Greeting, everyone at das_sporking! My name is babyrodent, or simply "Rodent" for short, and this is my sporking sample.
For those of you that might not know this, I have roots to the world of theatre more so than movies, books, and video games. My mom is a geek for Broadway productions, my older sister has a major in Theatre, and I'm a total nerd for theatre of all shapes and sizes. I've even been involved in a couple of theatrical productions and took a class on Theatre in my senior year of high school.
One show in particular is, of course, The Phantom of the Opera. *cue organ music* There, now the obligatory organ joke is out of the way.
Phantom has been a staple of my mom and older sister's lives as a prime example of what Broadway is like, given that it's the longest running show to this day. It was the first show that I got to see live when my mom, older sister, my grandma, and I went there back to New York in 2008 for Spring Break (while it was not the first Broadway show I've seen- that honor goes to The Lion King at the Pantages in Los Angeles- it was the first one I saw in its home of New York). Not only that, but we have the Playbill, the poster signed by the cast at the time, the original cast soundtrack, the mask, and even the movie version. And before anyone asks, I am aware that the movie is not the best, but I see it more as a guilty pleasure if anything.
Heck, back in November 2016 when my mom and I saw Doctor Strange in 3-D at the El Capitan Theatre, I even channeled the Opera Ghost by saying "Sing for me, my Angel of Music!" when the organ player performed the show's theme before the previews started.
It's also a safe bet that it introduced me to the original novel by Gaston Leroux as well as the 1925 silent movie from Universal Studios, the latter which I saw with my dad.
So why is all of this relevant? The answer: it's in regards to what I am going to be sporking right now.
This is a one-shot from Fanfiction.net by a phantomfan2, where it is titled "Tale of abuse and love", focused on the Phantom/Christine pairing, and rated "K". I'll get into that in a moment. It was published rather recently- specifically April 11th of this year- meaning that it's still fresh so to speak. Quick warning for late-arrival spoilers for those that have yet to see the original show or listen to the original soundtrack and for abuse.
You know things are going to go downhill real quick with the first paragraph:
Married life wasn't exactly what Christine had thought it would be. Raoul wasn't who he used to be when in his youth, he had also become a alcoholic and a gambler and she feared she would become his punching bag. She was terrified. They had been married for a month and she wanted an annulment.
This is where I should introduce the first of two counts for the one-shot- Evul Roule, where Raoul is portrayed as a "Lifetime Movie of the Week cliché" as Diva of Musical Hell explained in her review of Love Never Dies where it is used to justify Christine and the Phantom (here named "Erik" as a reference to the original novel) getting back together.
Evul Roule: 2 (one for the alcoholic and gambler mix, one for making Christine so terrified of becoming a punching bag that she wanted to end the marriage)
The other count is Get Thee to a Grammar Check!, where the author might need to pay more attention to what they're writing. Now I have no idea as to how old they are, but they recently joined FF.net so I'm a little bit more forgiving with this count because this is their first fanfic (and their only one as of this sporking) and I'm not going to be too harsh on them. I'm also not going to count the British spelling of words because the author is from the UK and that the musical did open first in the West End (the British equivalent to Broadway). But still, I'm including this count because the grammar… yeah, it's not exactly the best.
Get Thee to a Grammar Check!: 1 (one for the run-on sentence for Raoul's part in the paragraph)
Anyway, one really common aspect to really bad Phantom/Christine ship fanfics would be portraying Viscount Raoul de Chagny as being worse than Satan himself, especially when compared to the Phantom himself. Now Raoul isn't the best written character in either the novel or the musical, but if I had to choose between him and the Phantom as to who Christine should be with, then I'd choose Raoul. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind being drawn to the bad boys myself- heck, I'd kneel at Loki's feet if given the chance. However, I'm also drawn to guys that are genuinely kindhearted, sweet, and caring towards others and would risk their lives to protect loved ones.
In canon (or at least in the musical), Raoul has been established to have known Christine ever since they were kids and is willing to risk his life so that she would be safe from harm. So really, this aspect of making him an ass comes out of nowhere and is rather meaningless. Unfortunately, it's an aspect that bled into Andrew Lloyd Webber with the musical's sequel Love Never Dies, which is pretty much a bad Phantom/Christine shipping fanfic itself. And the less said about that, the better.
Anyway, Raoul in this one-shot "started abusing [Christine] a few weeks after their wedding", to the point where he blames Christine for the abuse and drives her away after he "slapped her so hard that she fell over and her cheek had gone dark red". Wait a minute. If they've been married for a month and the abuse started a few weeks after the wedding, then that means that Raoul became an alcoholic gambler and Christine became afraid for her life in a span of two weeks. Yikes!
Evul Roule: 5 (one for the mention of the abuse starting after the wedding, one for victim blaming Christine, and one for the slap in the face)
Get Thee to a Grammar Check!: 4 (thrice for no spacing for when the characters speak)
Remember when I brought up that this is rated "K"? Yeah, this is why. The last I recall, the content in "K" rating in fanfiction should be free of coarse language, violence, and adult themes. So this should be more of a "T" rating because anyone going into this expecting it to be innocent will be in for a shock.
So Christine gets on one of the horses, "mindful of which horse to take because Raoul's wad black (like his soul)"
Evul Roule: 6
Get Thee to a Grammar Check!: 5
And rides off to the Opera Populairie, where she walks in "with eyes looking at her feet". As the author never mentioned her getting off the horse, I'm just going to picture her riding side-saddle on her horse and bringing her feet up to look at them. I know that's not what the author meant, I just wanted to giggle.
Then we meet Meg Giry, who is so happy to see her BFF Christine, but notices that the feeling isn't mutual as Christine asks to see the Phantom, much to Meg's shock. Strap yourselves in for the following sentence. Trust me, my heart was hurting just from typing it up.
Meg's eyes widened in shock"You want to see him?" she whispered 'him' as to not arouse suspicion to Madame Giry and the ballet girls. "Yes… Please Meg, I need to speak to him" Meg looked around and grabbed Christine's hand "follow me…"
Get Thee to a Grammar Check!: 9
Meg then brings Christine to the Phantom's domain where we find the Phantom angsting over missing Christine at the end of the musical while trying to come up with new music for operas and "singing softly". He's either singing "No One Would Listen" (cut song from 2004 movie) or " 'Til I Hear You Sing" (from Love Never Dies), depending on whose voice you picture for the guy. This is where I'm going to introduce the final count, The Monster's The Real Man, where the author goes to great pains to convince the reader that the Phantom is better for Christine and not Raoul.
The Monster's The Real Man: 1
The moment that the Phantom sees Christine, he "opened his arms out for her" and allowed her to approach him into a hug as he "held her as tight as he possibly could without hurting her".
The Monster's The Real Man: 3
Okay, this is where I need to point out something important. Yes, the Phantom is a tragic character and has traits that lure you into him, including music and secrecy. However, I just want to point out some of the stuff that he does in the musical: He kills people, extorts his managers for money, and threatens people's lives including bringing the chandelier down onto the stage. Heck, he's even more psychotic when it comes to Christine, being so infatuated with her to the point where he feels entitled to have her and that's not even counting the fact that he calls her in "I Remember/ Stranger Than You Dreamt It", and I quote, "little prying Pandora", "little demon", "little lying Delilah", and "little viper". But even then, when she expressed kindness to him in the end, he willingly let her go to be with Raoul because he knew that she would never be happy being forced to love him.
Speaking of which, this brings up a plot hole regarding this one-shot. Didn't the Phantom flee from getting torn to pieces by the angry mob in the musical at the end, leaving behind only his mask? The prologue even mentioned that the "strange affair of the Phantom of the Opera, a mystery fully explained", hinting that he was never seen again. Even if we can accept that he returned when it was safe for him again, the Opera Populairie would not return to its former glory after the events of the musical. Not only that, but I was under the impression that Christine never returned as well because of the fact that it was traumatizing for her and even trying to go near it would most likely than not trigger the bad memories at the opera for her.
Sorry, I got off a little tangent. Anyway, the Phantom notices that Christine is crying and asks her as to what's wrong before commenting that it's "pretty obvious that [she's] upset" as "he lifted a hand to her head and stroked her hair". However, this happens:
"R… Raoul…" His eyes grew ablaze at the name of the Victome. "What has he done?" He asked "Christine?" He begged "He- he hit me…" He grew more furious by the minute "How long has this been going on for?" He was desperate for an answer "A few weeks after our wedding…" He screamed in anger "I'll kill him I'll kill him this time!"
Evul Roule: 8 (two mentions of Raoul of being abusive)
Get Thee to a Grammar Check!: 19
The Monster's The Real Man: 6 (I'm not counting his proclaim to kill Raoul because… well…)
Anyone else pretty alarmed by the idea that the Phantom might be screaming in Christine's ear about how he'll kill Raoul? And speaking of which, why did the author think that this is okay? I get it, this is a Phantom/Christine ship fanfic, so the Phantom is being protective of Christine. But here's the thing: you can still make a fanfic of your favorite ship without dragging another character in the mud. So having one half of a ship scream in anger about they'll physically harm the other half's spouse doesn't help things at all. The irony of it all is that the Phantom is technically in-character… or at least he would be as of the end of the musical.
Of course, Christine asks if she could stay the night with him and he accepts with "Of course you can, my Christine". She laments how she "should have stayed with [him]" as he "picked her up and carried her to a spare room". I know the Phantom carried her in the musical as well, but that was after she passed out upon seeing a mannequin of herself wearing a wedding dress. Also, slight nitpick, but the movie version showed only one room in the Phantom's hideout- most likely his. So it would make sense for him to take her to his room rather than the closet space.
The Monster's The Real Man: 9
Then Christine asks him if he can stay with her, to which he asks her if she's sure- she tells him that she "won't be able to sleep" and he accepts her request before "[laying] on the bed next to her, she cuddled up next to him like a child would its father". I know this is supposed to be a cute moment, but considering that the Phantom is hinted to be around Christine's father's age, this comes off as a little squicky.
And then this happened:
"Erik?" Christine asked, breaking the comfortable silence "Yes" he answered "Take your mask off" she said. He stared at her in disbelief"Are you certain?" He stammered. She placed her hand on the mask "please" he placed his hands over hers and slowly took off the mask. "I've missed your face." she kissed the deformed part of his face and he shivered "You're more sensitive here, probably from wearing the mask for so long" he smiled and pulled her closer.
Get Thee to a Grammar Check!: 27
The Monster's The Real Man: 10
I have mixed feelings about this. I get that this is meant to be a sweet moment- and the idea that the Phantom's deformity would be a little sensitive from being covered for so long is interesting- but I'm not getting that moment. Mainly because the Phantom's deformity varies from version to version. The novel and 1925 silent movie gave him no nose, the musical gave him exposed skull tissue and a wrinkled warped right cheek (among many things), and the 2004 movie gave him a mixture of bad sunburn and eczema. And Christine kissing his exposed skull tissue is a hell lot worse if you picture it.
And not only that, but the Phantom did not like his deformity and wanted to look normal so that he would win Christine's affections. Even if you can forgive the fact that Christine isn't bothered by the deformity, what about what the Phantom thinks of this? He's been shunned for his entire life because of his deformity and, by hiding it behind a mask and portraying himself as a "ghost" towards others and an "angel" towards Christine, he hides himself away from the world. The novel explained that being rejected from his mother did not give him any confidence in showing off his deformity. Although, come to think of it, him stammering is also a double-edged sword- on the one hand, it would make sense given that he didn't expect it. But on the other hand, I don't picture the Phantom stammering.
So Christine tells the Phantom that she's "never going back to Raoul again" while he tells her in return that he'll "protect [her] as long as [he lives]". Again, meant to be sweet moment, but not feeling it.
Evul Roule: 9
Get Thee to a Grammar Check!: 28
The Monster's The Real Man: 11
So the two fall asleep with Christine in the Phantom's embrace until the next morning where the Phantom wakes up first and "watched Christine whilst she slept" until she woke up and noticed this. If I woke up to find a guy with a partially exposed cranium and mismatched eyes looking at me while I was sleeping, I would have a frigging heart attack. Well, that's not Christine's reaction at all. Instead, she asks with- of all things- a smug grin, "Erik, why are you staring at me?" At least she's asking unlike Bella Swan. He answers with "You look so peaceful when your sleeping" as he "blushed furiously". Given that the actor playing the role of the Phantom would be wearing stage makeup and prosthetics, though, I don't quite picture the guy blushing.
Get Thee to a Grammar Check!: 30
The Phantom then "looked away quickly and turned even redder", though him turning around to lay on his side and having rosacea would make sense as well, as Christine imitates the Cheshire Cat as she "grinned wider and wider" until she stopped and instead frowned. I think she stopped because her smile muscles were getting very sore and just begging to be relaxed.
Get Thee to a Grammar Check!: 31
Then she says to the Phantom that "[she] wants to be with [him]" and that she's "sure that Raoul would agree to the annulment" so that she and the Phantom "can be together". Then we go to a random time skip to "a few weeks later" where Raoul anticlimactically agrees to the annulment so that the Phantom and Christine would be able to marry each other. Okay, I have a couple of issues with this. Number one, it's never exactly detailed as to what happened leading up to Raoul agreeing with the annulment- maybe the Phantom threatening to kill him for harming Christine would make sense or maybe Christine was hesitant to return to her husband after being physically abused. Number two, I highly doubt that the annulment would not get the attention of the public, especially if it's between the Viscount and a famous opera singer, and raise eyebrows or at the very least cause controversy.
Then we have another time skip to "a few months later" where the Phantom is getting ready to propose to Christine with a new ring. Again, it's never detailed as to what happened leading up to this or how the Phantom got an engagement ring especially when it's most likely that he's a wanted man. Also, I highly doubt that the Phantom, now that Raoul is out of the picture in Christine's life, wouldn't wait for a few months to propose to Christine. If anything, he'd immediately jump at the opportunity to marry her, proposal or not. But this is a shipping fanfic, so I'm gonna let that detail slide.
The Monster's The Real Man: 12
So the Phantom goes into the bedroom and speaks to Christine, explaining that he had "done [his] best to protect [her]" and "tried to stop [her] from marrying Raoul". Why do I have a bad feeling about what he's doing here? Regardless, canon says otherwise. Christine tells him that she "[understood] how hard [he] tried to protect [her] from the disastrous relationship with Raoul but [he] tried [his] best and [she loves him] for it", which again, contradicts canon. Also, even when Raoul is no longer in the fanfic- oh yeah, he never shows up after the marriage is annulled- the fanfic still treats him like a monster.
Evul Roule: 11
Get Thee to a Grammar Check!: 35 (one for a missing "me" between "protect" and "from")
The Monster's The Real Man: 15
So now the Phantom gets down on one knee and proposes to Christine with doubts running through his head- "'Will she say yes? What do I do if she says yes? Will she say no? I wont survive if she says no'"- but she accepts the proposal.
Get Thee to a Grammar Check!: 40 (one for a misspelling on "won't", two for a lack of periods, one for no spacing, and one for the misspelling of fiancé as "fiancée")
The Monster's The Real Man: 16
And that was "Tale of abuse and love" by phantomfan2. As much as I want to be harsh and say that this one-shot is awful, I can't really bring myself to do it. Mainly because, well, this is someone's first fanfiction and I can't get downright mean to it. Plus, there are multiple Phantom/Christine shipping fanfictions out there that are probably worse than this. But even then, it still has problems.
I'm going to start off with characterization for a bit, primarily with Raoul. I can forgive the way that the Phantom is portrayed in this because no two portrayals are ever the same. Christine is a little harder to crack, but again, no two portrayals are ever the same. Not with Raoul, though. He's been written as very OOC in order to justify the existence of the Phantom/Christine ship. Even more so, however, when there's little weight behind it and only serves as motivation for Christine to go back to the Phantom. Like I said before, you can make a shipping fic without bashing another character in the mix. This is, sadly, the biggest problem of the one-shot, so I really hope that the author does grows out of this mentality.
The other issue would be the grammar, but as I said before, I'm more forgiving of this one as this is someone's first fanfiction. No one is perfect when it comes to writing their first fanfiction- heck, my first one was abysmal and I had to learn how to not only improve my writing, but also try something new. Maybe this author will do the same as well. I don't know, but I'm going easy on them as there's a whole lot of room for improvement, so grammar is a start.
Evul Roule: 11
Get Thee to a Grammar Check!: 40
The Monster's The Real Man: 16