Widgets Magazine
FOX’s ‘Rocky Horror’: Let’s do the Time Warp? Let’s not.
A scene from FOX's revival of 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.' Photo: Steve Wilkie/FOX.

FOX’s ‘Rocky Horror’: Let’s do the Time Warp? Let’s not.

It’s 2016. 3nder is a thing (look it up if you haven’t already). To sex or not: The answer is at your left/right swiping fingertips. Then there’s the visibility of queer issues — gay marriage, transgender bathroom bills, a slow toppling of the old hypermasculine order. The original “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” of course, has been a notable precursor to this, providing a liminal space for its virgin participants to bask in its bodice-ripping antics, to be liberated. When its audience took to the streets, the movie inspired Frank-N-Furter drag, midnight movies madness, and open talk. It was a rare expansion of queer space in the 70s, understood by a wink and a nudge. Yet FOX’s remake conforms more to the plot than to the spirit; it’s a prudish remake that at best (ironically) begs the question, “What does it do for the audience now?”

The first great irony reveals itself in the rendition of fan-favorite “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me”. In the 1975 original, Janet and her muscular counterpart, Rocky, share the screen with Michelangelo’s David — the rosy walls blending in with their bodies, fluid and linked. It is soft, smoldering eroticism at its best. Skip forward 40 years, the bodies of Janet (Victoria Justice) and Rocky (Staz Nair) are glowing, but not with lust. It’s their fake tan, the gold canopy of the bed, and Covergirl-style lighting. Every stroke seems measured, choreographed. The best part is when they hold hands and start jumping on the bed like overexcited teenagers who’ve just deflowered their lips.

Then there’s Laverne Cox as Frank-N-Furter, the (wo)man, the myth, the legend — or is it? Cox makes her entrance like a giant vinyl bat in “Sweet Transvestite,” lowered down by, lo and behold, a crane. Strutting around in flaming-red hair, she lacks the vulnerability and the menace of the original Frank-N-Furter, who, done up in the messy curls and loose bustier laces, was a diva spiraling towards eventual destruction. Cox’s “I’m Going Home” — originally sung with melting mascara and over-the-top pathos — is more reminiscent of the musical “Chicago”’s glitter-fest “Nowadays”. It’s obvious that she’s entered the wrong set. Someone direct her to the Beyonce music video shoot, please.

While it’s great that FOX included the first transgender actress in a major TV show in its remake, they also fail to see that the relationship between the original Frank-N-Furter and Rocky is now fundamentally heterosexual. The “radical” idea of a cross-dressing man creating another man as his sex toy is obliterated. And the rest follows. What’s supposed to be a kiss between Brad and Rocky is never quite there (their noses brush). Visibility of LGBTQ issues in the original doesn’t mean that it’s open to invasion and sanitization, for the masses to get a kick out of a movie that once thrived on its in-your-face queer sexuality.

It’s in fact this thrown-together mess of sex, sexuality, set design, and soundtrack of “Rocky Horror” that is its crowning charm. But when a kitschy movie becomes overproduced, it becomes bland. FOX throws a lot of things at the screen: a rainbow flag on the wall, a meta-movie audience that shouts out lines, multiple backup singers adorned in glitter and glam — yet it never gives us the real meat, the outrageous sexuality or incorporation of contemporary LGBT issues. All that sound and fury, and for what? We’ve been thrown a bone, empty of marrow.

When Tim Curry, playing the criminologist, drones for the last time, “And crawling on the planet’s face, some insects called the human race. Lost in time. And lost in space … and meaning,” we know he means it.

Contact Elaine Kim at elainekm@stanford.edu.

About Elaine Kim

Elaine Kim is a frosh who hopes to decide on a high-returns major. Her classmates often tell her, “I could never have guessed you were NOT American!” As a South Korean native, she has ambiguous feelings about this. She once wrote such a scathing article about her school facilities that city officials stepped in to investigate. She has also been kicked out of a classroom for her nonstop critique about the movie that was playing. Since then, she has decided to channel her fault-finding talents into the cinema world. Look where she is now. Top of the world, Ma!