Update:Rory in the comments accuses me of "burying the lead," and point well taken. Glee's Frank N. Further will be played by a woman, making the "cross-dressing" just "dressing" and the homosexual pining becomes heterosexual pining.
I'm not the biggest fan of Glee and their quest to conquer and insult anything cool our culture has managed to turn out in the last century, but usually they stick to Disney-fying corporate products like Madonna so I haven't been moved to write about the show. But now they want to take on the Rocky Horror Show.
If you've never the movie, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, based on the play, it's about a po-dunk, straight-laced couple that is forced to spend the night at a castle owned by an alien mad scientist, who also happens to be a jealous, arrogant, pansexual cross-dresser. Rocky isn't about straight people interacting with gay people; it's about the outside world coming into contact with uber-queer subculture. The main character Frank N. Furter can't even be described as "transsexual" or "gay"; he's CD and bisexual/pansexual/queer.
It was a success for a reason - young queers loved going and seeing what it would be like if their families of origin and high school friends came into contact with their current lives, if the prim and proper hypocrites and stoic bullies of our youth were forced to acknowledge their real sexual desires and confront a world that's complicated and messy, if they couldn't just squash anything that challenges them because they hate creativity and difference.
And, unlike in real life, the queers beat the straights in the movie.
The Rocky episode of Glee hasn't shown yet, but the promotional materials don't inspire confidence. It seems they went the route of cleaning up the movie/play for public, family-friendly consumption. If it turns out that the episode is as they promote it, then the straights will beat the queers.
First, here's Glee's Rocky:
Here's the original:
Notice the wardrobe change? They should have just put him in a golden habit while they were at it.
Now, some might say that the original outfit wasn't appropriate for family-oriented TV, to which I'd respond: you're right, it isn't, so don't do a family-oriented version of Rocky. I also liked The Kansas City Trucking Co., but I don't expect Disney to do an animated version of it either.
Second, here's John Stamos as Eddie:
Here's Meat Loaf in the movie, who was also in the original Broadway production:
The goal, they say, was to do a "sexy version of Eddie," but Meat Loaf was already the sexy version of Eddie, with the Phantoms/Transylvanians singing along out of sheer delight for his energy and Columbia throwing herself at him. Obviously, the publicist mis-spoke and said "sexy" when she meant to say "thin," because TV nowadays could never, ever show an overweight person being sexy even though Eddie was just fine being plus-sized a few decades ago. Yeah, there's Mercedes, but she's been celibate or chasing the gay boy.
It's been a bizarre corollary to America's growing obesity epidemic, we've come to hate fat people even more than before. You'd think a show that's supposed to be about social misfits wouldn't want to... well, not really. It's still TV.
Plus Meat Loaf is actually a talented singer, so we'll see how Stamos deals with "Whatever Happened to Saturday Night," a song with a lot of complicated, fast chord progressions. Maybe they'll do a slow version with autotune because doing it as written would just be too hard.
Third, here's an small extract of their version of "Time Warp," sung as if it were a Hannah Montana song:
And here's the original Broadway production's original film's version, sung as if some hippies got together and did an old-fashioned rock and roll song:
While the music is the same, notice how in the original you can hear people with very different styles, the soprano, the male folk singer, the chorus line, etc. It had a community feel to it, with everyone pretty much shouting the lyrics at the top of their lungs as if they're all on coke. It was fun and rough.
Glee's version is the industrialized, meat-grinder version, like they didn't understand the sing-along mood the song was inspired by.... Well, at least they didn't actually get Miley Cyrus to sing it.
Fourth, "Damn it, Janet" became "Dang it, Janet." 'Nuf said. "Sweet Transvestite" also became "Sweet Trans." If the chorus is changed they effectively sucked the transvestitism right out of the song, and if the part is played by a woman they sucked the homosexuality right out of it.
Which leads right into my last concern. While they haven't released photos yet of Glee's Dr. Frank N. Furter, they did say who'd be playing the role: Mercedes. They just didn't have the balls to have a dude appear in fishnets while redoing a play most known for its transvestitism, and they turned the main sex interest effectively straight (the other couple in Rocky, Brad and Janet, will remain straight). John Stamos said as much:
As for that other big Glee stunt episode, the Rocky Horror installment, which is set to air around Halloween, "I was initially going to do the Dr. Frank N. Furter role, the Tim Curry role, but I think the network freaked out and said we don't want to see Stamos in fishnets...again. So I play another role."
Sometimes if you don't want to do something right you just shouldn't do it at all. The lead role is a man in fishnets who built himself another man, with strong arms and tan, and who's good for relieving his tension. And, no, they don't get edgy, gender-bending points by having a woman play a man's role when the most remarkable feature of the male role is his cross-dressing and homosexual desires and activities. That's just chickening out.
One of my favorite moments of the movie is when Frank N. Furter traps Dr. Scott (or should I say, Dr. von Scott!), Janet, and Brad and is about to force them to dress in fishnets with make-up, and Frank N. Furter shouts at them: "So quake with fear, you tiny fools!"
It's not just that Tim Curry is an amazing actor who can deliver such a campy line as if it were a real threat, dripping with disdain for his victims, but that it's pretty much the point of the whole movie. Janet and Brad (and to a lesser degree Dr. Scott) are innocent and straight and he's about to make them transgress, make them violate their neat little world they didn't even know they'd constructed around themselves (in the language of the 90's, he's going to queer them), and he just hates them for having lived as hypocrites without even knowing it and he's contemptuous knowing that they are, really, tiny fools, but they're the tiny fools who control everything outside his castle and are now trying to take what he has inside the castle.
I'll be sure to watch this episode when it airs, but from the promotional materials it looks like it's the version of Rocky if the tiny fools produced it. Perhaps they just should have done The Lion King.