A few weeks ago, I was watching the 25th Anniversary performance of The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall. And as the Phantom was standing before Christine (just a homicidal maniac, standing in front of girl, asking her to love him), she kissed him out of pity. And then, realizing that she did have a little bit of genuine love for the Phantom, Christine really went in for an all-out, knee-bender of a make-out session. The camera panned back to, the very handsome actor playing Raoul, who appeared to be crying at the abandonment of his lady love.
And I burst out laughing. I yelled, “Suck it, you useless fop!”
It’s not that I have anything against foppery in general. I love all versions of Phantom, particularly the movie staring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum. But even though I know that the Phantom has to relinquish Christine and Raoul has to sweep her away, just once, I would like the Phantom to say, “You know what? I don’t need redemption that badly. This is the woman I love. And Raoul has to die.”
And then drop Raoul into the catacombs.
I have this perverse habit of rooting for the bad guys in movies and books. I am both Team Sawyer and Team Damon. While reading Twilight, I kind of wanted James to eat Bella. While watching The Witches of Eastwick, I wanted the girls to forgive Daryl so they could live as one big happy demonic family.
But I’ve come to realize, this isn’t my fault. Good writers make their villains just as multi-dimensional –and, occasionally, sympathetic – as their protagonists. A love triangle without tension on all three sides isn’t a love triangle. It’s just a couple falling in love, while an annoying third party hovers around, messing things up for them at the end of the second act.
I’m supposed to root for the tortured, strategically scarred, but somehow still hot, Phantom*. Because as safe and pampered as life with Raoul would be, we all wonder what it would be like to live in the shadows with a deranged genius who’s in to cosplay. The writers wanted to me to want that. So really, I’m just being considerate.
It has nothing to do with my personal psychology, really.
So which villains do you root for? Which book or move endings would you change for the “badder,” if you had the Writer Fairy magic wand? Discuss below.
*I’ve made my feelings about movie Phantom Gerard Butler very clear in my novel, THE CARE AND FEEDING OF STRAY VAMPIRES. He’s a beautiful man, but has single-handedly murdered the romantic comedy. And for that, he has been removed from my Imaginary Celebrity Boyfriend List… and replaced by Tom Hardy.