The ever-popular Fox show choir series Glee is doing a Rocky Horror themed Halloween episode next week. As a long time Rocky fan, I’m both pleased and dismayed. Pleased, because I think Rocky is good, campy fun and could fit in well with the Glee format. Dismayed because in order for this R-rated story to make it onto broadcast television is going to require some serious changes. I’ve listened to several clips of the episode and notice several things:
- The Riff Raff in the Glee Rocky seems to be based more on the movie “Rocky Horror Picture Show” rather than the vastly superior stylings of the Roxy Cast stage version “The Rocky Horror Show.” Yes, I know everyone knows the movie version better than the stage version, but this is supposed to be a play.
- The fact that that this is a story of of a gay male transvestite building a boyfriend for himself seems to have been eliminated. Consider: The part of Frank ‘n’ Furter (played by Tim Curry on both the stage and screen) is being sung by Amber Riley. She does a great job with “Sweet Transvestite” but… It’s supposed to be sung by the gay male transvestite Dr. Frank ‘n’ Furter. There is a lyric that is supposed to be “I’m just a sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania.” The Glee version is from “Sensational, Transylvania.” Now obviously the story is going to need editing for broadcast, but this goes to the center of the plot. It has been changed from a gay story to a straight story. Sort of like taking “Brokeback Mountain” and making it about a cowboy and a cowgirl. (Or Disney giving Little Shop of Horrors a happy ending….)
- Finally, this is a perfect example of Truth 3 – Everything from the margin moves to the center. Rocky Horror started out as a camp musical in the 70s that found enormous success in the counter-cultural community. Today it has been sanitized from a celebration of cross-dressing gay culture into a mass market story of straights playing with gay themes.