His mother often treats him worse than his father.
  • Erik is forced to work in a circus, usually in a freak show, often by Romani.
  • Erik's mother is named Madeleine.
  • Nadir Khan is daroga's name.
  • Erik has a Siamese cat Ayesha.
  • Erik is a drug addict, or had been in some point of his life.

Phanwank and Badphic Tropes

Phanwank was a livejournal sporking community created to mock the Phantom of the Opera badfic, though it also had discussions on other phandom-related topics. The peak of its activity was in the mid-to-late 2000s, so a lot of discussion was centered around the 2004 adaptation and fanfiction that was based on it. Its members often discussed and pointed out many tropes and cliches that were popular in the phics of that period:

  • Many original characters being Mary Sues and self-inserts, especially in Erik/OFC romances
  • Abusive Raoul. Usually found in Erik/Christine fics and predates the movie-based fanfiction. After Christine and Raoul's marriage, Raoul starts treating Christine badly, which leads to her getting together with Erik. In such fics Raoul also often has other flaws that were not present in the canon (alcoholism, gambling, unfaithfulness etc.)
  • Rampant anachronisms in canon era fics
  • Lots of angel symbolism, Erik being referred to as "angel" by Christine even after she knows he isn't one
  • Too cutesy or anachronistic names of original characters, especially children of the canon characters (Melody, Aria, Angel)
  • Billionaire Erik (especially in modern AUs) or Erik turning out to be some kind of nobility
  • Explaining away Erik's killings as accidents or portraying his victims as very bad people
  • Incredibly sexy and attractive Erik, underplaying his deformity
  • Christine being criticized for "leaving" Erik and often "punished" by the narrative for this
  • Erik portrayed as a very good lover despite never having sex before, aka "Erik the masterful virgin"
  • Misspelling Raoul's name in all the possible ways (Roule/Roal/Raul/Rauol/Rawl), culminating in "Roule's Ingenious Plane"
  • Portraying Carlotta as a bad singer
  • Random French frases like "mon ange" turning up in fics even when the characters are supposed to speak in French anyway
  • Song lyrics from ALW musical inserted into fic text
  • Song lyrics from modern songs inserted into canon era fics

See also Bad Phantom Adaptation Bingo, Archived version, list of widely disliked tropes that show up in many POTO fics and adaptations.

PFN's Morbidity Contest

After the Webber's musical and especially after the movie adaptation of it in 2004, Phantom's fans started filling the Internet with fluffy romantic fanfiction, while the book's portrayal of Erik as more dangerous and unhinged was almost forgotten by the fandom. Approximately in 2000 a user of Fanfiction.net known as "The Scorpion" (or "Siren of Averne") organized the first contest of morbid works to explore the darker side of the canon. After the success of the first one, other contests of the similar nature were held on a regular basis even after The Scorpion left fanfiction.net. Those were The Phantom of the Opera Morbidity Writing Contests. This eventually lead to the tradition of calling all POTO dark fics "morbid" even if they weren't written for a contest.

Examples of fics written for Morbidity Writing Contests:

The Scorpion also created a community called Dark Phic featuring "morbid" fanfiction.

Fanart

Phantom of the Opera fanart usually depicts Erik or Erik/Christine scenes. It also often depicts masks, roses, opera sets, sheet music. The most common style is dark and ornate, similar to the visual aesthetics of Webber's musical.

Notable Fans

Archives and Communities

LJ comms

newsletters

Fanzines

non-fiction:

fiction:

fiction: anthology zines:

fiction: multimedia:

doujinshi:

fan comic:

poetry:

Other Fan Activities

Other Resources

References

  1. See more discussion of different translations on F. de l'Opéra's tumblr, Wayback link
  2. My thoughts on the Tumblr Phandom vs the “old school” online Phandom, Wayback link by F. de l'Opéra
  3. Post about the beginnings of the online phandom at F. de l'Opéra's tumblr, Wayback link
  4. Is anyone else bothered by the sudden rush of fangirls the 2004 movie has brought? on Phanwank
  5. Lindsay Ellis discusses the treatment of daroga's character in adaptations in her video The Most Whitewashed Character In Literary History
  6. Relationship tag filter on Le Fantôme de l'Opéra | Phantom of the Opera & Related Fandoms, 14 December 2019.
  7. Erik (The Phantom of the Opera) at Wikipedia
  8. See Erik Destler at Urban Dictionary