Dammit, Janet — the news of this Rocky Horror remake just won’t quit!
Fans of the 1975 cult classic were filled with a time warp of emotions on Monday when Deadline revealed the news that two more roles have been cast in Fox’s upcoming TV reboot. Victoria Justice will be playing virginal and sweet Janet Weiss, while Ryan McCartan will be portraying Brad Majors, Janet’s conservative fiancé.
So here's my big secret: https://t.co/kKamUzLe3c I'm honored & thrilled to be playing Janet Weiss! Let's do this Kenny Ortega & Lou Adler!
— Victoria Justice (@VictoriaJustice) January 4, 2016
I spent my high school and early college days wearing glitter and flamboyant wigs to local midnight Rocky Horror screenings, and on some level, I’m excited by the possibility of a new generation being introduced to the story of gender-bending aliens that is so dear to my heart. But is this Fox production really a good idea? Not at all. Let’s examine the evidence.
1. You can’t replicate camp
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is one of a kind. It is ridiculously over the top in its expression of free love and inexplicably choreographed line dances. Its low production value and overly emotive performances make it absurdly cheesy. But these are the reasons the film has so many devoted fans. It is the very embodiment of camp, and you can’t duplicate camp. You also can’t intentionally make camp. So either Fox’s Rocky Horror will be trying to recapture the magic (and failing), or it will be missing the point of why the original is so wonderful in the first place.
2. The fun of Rocky Horror is experiencing it live, not in your home
Movie theaters across the country — heck, the world — have been showing Rocky Horror at midnight on weekends and holidays (like Halloween) for decades. Fans yell callbacks at the screen. They throw rice at Brad and Janet. They dance along with actors dressed in costume to the Time Warp. Rocky Horror is a social experience. It’s not something you can appreciate while simultaneously eating dinner or checking email on your couch.
3. Laverne Cox should have been cast as one of the female leads, not as Dr. Frank
The earliest sign that this reboot was doomed came back in October, when it was announced that OITNB star Cox would be playing the sweet transvestite himself, Dr. Frank-N-Furter. But many were quick to point out why this is actually an awful idea. In the original film, Dr. Frank is played by a man (Tim Curry). Though the character wears fishnet stockings and eyeliner, he is addressed with male pronouns. He is a cross-dressing alien who in no way represents the actual lived experience of trans people. Meanwhile, Cox is a woman. She lives as a woman, identifies as a woman and plays women on TV. Why she wasn’t cast as Magenta is beyond me.
4. The movie isn’t exactly appropriate for network television
You just know they are going to censor the heck out of “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me” and that pool orgy in the middle of “Rose Tint My World.” ‘Nuff said.
5. Enough with the musicals already
I love musicals. I love screen adaptations of musicals. But it’s rare that we get something as brilliantly crafted as NBC’s recent The Wiz Live! Usually, we get something a bit sloppier and more awkward. That may be less of a problem in Rocky Horror‘s case, as this production will notably not be a live event, but I’m worried that multi-annual musical events on TV will ruin the specialness of truly excellent productions, like The Wiz.
6. But if you’re going to pick a musical to televise, at least pick a good one
Broadway is expensive. Exposing a national audience to more musical theater is a noble endeavor. So why waste the opportunity on a show that, objectively, isn’t all that good? Rocky Horror is fun camp, not high art. That film version of Into the Woods turned out OK — there’s another Sondheim show that Fox could have considered instead.
7. Whatever happened to original stories?
The real travesty is that we’ve gotten away from telling original stories on TV. No more reboots. No more reimaginings. Let’s just go back to innovative, creative, original storytelling. You can absolutely do that and still feature song-and-dance numbers.
Director Kenny Ortega (of Newsies and High School Musical fame) will be helming the production of Rocky Horror this winter, and the TV special is set to air in the fall. In the meantime, please join me in praying that this won’t be a complete and utter disaster.