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The Outsider, Continued...

Maybe under the right circumstances, with the appropriate guidance and medication, Mr. Humongous could have become a productive, charming member of society. He'd have made a great basketball player.

One of the cinema's earliest and most famous outsiders was the Phantom of the Opera. He could actually be charming. Even after the masked Phantom kidnaps a beautiful diva and drags her down to his underground lair, the young lovely finds herself strangely drawn to this lonely, darkly romantic figure. The movie has been remade many times, but once one has seen the silent version, one can never forget that shocking yet saddening moment when the young pretty first spies the Phantom's uncovered features.

His ghoulish skullface peers out at the audience in a rictus-gasp of mingled pain, surprise and shame. "Now you know!" his accusing stare seems to say. "I'm not just ugly--I'm ultra-mega-baboon-ass-with-diaper-rash ugly! No amount of subtle mood-lighting is going to soften the reality of this facial plane-wreck!"

Poor Phantom.

And yet, in one of the most recent Phantom remakes, Julian Sands plays the opera-house lurker as perfectly handsome. But make no mistake, this Phantom is still a pathetic monster--all his scars happen to be on the inside.

Between the original Phantom and the male-model Julian Sands incarnation, there was the rock-opera version, Phantom of the Paradise . In this one, the Phantom is more of an avenging hero than a villain. He is a songwriter whose work is stolen by an evil record producer named Swan. The Phantom's face is smooshed by a record-pressing machine, so he wears a funky bird-mask to hide his deformity. This version was made during the funky Seventies, so everything is glam and garish and groovy, baby.

This Phantom also has to protect the beautiful singer Phoenix from Swan's diabolical desires. Swan is played by wide-eyed, delicate Jessica Harper, who also played the American ballet student in Dario Argento's Suspiria, which was made three years after Phantom of the Paradise. Jessica made a very good damsel in distress back then. She always seemed to be wandering around in a sleepy, nauseous daze, staring around with her big, terrified doe-eyes. Her expression made one think she was always on the verge of throwing up. Maybe she was looking around for a bucket. I imagine being a damsel in distress takes a lot out of a girl.

Poor Jessica.

In all of those versions of the Phantom story, the lead loner conveys a sense of haunting elegance, reminiscent of deposed royalty. Kings without crowns, doomed to eternal exile--wondering if, against impossible odds, they will ever find happiness.

And you know, we've all been there.

We've all been dissed by an untrue friend or dumped by a fickle loved one. We've all been fired or punished or rejected or just plain shat-on by various powers-that-be. And during those lonely moments, we all feel like wretched misfits, crying out to the world for a smidgen of understanding, a weensy glimmer of warmth.

"Gimme some sugar!" we cry to a world that's sprinkling salt all over our open wounds. Sometimes, we get the sugar for which we hunger. Other times, we just have to switch locations to avoid the salt.

Too bad, so sad.

But--things usually get better. Fortunately, misfortune doesn't turn the majority of us into machete-wielding maniacs. We adjust, and hopefully learn a few survival skills along the way.

And that's probably just as well--because once you've become an outsider, it's so hard to integrate yourself back into society.

Think about it.

The Wicked Witch of the West could never have said to Dorothy and her friends, "Hey, you guys! Sorry I've been such a pill lately. I've just been going through some tough times. Lots of maintenance expenses on the castle--I really should get a smaller place. And I think those stinking monkeys have been stealing from me. Where was my mind, hiring monkeys? They're nothing but trouble. What's say we all go out for some ice cream? Tin Man, we'll special-order some chilled motor oil just for you--my treat!"

Savage old Freddy couldn't suddenly tell the teenagers of Elm Street, "You know what? You're really a swell bunch of kids. I'm sorry I've been such a grouch. It just gets so lonely, being a dead janitor with supernatural powers. Maybe we can hang out together sometime, make some popcorn and watch some movies--how's that sound?"

Certainly the teenagers running away from Mr. Humongous wouldn't believe it for a second if he suddenly bellowed, "Dudes! Come on, I'm just goofin' with ya! I'm not going to eat any of you. I mean, sure, I've eaten other people and all my dead mother's dogs, but really--I'm an okay guy! Let's get off this island and we can all go to the mall and you can help me pick out some new clothes at Lorenzo's Big & Tall & Humongous Menswear Emporium. These torn-up old rags of mine are all caked with dried blood and dog feces, so you know I ain't gonna hook up with any hotties looking like this!"

The irony of Mr. Humongous' situation is that he is, in fact, a wealthy man and could well afford an all-new wardrobe. His mother owned the island, so after her death, he had to be the sole heir to the property. Well, at least he never let the money go to his head. No, he was too busy looking for human flesh to consume. But still, he could have arranged for regular food delivery, if only his mother had thought to teach him to use a phone or radio--or to talk in a coherent fashion, for that matter.

Poor Mr. Humongous.

Now that your knowledge of outsiders has been sufficiently enhanced, I want to leave you with some helpful tips. If you're an insider--a totally normal member of society--never forget to show compassion for others. Play nice. Smile. Pay the occasional compliment. Try not to make fun of people if they are a little different--or even a lot.

Also, bear this in mind: too normal can be a little boring. So get a little weird every now and then. Who knows? You may like it.

And if you're an outsider: remember, you're not the only one. Get out more, meet a few other outsiders. Hopefully you won't have a big fight with them a la Freddy Vs. Jason.

If you think you're ugly--try looking for that ugbug-lovin' beauty, like I mentioned earlier. If that doesn't work, find yourself an ugbug of the opposite sex--or same sex, depending on your preference. Looks really aren't all that important anyway. Sure, they may help with the initial hook-up, but ultimately, it's your brain that's gonna make anyone stay for the long haul. Yes, your brain. Your gray, squishy, repulsive, pulsing brain.

You ever notice that beautiful, glamorous actors and actresses in the tabloids always seem to have a different partner every week? One might think it's because they're so good-looking, they're always attracting new and different lovers. But I suspect it's because they're actually rather stupid and therefore boring, and nobody ever wants to stay with them for more than a week.

Once the initial attraction wears off, their current suitor suddenly realizes, "This gorgeous pinhead doesn't know the difference between feces and shoe polish! This glamorous cretin certainly would have difficulty deciding whether to void the contents of their bowels or curtail employment of their ocular faculties! I am afraid I shall have to cut off relations with this intellectually challenged individual, lest I, through some form of cranial contamination, should come to share their rattle-headed vacuousness." See? Even Hollywood studs and supermodels get dumped.

Poor Hollywood studs and supermodels.

So come on, stop moping around the opera, ya big Phantom, and join the real world. Don't be such a Jason.

Have fun. Laugh more.

But leave the machete at home.