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- Possibly the phenomenon started earlier than Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical version of Phantom of the Opera, but Gaston Leroux would not recognize the Erik currently celebrated by the "Phandom" as the title character of his novel Le Fantome de l'Opera. The original story is an early 20th-century potboiler about a deformed psychopath who is tragic because of his pathetic nature. He has a monstrous appearance and an utter lack of conscience (until the very last moment), but he shore do write some purty music. It's a "beauty killed the beast" story like King Kong, and thus already had the potential for this...Particularly after the release of the 2004 film version of the 1986 musical adaptation, the story has developed this strange following of people who honestly do believe that the heroine of the story should have chosen to live in the basements below the opera house with the unstable, homicidal madman who stalked and kidnapped her instead of marrying her aristocratic fiance because... um... Well, mostly because Andrew Lloyd Webber is a sly fox who gave these people who tend to be in a place in life where they feel isolated and misunderstood a hero who is a brilliant, misunderstood, romantic outcast just like them. (And it would be okay to live in the dark with him forever because "face like a skull, missing a nose and everything" has been demoted to "Two-Face's long-lost ancestor" at worst and, in the film, "hot guy with an inconstant and easily covered patch of radiation burn", so it isn't like he's ugly or anything, which, of course, begs the question of why he lives in the basement at all). The amount of venom other fans vented toward the Viscomte simply for existing is amazing in its volume and nastiness. If they acknowledged at all that Erik (the Phantom) killed people and was generally not a nice man, then they had multiple explanations for why it wasn't really his fault. That the relationship between Erik and his protege was really, really not romantic, nor even a healthy relationship, tended to be entirely ignored because Erik is a giant Woobie with a good voice and a secret heart of gold, and that's that. It doesn't help that in the 2004 film the first two people we actually see the Phantom kill aren't wholly sympathetic; as a child he kills his abusive "master" in self-defense, and Buquet the stagehand is established as a Peeping Tom. By the time he fights Raoul in the graveyard and kills the tenor Piangi to steal his role in Don Juan Triumphant, the audience has realized he's 9/10ths pure Scottish hotness with a real bad burn.Finally, in the musical's sequel Love Never Dies (set ten years later), Lloyd Webber and his co-writers address the issue... changing the love triangle's participants: Raoul becomes a neglectful alcoholic gambler, the Phantom loses much (if not all) of his evil, and Christine turns out to have loved the Phantom more all along.
- Yes, but yet, there are still fans that acknowledge the evil of Erik and actually think that Christine made the right choice. Which she did. The Webber musical isn't solely to blame.
- A Streetcar Named Desire. Stanley Kowalski. People tend to blame Blanche for being a passive-agressive weirdo and kind of leading him on, but that doesn't change the fact that Stan is an evil bully and a rapist. Within the story, Stella refuses to believe that the rape actually happened. What really hurts Blanche's case is establishing herself as a bully and a racist in one line to Stella ("I let the place go? I let the place go?! Where were you?! In bed with your Polack!") before Stanley first appears. This combined with Stanley countering the same epithet later by saying he's a full-born American right before his assault surely makes a lot of people want to justify his actions, even though they can't.
- Deliberately invoked in many productions of A Dolls House, where the actor playing Torvald Helmer has to be ridiculously attractive for Nora's actions to make sense. Unfortunately, it's easy to miss that he's also an ungrateful sexist bastard.
- Nils Krogstand, the Designated Villain of the first two acts, easily is subjected to this. Though given Ibsen uses the first bit of the third act to practically turn him into The Woobie (depending on how the actors play the infodump of his backstory with Mrs. Linde) it might have been a deliberate subversion of the stereotypical theatrical villain of the time.
- Assassins is prone to causing this, especially depending on the attractiveness of the cast. Booth probably gets the most, due to being a "handsome devil".
- There is a significant population who woobiefy either or both of the Macbeths, which is usually done in conjunction with this.
- Both Iago and Edmund receive a little of this treatment. The fact that they're both intensely charismatic (part of being the Magnificent/Manipulative Bastards) and clever young men helps, as does their ambiguous motives (Edmund's given complaint being a logical fallacy), but ultimately the clencher is how good-looking the actor in question is. Since the former has been played by Kenneth Branagh and the latter by Philip Winchester... yeah...
- Shylock is what happens when this attitude drifts down into academic circles, and then into the general public. Nearly all modern interpretations transform him from the (admittedly very unsettling) antagonist to a tragic character, while the intended heroes are racist assholes bent on ruining his life. Nevermind that Shylock's entire scheme was to murder Antonio over him insulting Shylock's profession. And then his daughter (who also gets this treatment, despite being little more than a greedy bitch according to the play) runs off with most of his money and his family heirloom. Shylock then refuses double the amount owed, simply so he can kill Antonio, who HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH HIS DAUGHTER.
- People also tend to Leather Pants Richard III in Shakepeare's play of the same name. True, he wasn't nearly as bad in real life, but he's still an evil bastard in the play. I suppose this is a case of History Marches On, as it was long believed that Richard of Gloucester did commit many of the atrocities he did in the play.
- Journalist Caitlin Moran applied it to Judas. Though it is the musical version:
In Jesus Christ Superstar he gets played by a hot black dude in rad trousers, and his libretto poses a series of extremely perceptive theological questions, viz, the wisdom of Christ’s tactics in declaring himself the Son of God. And did I mention his trousers, already? They really are superlative trousers. Really ... you know. Phwoargh. Good trousers. Yeah. Judas comes out of Jesus Christ Superstar really well. Had they made “Team Iscariot” T-shirts in 1973 I would probably have bought one.
- Freddie Trumper of Chess is arguably sympathetic, and arguably a genius, but he is also a chauvnistic, manipulative, paranoid asshole who drives away the only person who can stand him by saying almost unbelievably cruel things about her presumed dead father when he sees her talking to his opponent. You would not know this from some of the fanfiction he gets. Granted, there is lots of room for interpretation of all the characters depending on which version you see, but an angel Freddie ain't.
- Gabriel Goodman of Next to Normal may be a subversion, as he is portrayed in canon as extremely seductive/alluring in canon and is DIL Ped by Diana herself. He also gets several EXTREMELY sexy Villain Songs.
- The titular character in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Mrs. Lovett too.
- Judge Turpin can get this in productions where the song "Joana" is kept. This song gives him more depth, portraying him as a tortured person who knows his lust is wrong but is unable to keep it in check. However, many use this as an excuse to absolve him of everything
- Death in Elisabeth intentionally invokes this. Lucheni, Elisabeth's assassin, can also get this treatment if he's played by the right actor.