In Defense of Raoul de Chagny…

*This post will be full of unpopular opinions and spoilers for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.*

Guten Tag, Leute! I’m not ashamed to admit that I really, really love Raoul de Chagny from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. It’s an unpopular opinion but really, I do believe that Raoul is one of the only characters in PHANTOM who has actual morals and that he is a good character who has been much-maligned by fans and writers alike.

Raoul de Chagny is, in my opinion, the protagonist of Gaston Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera which has been the source material for the silent movie, the musical, and etc. Yes, that’s right. I see Raoul as the protagonist, not Christine. In the novel, Christine Daaé acts much more as a catalyst than a protagonist, in my opinion. Of course, this is a fairly unpopular opinion but you’ve got to hear me out. In the original novel, Christine really doesn’t do much and isn’t necessarily a likeable character. Also, in the novel, most of the characters are very different from how they are in the musical. I’m basing this assumption off of one person but, I think that even Eristine (Erik x Christine) shippers will agree that, in the novel, the Phantom is not an easy guy to side with. One of my best friends who is a hardcore Eristine shipper really couldn’t like the Phantom when she read the novel. However, in the musical, it’s pretty clear that Christine is meant to be the protagonist. And that is actually something that I rather like. In the musical it is so much easier to like her. My point here? That Raoul is meant to be a good, likeable guy. And he is. But something about the way that musical is written makes the Phantom a more… appealing option to a lot of fans. Why?

That’s easy. It’s because the musical romanticized the Phantom’s character. In the original book and in the silent movie, the Phantom is very clearly a bad guy. He’s not meant to be liked. He’s selfish, cruel, and terrorizes people to get what he wants. Essentially he acts like a toddler. And, the musical keeps some of that to a certain extent. It’s hard to explain but, believe me, if you compare the musical to the book or the silent movie, you will see how much more romanticized the Phantom is in the musical. In the musical he’s painted as a mysterious, tortured soul–kind of like a Mr. Rochester type–but in the silent movie and in the novel he is a full-fledged villain. In fact, silent movie fans out there will know that the Phantom actually kicked off what is known as the “Universal Monsters” Franchise all the way back in 1925 and is considered to be among some of the greatest monsters of all time including Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and others. 

Now, I don’t know if the Phantom was purposely made out to be a (twistedly) romantic-type figure in the musical but he certainly turned out that way. And really, I believe that the song “Music of the Night” really has something to do with the large fan-base the Phantom has following him. In that song, he’s shown to be a mysterious, hurt, broken figure who can be fixed by love. Christine’s in a trance-like state and seems almost enamored or intrigued by the Phantom. And I truly believe that this is where most Eristine shippers fall for the pairing. 

And yes, while “Music of the Night” is a beautiful, entrancing song, part of me is always ever so creeped out by it. And, funnily enough, “Music of the Night” was originally meant to be a creepy–not romantic–song. And, for this piece of evidence, we’ll turn to the Sydmonton version of “Music of the Night”:

Night time sharpens, heightens each sensation,

Darkness multiplies imagination.

Slowly all the senses, abandon their defenses,

Helpless to resist the notes I write,

For I compose the music of the night.
Close your eyes, for your eyes will only tell the truth,

And the truth isn’t what you want to see.

In the dark it is easy to pretend,

That the truth is what it ought to be.
Take your time, break in, filling us completely.

First love, slaughter, adverse words of greeting.

As the night is nearing, the touch, the taste and hearing,

Gradually replace redundant sight,

Preparing for the music of the night.
Close your eyes, let the touch of it, abuse the soul;

Let its timbre crescendo in the flame.

Can you tell, is it pleasure? Is it pain?

From now on, you’ll never be the same.
Go now, gently; my music, though you fear it,

Let me show you, only stay and hear it.

Measure after measure, an instrument of pleasure.

A treasure-house, of passion and delight.

Come join me in the music of the night.
All alone my soul can not be right,

Help me make the music of the night.

I don’t know about you, but these lyrics make me shudder from the utter creepiness of it all. While I am glad that they changed the lyrics to be a little less creepy, I do believe that this change in lyrics was crucial to the development of how fans see the characters, especially Raoul and the Phantom.

But, my original purpose of writing this post was to try and make people see that Raoul doesn’t deserve all of the hate that he gets, not to talk about how much I dislike the Phantom. So… let’s get a little more on track here, shall we?

In a nutshell, Raoul’s a really good guy in PHANTOM. Really, I can’t see why anyone would hate him. But, somehow, hordes of fans hate him and love the Phantom. I get it: the Phantom’s probably more interesting than Raoul but he’s also a murderer, a kidnapper, and also a sort of terrorizer of the opera house. Above all, though, Christine does not love him. That’s something that, for whatever reason, a lot of people don’t see. Sure, Christine’s intrigued by him. But that is not love. She even says that she hates him in the finale.

The tears I might have shed for your dark fate grow cold and turn to tears of hate!

But, all the same, people don’t seem to be able to see that Christine doesn’t love the Phantom and that she loves Raoul.

Not, even, it would seem Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Yes, yes. I’m going to talk about the mess that is LOVE NEVER DIES now. Personally, I don’t even know if this sloppy mess of a sequel counts as a piece of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA canon. But, since the material is there and I can talk about Raoul, I’m going to use it. There will be spoilers for LND going forward if you haven’t seen it and want to. 

So, you know there’s something wrong when even Raoul haters think that Raoul’s been treated unfairly. What did they do to Raoul in LND? They made him a drunkard and a gambling addict. Yeah.

Raoul’s not the only character who’s not himself at all. But… really. Why? Why on earth would Raoul become a drunkard?

As much as I hate LND, I think I have an answer for you all. And, like I said before, although I hate this musical, since the material’s there and solidifies my argument, I’m going to use it. 

In the song “Beneath a Moonless Sky”, we find out that Christine was unfaithful to Raoul on the night before their wedding. Some people might say that she sought out the Phantom because Raoul had turned to drink already but, if that were the case, why on earth would she marry Raoul anyways? Yes, not only did Christine cheat on Raoul, she went ahead and married him anways when the honest, right thing to do would have been to tell Raoul and call off the wedding. In marrying Raoul, she essentially ruined Raoul’s life. From scenes in LND, we knoe that neither Raoul nor Christine is exactly happy in their marriage. Fans will generally attribute this unhappiness to Raoul and his drinking problem but, like I said, I think that the issue runs deeper than that.

Why do I think Raoul turned to drink in LOVE NEVER DIES? I think that Raoul knew that Christine cheated on him but didn’t want to believe it. In his denial, I think that he turned to drink in order to make him forget and to try to escape the ruin that was now his life. Why would Raoul marry Christine if he knew? For one thing, he probably didn’t want to believe it. He probably thought that they could work it out. After all, if Christine was marrying him, he probably thought that Christine realized that what she did was wrong and that she must still love him after all. Then, there’s the fact that Raoul is easily the sweetest musical theatre character I have ever, ever come across. I doubt that he’d want to hurt Christine even if she had brought it upon himself.

The sad thing is that Raoul lost so much. If my theory is right, if Christine had just been upfront and honest with Raoul, he probably could have fallen in love with someone else and created a new, better life for himself. Beyond just losing a life he could have had where he might have been happy, Raoul lost a brother too. In the original novel, Raoul’s brother, Philipe was murdered by the Phantom due to the fact that Raoul was in love with Christine. I guess that my point is that Raoul shouldn’t get all this hate. After all, he’s a good guy and he’s been through so much tragedy. 

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What are your thoughts on Raoul? Vielen Dank und tschüss!

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18 thoughts on “In Defense of Raoul de Chagny…

  1. Well, I never read Phantom of the Opera. I only have knowledge of the stage show and see Christine as the protagonist still. I am one of those people who want Christine and Raoul together. I honestly do feel bad for Phantom, but I understand that Christine doesn’t love him. I love Raoul with Christine. It is fine just the way it is.

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    1. I also like Raoul with Christine. But I can’t help but feel like Raoul is a tragic figure when I mesh the book, the musical, and the sequel to the musical into one. He’s so maligned and poorly treated by fans and writers and I think it’s pretty sad.

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      1. I don’t see Raoul as a tragic character at all. My only knowledge of him really comes from the musical. I love the musical of Phantom of the Opera. Raoul needs to be treated to be treated better and the same applies to Marius.

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      2. Absolutely. To be honest, I wish I’d only seen the musical and hadn’t watched the sequel. It treated Raoul (and many of the other characters) like dirt. It’s mostly that sequel that makes my heart ache for Raoul and feel so horrible for him. The novel treats Raoul really well actually but he does suffer quite a lot there too. But I hate how fans treat Raoul and Marius like trash for practically no reason.

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      3. Raoul and Marius, why do fans treat them so poorly? That is silly to treat them poorly just because they are involved in a love triangle. Crazy. Look what Raoul had to deal with: imagine him watching Christine going through everything she went through. Poor Marius: he faces a lot of trauma at the barricade. They both go through so much. Reading Les Misérables made me love Marius more.

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      4. Definitely. They both go through so much. Raoul suffers torture and almost gets killed trying to save Christine! My heart breaks when Raoul’s standing there helplessly with the noose tied around his neck and says things like “I did it all for you and all for nothing” and “I fought so hard to free you.” I don’t see how someone could hate Raoul when he loves Christine so much. He’s willing to die so that she can live a better life.
        Then, like you brought out, Marius suffers so much at the barricade. He sees people he loves and cares about dying. And, in a way, his curse is to live. Sure, he’s happy to be with Cosette but in Empty Chairs at Empty Tables he sings about how he wishes he had died with his friends or that he’d died and they had lived.

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      5. They shouldn’t be hated like they are. Marius does not a so “happy” ever after really. At the end Marius no longer has a single friend at all, look at everybody that no longer is going to be in his life. Sure he has Cosette. Even Cosette doesn’t her “happy” ending either. She just lost her father at the end and all she has is Marius.

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      6. 100% agree. It’s so unfair to them. I mean, people don’t have to like them but to hate them just because they’re in love is absolutely absurd.
        Personally, I can’t understand why people would want the Phantom and Christine to be a couple. Christine doesn’t even love him and the Phantom is a murderer. It wouldn’t be a safe, healthy relationship at all. Nor would Christine be happy.
        And as for Marius, it’s not as if he was unkind to Éponine at all throughout the story. He was always kind to her and it’s not fair to be angry at him for loving Cosette instead of Éponine.

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      7. The Phantom of the Opera love triangle and the Les Mis love triangle is perfect just the way they are. Raoul and Christine are a wonderful couple and so are Marius and Cosette

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      8. Phantom of the Opera: that really would be a big mess because the entire story is a love triangle.

        Les Mis: that would screw up the entire story it seems. That would mess up everyone’s stories it seems. It would affect Valjean’s storyline, would affect everyone in that love triangle and so on and son and so on.

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      9. Right? The love triangles both work out pretty perfectly. While I understand why some people might not like the way they turn out, the endings make sense and having it any other way would make everything wind up all weird!

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      10. I think part of why that one was treated better was maybe due to the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda. The love triangle shows they will not let a boy get between them in terms of their friendship. This love triangle not only is more complex than the other two but been part of my life the longesr

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  2. I’m not the biggest fan of Raoul, tbh. It’s mostly because he’s quite young and childish in Phantom (i.e. getting worked up easily, and also anyone who knows a girl should know that she never gets ready in 2 minutes–like, what?) I’ve seen how some productions work a bit of LND in, so Raoul does bring a bottle of wine into Christine’s dressing room in Little Lotte and it still makes sense.

    Can I see Raoul becoming a drinker/gambler just from POTO? Not really, but you need to realize that LND is set 10 years after and a lot can change in that time. Obviously I don’t condone the Christine/Phantom relationship but I feel that even if Christine loved Raoul a lot she still had something deep in her heart that loved/cared for her Angel of Music. (Also, she may not have really understood her feelings then? She was really young)

    And Christine wouldn’t have much of a choice but to marry Raoul if she was going to live up to society’s expectations of that time. If not, she would probably have become like Meg (and tbh Meg’s life on Coney Island is far from ideal). By marrying Raoul she would have been exchanging her life as a ballet/chorus girl and become the wife of a viscount. Maybe the marriage wasn’t happy, but it would probably have saved her from a worse life (society was more sexist towards unmarried women back then), and after the Final Lair scene with the Phantom and the Opera house burning down later, there wouldn’t have been much else left for her in that life. So maybe she thought that marrying Raoul was the best thing for her.

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your POV! There’s so much room for interpretation with this story and, in many cases I totally can see where you’re coming from. But all the same, I can’t help but see the whole LND situation as Christine ruining Raoul’s life and using him. You’re definitely right about the whole issue about sexism back in those times but really, even if the wedding had been called off, I’m almost certain that Raoul would have taken care of Christine anyways even if he hadn’t married her. I just feel like Christine owed it to Raoul to tell him about what had happened. Sure, he’d probably be upset but I don’t think that he’d try to ruin her for it. Raoul’s got a big heart. And after all he suffered for Christine’s sake, I really feel that she should have at least told him. Perhaps Raoul would have been determined enough to push through and make it work.
      To be 110% honest, I don’t entirely like Raoul and Christine together. In fact, I used to like Eristine but the more I thought of it, the more I realized that Raoul, even with all of his imperfections really is a guy who tries. One of the frustrating things about Phantom for me has always been that the characters make me want to pull my hair out. Aside from Raoul, Piangi, and Meg, I always find myself frustrated by the characters. I’m really just full of so many unpopular opinions about the show!😂 (Sorry if I sound like I’m rambling! I just have a lot of thoughts on this show and the characters!)

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