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Why Is Bad so Good?

This past weekend I went upstate to see my 17-year-old niece dance in the ballet version of The Phantom of the Opera musical. She played the Spirit of the Darkness, representing the Phantom’s dark side, appearing every time a scene was set in his lair. Her costume was stunning and her graceful, fluid moves were packed with attitude and delicious evil. Her whole essence was just so cool.

It got me thinking…why are villains so much more interesting than the goody-goody heroes? It’s not just because they have cooler outfits—the characters are often mysterious and complex…just like us humans.

Having a dark side is part of who we are. Learning from it is what helps us move forward and grow. If we didn’t have a shadow self, we’d probably never evolve in life.

In my niece’s ballet, the Phantom purposely frightens people, tries to get Christine to marry him, is jealous of her fiancé and fights with him. As a child the Phantom was put on display and mistreated in a carnival freak show. In the end, he realizes he’s being a “monster” and stops interfering with Christine and her fiancé’s relationship. Then he dances to a song about how now he gets to be alone. Like, forever alone.

I’m not defending what the Phantom did, but he exhibited forward growth and what did he get for it? A life alone. As I recently learned from a friend, even Quasimoto found love in The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (straight to video).

This weekend, I also was an audience to the animals in my brother’s house. Basil (my other niece’s cat who was on the lam for two months last fall) has been living in the house with Gizmo the dog and Parsley the cat. Basil’s nickname is “The Criminal,” as he often brilliantly gets away with breaking into cabinets to steal the other animals’ food (even dog treats). I witnessed him hiss at Parsley when she growled at him and take off running when Gizmo lunged at him. There was a lot of whipping around of animals and generally disgruntled noises.

This morning I decided to connect in with Basil and ask how he felt about Parsley growling at him and Gizmo chasing him. Basil told me “Eh, they’re going to do what they’re going to do. I’m going to do what I’m going to do. I gotta be me.”

Overall, the conflicts are no big deal to Basil. The way he sees it, they’re all being themselves.

So to The Phantom and The Criminal, I say you do you, work through your stuff. Obviously, causing hurt to others is not the way to go, but if you find yourself wanting what someone else has, or feel angry or get down on yourself, that’s all ok. It’s part of the journey.

And what that journey will get you is a lot less Learn to be Lonely and a lot more Music of the Night— especially the "let your soul take you where you long to be" part.

It’s all about the magic. 🙌

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