“Look At Your Face In The Mirror” ‘Beauty And The Beast’ And ‘Phantom Of The Opera’ As Mirror Images Of Each Other

I have a hidden — and ultimately useless — talent. My husband calls it “English Majoring.” As in, I don’t understand why some of the songs in Les Miserables have the same melody, can you English Major that? And I can make up, on the spot, a plausible — and maybe even correct — answer, seamlessly tied to the themes and motivations of the characters and plot. Totally useless, I know, and painfully nerdy. But, the thing is, I really love English Majoring — it’s like a doing  a puzzle — and, sometimes, I hit on something kind of neat. Like this: have you ever noticed that Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera (two of my all-time favorite stories) are actually mirror images of each other? Care to watch an English Major at work? Let’s begin.

In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast begins as a prince who is handsome on the outside but cruel on the inside. The Phantom —- we learn from Madame Giry’s story to Raul — was born deformed and was initially good. Each man begins his story with his inner self at odds with his outer self, but they are mirror images of each other — one handsome, one ugly. 

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Through the enchantress’ curse, the Beast’s outside is changed to match his inside. He becomes ugly because his inner self is ugly too. Through mistreatment and abuse as a child and young adult, the Phantom’s inside is changed to match his outside. He becomes cruel, vindictive, and murderous because his outer self made it so no one could love him. Both men undergo a change so that their two selves — inner and outer — match. And both become ugly, inside and out. But they get there in opposite ways — the Beast changing his outside, the Phantom changing his inside.

Once both men have become monsters, they allow their base urges to take over. For the Beast, this means allowing all his masculine physicality to reign supreme. His sexuality, his brute force, his anger made manifest in yelling and throwing things around — all his physical urges unleashed and unchecked. For the Phantom, it means allowing his passions to run wild. He lets his music send him into a kind of frenzy. He allows his anger to drive him to murder. He uses his lust as justification for kidnapping Christine.

And then they each meet a girl. Belle is a self-possessed, internally strong heroine who knows who she is and what she wants. It’s her bravery that brings her to the Beast’s castle in the first place — following her father and offering herself in exchange for his freedom. Though the Beast frightens her, she never gives in to him, or allows him to get away with the kind of unchecked masculinity that he’s been used to. Christine, on the other hand, is Belle’s mirror image. She’s an ingenue. She doesn’t know who she is or what she wants. When the Phantom opens her eyes to a world of music and sex, she’s drawn in — allowing the Phantom to continue down his path of inner destruction.

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Both Belle and Christine are drawn to the raw masculine energy of their men. It is initially the Beast’s ability to physically protect her that causes Belle to reconsider her impression that the Beast is completely evil. And Christine, of course, finds the Phantom’s seduction through music to be a kind of sexual awakening — one that isn’t altogether unwelcome. For both Belle and Christine, the thrum of masculinity is part of the appeal.

Both stories offer their heroines an alternative suitor. Gaston is ugly on the inside but handsome on the outside — much like the Beast was when he was a prince. But Gaston is unable — and unwilling — to check his masculine urges, allowing them, instead, to dictate his actions. Raoul is also handsome on the outside but — in a mirror image of Gaston — he’s passionless on the inside. He is, for lack of a better word, boring. His love for Christine is real but almost chaste — it lacks the fire and intensity of the Phantom’s obsession with her.

Because Belle is able to stay true to herself, the Beast is able to transform himself into a man. Eventually, his external beastliness doesn’t match the internal goodness that Belle has helped draw out. There’s “something there that wasn’t there before.” When the Beast’s internal self becomes as beautiful as his original princely form the spell is broken and he is allowed to become a man again so that inner and outer can match once more.

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Because Christine isn’t able to fully withstand the Phantom’s advances, she can’t redeem him and he passes “the point of no return,” sending the chandelier crashing down on the audience, and murdering Piangi. He can’t come back from this and must remain a monster. “This haunted face holds no horror for me now,” Christine tells him. “It’s in your soul that the true distortion lies.” The Phantom’s inner and outer selves also match at the end, but in the opposite way to the Beast.

Christine does, eventually, realize that she could have saved the Phantom and tries to correct her mistake. “Pitiful creature of darkness, what kind of life have you known?” she asks him. She sees, finally, that (in a mirror image to the Beast’s experience) it was the cruelty of the people around him that initially made the Phantom act the way he did. And she sees, too, that kindness and fortitude from her could have redeemed him. “God give me courage to show you you are not alone!” she says, and kisses his deformed face.

Both Belle and Christine end up seeing past the ugliness of their men. But, for the Phantom, it’s too late. Christine’s kiss is not the transformative breaker of spells. Her inner self wasn’t strong enough to check the Phantom’s passions. In the end, all she can do is show him that she sees past his ugliness and recognizes him as a man, not a monster. But, unlike the Beast, he’s not the kind of man who’s worthy of her love.

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See? A totally worthless talent. Unless you love these stories like I do. Then, maybe, just maybe, I’ve found my calling.

18 thoughts on ““Look At Your Face In The Mirror” ‘Beauty And The Beast’ And ‘Phantom Of The Opera’ As Mirror Images Of Each Other

      1. I do view Raoul very differently just to let you know. I do not think he is boring like this post says. I do love Raoul and Christine together as a couple= All of I Ask Of You made me fall in love with them. I know Raoul will never hurt her. I know he isn’t boring one bit. It is the Raoul part I don’t agree with

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    1. Ah, so it’s not the mirror metaphor that you disagree with, it’s my comments on Raoul. And I take your point there, you can see my response to Moriah below for more on my objection to Raoul.

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      1. I just saw your response. I don’t think Christine has a romantic connection to Phantom one bit. Phantom has unrequited love for her- I will always believe that.

        As for Raoul and Christine- Christine for sure has a romantic connection to him and Raoul has a romantic connection to her. Raoul is brave and is a better match for her. Unlike the Phantom, who is too dangerous, Raoul will never hurt her. I just side with Christine and Raoul

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      2. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on that one! The whole tension of the plot is whether Christine is going to succumb to the Phantom’s seduction or live a “purer” life with Raoul. I agree that Christine loves Raoul, but she has feelings for the Phantom as well. Just look at her in the second image in the blog post!

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      3. We will always view the plot differently no matter what. I for the life of me cannot find a romantic connection that Christine has for the Phantom. It just doesn’t exist. I understand the Phantom is in love with Christine, but she doesn’t love him, end of story. I know Phantom of the Opera’s plot is a love triangle, but it isn’t a love triangle where someone has to choose who to side with- never saw it that way. She does have somewhat of a connection to the Phantom, but they are not romantic. We will disagree on the subject matter

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  1. I don’t agree with Raoul’s love being “passionless”. We see him keep guard at her door through the night and then recklessly gallop to her rescue in the cemetery when he realizes she’s in danger. Later he charges after her and Phantom without reinforcements and is quite passionate in his insistence to sacrifice his life so she’ll be free.

    I think gentleness and serene confidence (both in himself and her) is being mistaken as being “passionless”. Which is an easy oversight when contrasted with the maniacal obsession of the Phantom.

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    1. I take your point. While Raoul is certainly brave, I think he lacks the kind of passion that Christine is drawn to in the Phantom — the artistic, creative kind. And that’s why I call him boring — I don’t think he’s her true match. (The Phantom could have been, but he allows his passion to drive him to — as you aptly put it — maniacal obsession.)

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  2. I have always thought these two were very much alike, but different at the same time. It’s clear now that you’ve spelled it all out, and I like the way you pointed it out as a mirror image. I agree with you in everything. Even that Raoul is rather boring and passionless. (I see you’ve gotten a bit of backlash for saying that.) Still, I definitely tend to prefer the safer choice. Erik, though passionate, was not, as you said, worthy of Christine’s love, and so their romance was doomed. That fact made me root for Raoul in the end, especially since it’s clear that he does love Christine and will protect her.

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    1. Yes, Christine can’t end up with Erik, I just wish Raoul had had more to offer her. Or there could have been some third man who was a mix of Erik’s passion and Raoul’s integrity. It just makes me sad that Christine’s life will now be without Erik’s passion.

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      1. Haha, wouldn’t that have been a plot twist?! Christine doesn’t end up with either of them; she just waits for a better third option–love it. 🙂

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