Oct 24, 2016

Fox's Heterosexual Rocky Horror Picture Show

I'm not a purist who believes that The Rocky Horror Picture Show  is sacred writ.  I'm all for sanding down the plot inconsistencies, booting the jokes that mock women and the disabled, adding some racial diversity, and modernizing the dialogue ("You look like you're both pretty groovy.")

But I would have preferred the new version which aired on Fox last week to keep it gay.

The problem is, same-sex activity is not nearly as shocking  today as it was in 1975.  Richard O'Brien intended for Frank's same sex desire to be disquieting, and his "wedding" to be downright diabolical, far more sinister than Eddie's murder.

Today married men are commonly shown on tv commercials, eating soup.

How to restore that frisson of dread?

How about making Frank transgender?  Transpeople receive far more hostility and fear than gay men and lesbians.

How about Laverne Cox, arguably the most famous transgender person in the world, as Frank?

So far, so good.  Except:

1. Only a few lines are changed, mostly to eliminate profanity.  Frank is still a "sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania."

A transvestite is a man or woman in drag.  Not a transperson.

Columbia's story of first meeting Frank still has the line "He had a pick up truck and the devil's eye."

For awhile, I thought Cox was playing Frank as a male drag queen, but no, in all the interviews, she says "transgender."

2. This changes the dynamic of the movie immeasurably.  Making it more sexist.

The scenes where Frank seduces Brad and Janet no longer involve sex.  They involve Benny Hill antics of sexual harassment: leering, chasing, butt-slapping.

For that matter, all of the sexual activity is sexless.  When Janet sings "Touch me!", Rocky obliges by touching her...shoulder!

The attempted sexual assault ("You'd Better Wise Up, Janet Weiss") is much more violent, with Frank and Janet getting into a "girl fight" melee.

I guess we shouldn't expect oral sex jokes and breast-fondling with High School Musical director Kenny Ortega at the helm and two former Disney teencom stars as Brad and Janet.

Or anything gay.


3. It's way heterosexist.

The original had three gay male relationships -- Frank with Eddie, Brad, and Rocky -- and six heterosexual (count them!).  No lesbian, unless you count Columbia and Magenta grabbing at each other.

The new version has two lesbian relationships -- Frank with Columbia and Janet -- and seven heterosexual  (count them!).  No gay male.

And lesbian relationships are much more acceptable to the heterosexual "male gaze," so they're worth only about half as much in queering the text.

Meanwhile, the Transylvanians dance "The Time Warp" in strictly boy-girl configurations.

In the original, Rocky shows no interest in Frank during "I Can Make You a Man."  In the new version, Staz Nair plays him as obviously into the buxom leading lady.

In the pool scene ("Don't dream it, be it!"), Brad and Rocky look like they are about to kiss, but Janet intervenes.  Boys don't kiss!

This is a heterosexual Rocky Horror.

I don't care if there are  a few rainbow flags scattered about.