There are many complexities and layers to my particular take on the Phantom—to the story, but also the character. One of the most important aspects of the Phantom (or rather, Erik) that I can explain most succinctly is: Erik’s biggest problem is not that he’s so ugly no one can love him; it’s that he believes he’s so ugly no one can love him. That’s not how it is in every version, as some put a lot of emphasis on the horrors of the Phantom’s appearance.
I’m frankly not that interested in the Phantom’s face, and whether it is or isn’t truly terrible. Past negative reactions to his face and how that has twisted up his ideas about people, the world, and what life is possible for him, however, is fascinating.
So in Book Two of my trilogy, now that Erik and Meg are talking quite a lot, they don’t talk much about his face or even his mask. But they do at least once, in a scene I was working on this week, when Erik realizes after quite a few months that Meg has known what he looks like all along. His conclusion is—well, very true to my version of the character, I think!
There didn’t seem to be anything more to say. So she knew. She knew what he looked like, knew that he was not like other men, could never be like other men.
And yet—she was still here. She had known all along. It had been 192 days, fourteen hours since she had left, so Meg must have known all that time. And she had still decided to become friends with him. It was almost like she…didn’t care what he looked like?
Maybe she hadn’t really had a proper view. Or maybe that moment, when the chandelier fell and he tore his mask off, had been too emotionally-charged for an adequate assessment.