Warning to all my “Gleek” friends. You’re not going to like this.
Seriously. If you like “Glee” you might want to stop reading right now.
Okay. I warned you. It is now YOUR fault if you’re offended.
I was recently criticized by someone I know for passing judgements on “Glee” without watching it. (The irony here is, of course, if I were to pass judgement on it WHILE watching it, they would tell me that if I don’t enjoy it, I shouldn’t watch it…but I digress.) I have seen two (and about a third) episodes prior to the following. I don’t really recall what happened in the episodes I saw—which speaks volumes—but by and large, I’ve found the show irritating, but harmless. Well…I was very vocal about not liking that they were going to do a “Rocky Horror” themed episode, and was told I shouldn’t be so dismissive and critical without at least watching the thing.
Challenge accepted. I watched it.
I was not pleased, either as a 20 year “Rocky Horror Picture Show” fan, or as a member of a society that allows this show to be broadcast. Following is a point by point write-up (close to in order of how it happened during the show) of the things I thought were worth mentioning in the show. Some of them—surprisingly—ARE positive. But you’ve probably figured out by now that they’re the minority. I know I went in thinking it was going to suck—so I wasn’t very open-minded, and I apologize for that…but I think the points I raise below are valid. They were written during my second viewing of the show. My first viewing was done on a “prove me wrong” basis, with no notes taken.
Let’s go…sorry this is so ridiculously long…but the messed with something I’ve loved for more than 2/3 of my life. They had to pay.
1. If there were a stage company that could put on a production that looked like Glee’s did (in the beginning of the episode), I’d go see it. But I don’t buy that this came out of a high school’s budget. For that matter, it is an absolutely impossible leap in logic for any of us who ever WENT to school to believe that a glee-club would ever be allowed to touch the “Rocky Horror” material in the first place. Let’s face it, even the show itself—which is on in prime-time—had to butcher lyrics and content beyond repair to put the show on. No WAY is this thing happening in a high school. They were so hindered by the problem of even getting this thing on air that they had to shoe-horn in dialogue addressing it being impossible to do this play in high school. It was badly executed and took us out of a moment in which, frankly, we should not have found ourselves in the first place.
2. They did a good job with the “Emma” character being a representation of the newly exposed viewer of the movie–in some ways, their own Janet. And there ends most of my appreciation for the show…
3. I know they’ve done stuff to make the kid in the wheelchair “fit in” before (and I saw some of that, and thought it came off just barely shy of tasteless…). But having the kid in the wheelchair immediately cast as Dr. Scott, even to his own reluctance with a gloss-over joke about it actually crossed that line. Absolutely tasteless. I can just hear it in the writer’s room. “Oh! And we’ve already got a guy in a wheelchair! Yay!” They even went the extra step of having that character be the one to explain how to do the steps to “The Time Warp” at the end of the episode. And that was really funny! Y’know…’cause he can’t walk! [/sarcasm]
4. The mockery of the (presumably) gay kid who doesn’t want to play the Frank N Furter role pretty much negated everything they did when they got on their soapbox in an earlier episode about how bad it is to use the word “fag.” The kid’s gay (I think…I’m basing that on the stereotypes I’m assuming they gave him intentionally). He’s not a transvestite. To assume that he SHOULD play that role based solely on his sexuality, then make a joke about how he won’t do it because fishnets are “last year’s” style demeans both the gay and cross-dressing communities (which do NOT intersect as much as you might think they would). I’m a straight, non-cross-dressing man who has, I admit, made more than one gay joke in my time…but even I was bothered by that. (Apologies if the kid’s not supposed to be gay and I’m assuming based on stereotype alone…but that seems to be where this show has set the bar, so I’m assuming I’m right about it.)
5. Okay. Quite probably the most disturbing part of the whole travesty was the portrayal of the “Finn” character as being “fat” (sic). “Finn” IS NOT FAT. They made fun of his weight throughout the whole show, with NO-ONE correcting it…in fact most of them seem to agree that he IS fat. He’s even called “Baby Huey” and “Pillsbury Doughboy” at different points in the show. All it would have taken would be ONE line from someone saying, “Oh come on. You’re not fat. It’s all in your head.” But they didn’t do that. All they did was have random characters say things like, “Just be who you are” with the implication being “and who you are is a fat guy.”
Tell you what…take a look at the guy. (Images “borrowed” from here.)
Does he look fat? I’d say quite the opposite. Now…I don’t know…maybe they’re trying to deal with his unrealistic body-image issues throughout an ongoing series arc. But as a guy who watched ONE episode this season, I didn’t see that. I saw a show telling it’s teen/tween audience that the above pictures represent a fat kid. What the hell kind of body-image do the producers of “Glee” want young people (and their soccer-mom-shaped moms) to have? Apparently in the “Gleek” world, this kid should be playing “Fat Bastard” instead of “Brad Majors.” (Asshole! Sorry…force of habit.)
6. Meat Loaf (you’ll notice I spelled it like it’s spelled in the RHPS credits) and Bostwick were nice to see…but frankly, I feel a little bit like they’ve sold their souls, especially considering how much both of them have defended “Rocky Horror” and its messages over the years. My only hope is that they had no prior knowledge of the disturbing social messages this show is sending.
7. Moving on… I already talked about how no high school would be able to get away with ANY of the show. However, this is perhaps most evident when they have them singing “Dammit Janet.” I’ve been out of high school for a decent chunk of time, and I’m aware that things have changed since my senior year…but are they really allowed to casually say “damn” in classes now? I thought that still got you a talking-to, possible detention, and/or possible trip to the principal. But I guess we were supposed to be so thrilled with hearing the song that it didn’t occur to us that the word “damn” would be one of the first edits they would’ve had to make in the dialogue.
8. Continuing down the path of idiocy, I couldn’t help but notice the use of the word “tranny.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s not a funny word. Working in trucking insurance, I hear repair shops use the word “tranny” fairly regularly (referring to a vehicle’s transmission), and I giggle every time. …so I’m going to be a little bit of a hypocrite on this one… But the producers of Glee were recently applauded by every GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bacon and Tomato) group out there for their condemnation of the word “fag.” But apparently, the producers don’t care too much about people who are in other places in their sexuality. The word “tranny” is considered very, very offensive in the transvestite/transgender community…and it wasn’t addressed. It was just a punchline.
9. On a positive note… John Stamos is always welcome in my house. Though I think he sang better back when he was Uncle Jesse. (His version of “Hot Patootie” just didn’t have any grit to it…) But still…good to see him, and I felt like he actually respected the source material, what little there was left of it.
10. This is going to sound like I’m nit-picking to some people… But I think it is wrong to cast a female as Frank N Furter. Frank N Furter dresses in drag and sings about how proud HE is to be a “Sweet Transvestite.” In the show, I saw a girl (who—I notice—they DIDN’T mention was fat, and actually said she was going to look sexy in the costume; no offense to her) in women’s clothing singing about being a transvestite…which she clearly isn’t. (I also saw some boob and crotch-grabbing that took me out of the scene.) Plus, the alterations to the lyrics of “Sweet Transvestite” were just laughable. They changed “I’m not much of a man…” to “I’m not much of a girl…” I guess they felt the need to do that because she’s—y’know—a girl…but she’s supposed to be a transvestite…so if that’s the new line, then why wasn’t she in a business suit? Or why not a jock-strap? They also changed the GEOGRAPHICAL NAME (per the song lyrics) of “Transsexual Transylvania” to “Sensational Transylvania.” Yikes. Apparently “transvestite,” “tranny,” and even “fag” if it’s used negatively are acceptable…but we’d better pretend that transsexuals don’t exist.
On the plus side, the girl’s got a hell of a voice—although I did not appreciate some of the stylistic changes. I do feel bad about pointing out her weight above…but I wouldn’t have even noticed it if they hadn’t made such a big deal of the thin kid being a “Pillsbury Doughboy.” And being a heavy guy myself, I try to give people—except for Rush Limbaugh—a break on their weight issues. But they just went and put it out there with one (thin) character and then didn’t address it with a different character whose body shape is more like what you’ll actually see in most high schools. So I noticed. Sorry to that girl (whatever her name is). I mean no harm. It’s not her fault. It’s the show’s.
11. I will grant them that Riff looked pretty good. Didn’t even mind the small costume changes made to him. Thought it worked well, and he at least looked better than most of the shadow-cast Riffs I’ve seen over the years.
12. I’m not really sure why they even attempted to do “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a Touch Me.” The lyrical slashing was ridiculous and seemingly random. “Heavy-petting” was changed to “heavy sweating,” which actually seems MORE graphic to me. “Seat wetting” changes to “bad fretting” which I get, but it seemed sloppy. “If anything grows” was changed to “if anything shows” which doesn’t make much sense. And most confusingly, “you need a friendly hand…” was changed to “I need a friendly man.” while, “I need action” was LEFT ALONE for some reason… Seems like “I need action” is much more suggestive than “you need a friendly hand,” isn’t it? Also, I had troubles in this scene because I was left wondering just how close the “Will” character was going to get to becoming a rapist before they stopped the show. And also I was puzzled as to why the two virtually masturbating cheerleaders outside of the window watching one of their teachers strip another one wasn’t a problem for the censors.
13. Sadly, the whole of this episode was summed up for me by something that “Sue Sylvester” (aka – Dr. House with a vagina) said regarding artists… “When pushing boundaries is their only aim, it’s usually bad art.” Well said. That’s all “Glee” tried to do with this episode, and it’s one of the worst 45 minutes I’ve spent on the Internet in at LEAST a day and a half.
14. The principal at the school says after the apparently morbidly obese “Finn” walks down the hall in his boxer shorts that (as a result) nine kids signed up for after-school therapy and grief counselors were brought in because of it… Okay. Good joke. But it did leave me wondering what kind of backwards society they live in? What are they, in Missouri or something?
15. Perhaps the most damning evidence of why no one from “Glee” should ever touch an official “Rocky Horror” remake (which shouldn’t be made in the first place) is “Will’s” speech toward the end of the episode (right before the semi-decent though not accurate version of “Time Warp”). Will says to the Gleeks: “Rocky Horror isn’t about pushing boundaries or making an audience accept a certain rebellious point of view…” Uhh… Yeah. It kind of is. I mean, he was right about the show being for outcasts, TOO… But one of the main points to the movie (aside from “don’t dream it…be it”—which was barely even mentioned in the show) was to put controversial, unconventional things in front of an audience and make them DEAL with it. Every viewer is supposed to enter the show AS Brad and Janet, and like the characters, we are supposed to be left to deal with what we’ve just experienced. That’s what ALL good art does—and YES, I’m calling “Rocky Horror” art. The director of “Glee” missed the point of the movie, missed the point of ART in general, and there’s no WAY he should be given the helm of a remake.
I am less bothered by the edits I knew they would have to make to the content and lyrics of the source material than I am by the message this show seems to be sending. I am not a regular viewer of “Glee.” I’m one of the people who would NEVER watch the show if not for them doing things like this episode. And what message did I get? If you can’t see your ribs, you’re fat. Kids in wheelchairs, gays, and transsexuals are comedy gold. And it is NOT okay to be different.
At the end of the show, “Will” decides that they will not do the show for an audience, but they will perform it for themselves, behind closed doors. Thus, the kids aren’t allowed to be “different” in public…they’ve got to hide their eccentricity, individualism, and picture-perfect abs away and never share them with anyone unless they’re absolutely SURE they’re all on the same page. The show spit in the face of “Rocky Horror,” sure. But more than that, it spit in the face of anyone who has ever had their particular passion, hobby, or favorite movie cause them to be labeled an outcast.
As a proud outcast, I’m not sure I’ve ever been so offended by a TV show in my life.