My girlfriend's a big Glee fan. I watch it with her now and again -- it's a little poppy for my tastes, and has gotten too big too fast, but it's not bad; there's some good singin' and dancin' and I've loved me some Jane Lynch since Best in Show.
So last night I did what any self-respecting owner of a Denton High Class of 1963 jacket (if that's not an oxymoron) would do: I watched the Rocky Horror episode. And...I am deeply ambivalent about it.
The singing, dancing, choreography, and costumes were generally great...but to say there were compromises for network TV is an understatement. Yes, I understand that twelve-year-olds watch this show, but not to put too fine a point on it, they just did Rocky Horror with no cross-dressing. Seriously. That happened.
I mean, I'm all for letting a woman play Frank-N-Furter; I've seen some great female Franks in my time (and the best version of Dammit Janet I've ever seen was performed by a female Brad). But Rocky Horror without a single man in fishnets? Basically a contradiction in terms, and rather odd coming from a show that hasn't exactly shied away from drag before.
And then there are the bowdlerized lyrics. Some of them are incoherent -- what the fuck is "heavy sweating"? -- while others change some of the best-known lines in the show. "I'm a sweet transvestite from sensational Transylvania"? What, you can say "transvestite" but not "transexual"? Especially odd given that they used the derogatory version, "tranny", in an earlier scene. (Giving them the benefit of the doubt: as any Rocky cast member can tell you, "Tranny" is also short for "Transylvanian".)
On the other hand, the bowdlerizations made sense in the context of the show's plot, and were fairly clever from a metafictional standpoint. After all, the whole episode revolves around the simple fact that no public high school, anywhere, would ever actually put on Rocky Horror; the show being too kinky for public school works as a metaphor for it being too kinky for this timeslot, and also gives an in-plot explanation for why the lyrics are changed.
But...is it really too kinky for the timeslot? I've seen Rocky on broadcast TV, in prime time, nearly uncut. Hell, The Simpsons put Dr. Hibbert in Frank-N-Furter garb in 1995, and The Drew Carey Show did the same with Diedrich Bader two years later. Maybe Glee has a younger audience than those shows, but it doesn't seem like it's that much younger. And hell, didn't the slutty cheerleaders just make a reference to scissoring each other a couple of weeks ago?
And it's frankly a little mind-boggling that Rocky Horror would even be controversial after 35 years. Somewhere, I'm sure Richard O'Brien is counting his money and having a good chuckle at the fact that it still freaks out TV producers after all this time.
All in all...well, it was fun, the songs were nicely done, and if this introduces some 12-year-olds to Rocky for the first time, good on it. But on the other, the spirit of the work is clearly missing, and, most problematically, the core "It's okay to be different" message becomes "It's okay to be different (as long as you don't do anything more scandalous than walking around in boxers)." (Boxers. They didn't even put Brad in briefs, dammit.) Glee's been pretty gutsy in its positive portrayals of the LGB community up to this point, so it's just weird that it would suddenly get squeamish when the "T" rolled around.
If you'll forgive me an annoying, smug movie review-style closer: the message here seems to be "Don't be it, dream it."