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  • Writer's pictureRachel Gross

The Phantom Of The Opera and the Underlying Ableism That None of the Critics Talk About.

The Phantom of The Opera has been on Broadway for 31 years, yet no one has pointed out the underlying theme - ABLEISM.

Last week, my mom and I had a mother-daughter day. We don't get many of those now-a-days, so we wanted to do something fun. We decided to be spontaneous and see if we could get show tickets for that night. At this point, we didn't care what show we saw, as long as it was good and not too expensive, haha. We ended up getting really cheap tickets to see The Phantom of The Opera (obviously), so off we went on our adventure!

I have been wanting to see Phantom for a really long time. I remember asking my mom to take me to see it in high school, maybe even before that? Unsure. Anyway, I had no idea what it was even about. I just knew it was really good because people are always ranting and raving about it AND its been on Broadway for longer than I've been alive...soooo. Also, I figured it had to do something with music and spirits, both of which I hold an interest for.

So, the show begins and the opening scene is of an auction where they are auctioning off a chandelier that is, supposedly, "haunted". It gets sold and ends up in an opera house, where the rest of the show takes place. The show continues on and we see all the dancers and singers rehearsing for the opera. The audience is led to believe that the opera house is haunted, as well. We learn that the opera house always leaves an open seat for the owner who, suspiciously, has never been seen, and no one knows who he is. The dancers and singers perform every night, a show that the owner created. If they don't perform exactly how he wants, he starts to haunt the shit outa the place. So, they try their best to please him. If you haven't caught on already, the owner is the phantom.

Fast forward, the opera house is sold to two men who start changing literally everything about it. Needless to say, the phantom was NOT having it. At the same time, the phantom becomes infatuated with one of the singers, Christine. She admits to one of her friends that she has been hearing voices. "The angel of music" has been speaking to her and mentoring her with her singing. Eventually, the angel of music aka the phantom, reveals himself to Christine, clad in a black robe and a white mask covering his face. Very grim reaper-esque. He takes her back to his place, and that's when the real story begins.

At his place, his home, his liar, whatever you wanna call it. We see the phantom playing his music for Christine, and coaching her how he wants her to sing to his music. Christine is in utter amazement and shock that the voices in her head were actually real. However, her curiosity gets the best of her when she goes up to the phantom and rips the mask off his face. The phantom becomes enraged with anger and before she could even see what was under his mask, he throws her to the ground and covers his face with his hands. Christine is still holding the mask and refuses to give it back to him until he shows his face to her. After some begging and pleading, he gives up and reveals his face. She shrieks in horror and immediately turns away and throws the mask back at him.

What did she see that was so horrifying? A deformed face and a balding head. *insert eye roll emoji here* The way she screamed would've made you think that it was Ted Bundy under the mask. She couldn't even look at him for one second because she couldn't bare the sight of what his face looked like. Meanwhile, a minute ago she was borderline obsessed with him.

I forget what exactly happened next. Either she escaped or he let her go. Somehow, she ended up back at the opera house. A lot happened during the duration of the rest of the show. Mostly, it had to do with the phantom trying to get Christine to love him, but she wanted nothing to do with him.

I really did enjoy the show. For all intents and purposes, it was a great show and is worthy of all the outstanding reviews. Honestly, the thought of how toxic the premise of the show is didn't cross my mind until after the show was over. The phantom lived in such misery and longed for only one thing - to be loved. But, because he had a facial deformity, society deemed him a monster, so it seems. I can only imagine if people shrieked every time they saw me. Imagine if someone in the audience has a facial deformity, how would they feel? Pretty shitty, I think. Or, at least a little insecure or embarrassed. This is ableism. Even though a facial deformity isnt necessarily considered a disability, it is treated similarly.

We are taught not to judge people for whats on the outside, but only by whats on the inside, and this show clearly does the opposite. Even if it's just a show, it still has a message.

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