I had my resentments from the beginning of the remake of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, even more so when they cast Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank N Furter, but tonight, I sat down with some shadow cast mates and watched the whole thing.
I will start out by reviewing most of the movie itself, and then move on to the issues surrounding Laverne’s role. But let’s get started.
The way they opened up the movie, having an Usherette perform “Science Fiction, Double Feature” as they do in productions of the original stage show, was a nice homage to the movie’s origins. The singer wasn’t bad and she had the attitude you’d expect- half-assing her job and having a carefree appearance. The scene showed her and an audience gathering in a theatre to watch the movie on the screen.
However, that’s where my full pleasure stops. As the wedding scene begins, we start to see the issues with the movie. Mainly, Ryan McCartan as Brad Majors. Though Brad is an awkward character who’s very set in his traditional views and ways, McCartan played the role with as much charisma as that one guy in your history class who always volunteers to read from the textbook, but struggles quite often. There was little to no emotion behind his line delivery. Victoria Justice as Janet Weiss was another huge error. She’s one of the pioneers of the generic pop stars/child actors that stream from Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. Her singing was popish and overdone.
“..seeing Tim Curry as the Criminologist was that special thing to hit home in hearts of all Rocky fans and performers.”
Though they barely featured him in as many scenes as Charles Gray, seeing Tim Curry as the Criminologist was that special thing to hit home in hearts of all Rocky fans and performers. Since Tim is sadly paralyzed in most of his body following a stroke in 2013, they had a woman be his assistant. She did things like showing the book containing the “Denton Affair”, dancing the Time Warp on the desk, and keeping the scene going where Tim could not do so.
However, the specialness of Tim’s appearance was marred by the constant cutting back to the audience from the opening scene doing callouts or throwing props. I felt Fox was trying to cash in on the cultural phenomenon of shadow casting.
After a rather fast paced car scene, we get to the castle- which looks like an abandoned movie theatre. In a way, I liked that. I felt it was as if to say because of the movie’s popularity, the characters were still trapped in the castle, which was inside the theatre.
At the first glance at Riff Raff, played by Reeve Carney, the first thing to be noticed is his full head of luscious hair. He has been taken over by what I call, “Hollywood Hottie Syndrome”- a condition where something that’s supposed to be creepy or grotesque is made into eye candy for the purpose of selling. However, I admired Reeve’s rock-n-roll vocal style. While some feel he was trying to emulate Richard O’Brien, I feel he brought more vocal skill to the role, and just the right amount of insanity in his movements.
Then there was Magenta, played by Christina Millian- or as many of you might know her as the woman who sang the theme song to the Disney Channel cartoon, Kim Possible. While her voice isn’t bad, nor is it anything seriously special, what really lacked was her acting, as well as her charisma. Half the time, I’d forget she was on screen, even during a number such as the Time Warp, where it’s permanently drilled into my memory that she’s supposed to be there.
The way the Transylvanians were dressed made me feel like I’d stumbled onto St Mark’s Place in NYC. Usually, they’re dressed in some uniform way, with a vague, unsettling vibe to them. Here, it was punk clothing and brightly colored mohawks- a fashion I admire and sometimes post myself, but not good for this role. The song was sung pretty weakly, and I was happy to see them collapse at the end.
“Then, out came Laverne with a headpiece that can only be described as “Ra the Sun God.”
Then, out came Laverne with a headpiece that can only be described as “Ra the Sun God.” As her cape is removed to reveal the sparkling red lingerie outfit, my producer commented, “No shock value at all!” to which I have to agree. With Frank N Furter’s usual entrance, there is a mystery to his clothing, and then a “whoa!” moment when his corset, stockings and garter belt are revealed. Though they kept the same song, “Sweet Transvestite”, Laverne in the role certainly stirs up mass confusion. Though I have seen women playing Frank, even a couple of a trans women, they usually dress in Frank’s signature look and try to masculinize their appearance in some way. Here, there was no attempt to masculinize her, which makes you wonder why she’s referring to herself as transvestite. Also, she certainly needs work in the singing department.
Columbia, played by Annaleigh Ashford, seemed like she popped a few Xanax before doing her lines. Columbia is supposed to be bubbly, child-like in some ways, and hyperactive. She may even seem bored with what’s currently happening and want the next thing to come. Ashford, however, didn’t seem bored, she seemed completely without the ability to feel emotion, and didn’t seem to give any mind to Frank, whom she’s supposed to be in love with.
Then we get to the lab scene, and good God, I thought Laverne was wearing a Cruella de Vil cosplay that went wrong. Rocky was brought to life out of an icebox, which seemed overly bizarre and along with Riff Raff, I can say Staz Nair was certainly a saving grace. For once, we had a Rocky who could actually sing. We soon see Eddie, played by Adam Lambert, and it was an interesting scene- him riding in on his motorcycle through the window, jamming with a band and having a very lively scene. But then Frank grabs a knife. Compared to the original, where Eddie was chased back into the freezer where he had been before Frank murders him with a pick-ax, Laverne stabbed Eddie with a knife, with him giving an expression of, “Really? This is how I die?” before he falls back through the window.
“Both scenes were overacted and needlessly panned out.”
With the bedroom scenes, there was no hesitation from Janet whatsoever, and her “resistance” to Frank’s advances seemed to be foreplay from a lame porno. With Brad, it seemed more rape than anything, where as Brad is supposed to be hesitant, but ultimately says, “As long as you don’t tell, go ahead!” Both scenes were overacted and needlessly panned out.
In contrast to most of the scenes, I feel Touch-a was underacted! There was a serious lack of chemistry between Janet and Rocky, and their touching just seemed aimless and awkward- okay, more awkward than needed to be!
After they dragged in Dr. Scott, played by Ben Vereen, for another over the top performance, they had the dinner scene. After having Columbia ruin the “meatloaf for dinner again??” joke, (a reference joke used by many fans about the singer, Meatloaf, playing Eddie in the original movie) they had an overdrawn out singing of the song, “Eddie.” This was one of the few moments Columbia showed any real emotion. Brad stopped acting like a teenager who can barely read and mostly had a look of sheer regret on his face.
When Frank revealed Eddie’s body under the tablecloth, I lost myself laughing- Adam’s face was priceless! Instead of a mangled body, he had a smug look with a cocked eyebrow.
Frank chasing Janet during “Planet, Schmanet, Janet!” was surprisingly very good! With Frank being so casually cruel, going so far as to knock Janet down, kick her around, and even drag her by her hair, all with a look of nonchalance!
But that stopped when a short time later, Janet asked Dr. Scott, “You mean, she’s going to send us to another planet?”
She. Frank N Furter was referred to as she. This made my blood boil.
“…they kept the song ‘Sweet Transvestite’ but kept referring to Frank as ‘she’.”
Saving the detail on the floor show scene and how ridiculous the costumes were, I want to address an important aspect- how they kept the song “Sweet Transvestite” but kept referring to Frank as “she”. We need to address the issue of Laverne Cox, a known transgender actress, playing the role of Frank N Furter, a transvestite, and referring to “said character” as female.
For the uninitiated, transvestite is a term used to describe people (more often than not, men.) who cross dress for sexual reasons. There is a humungous contrast of that and a transgender woman, such as Laverne.
My issue from the start has not changed, and that being society still blurs the line between sexuality and gender identity, and even more so between transvestite and trans woman. Though, as I’ve been recently informed, many transvestites of the 1970s would have been transgender women today. However, this is not the 70s and we have countless transgender women living as they see fit. Even so, there is still clearly malice towards transgender people, especially transgender women, (even more specifically, transgender women of color) and this is the time where we need to be able to have a clear, discernible difference between the two terms, not blur the line even more so.
“…they referred to the character with feminine pronouns, making the transvestite angle pointless.”
There are still people who feel transitioning is a sex and fetish related thing; which is what being a transvestite is all about, but not being transgender! As I mentioned before, there was no attempt to masculinize Laverne and they referred to the character with feminine pronouns, making the transvestite angle pointless, and only included to appeal to the fan base that has formed over the past forty-one years.
Another issue was the fact that during the bedroom scenes, they indicated that she has a penis. While that normally is a common thing for transgender women to be either pre-bottom surgery, or are just not having bottom surgery, with one scene being more porno-likeand the other seemingly like rape, it enforces the idea that transgender people are only for fetishes or are perverts- need I bring up the bathroom issues that have been such a hot topic this past year?
While I applaud Laverne for taking on a role of such high expectations and daring to further break the rigid ideas of gender norms, this is far from the right way to do it. She is not a transvestite, she is a trans woman. As annoying, tedious and sometimes hopeless as properly educating the general public on transgender issues can feel, we need to keep in mind it’s still a huge necessity. I can guarantee there are those out there who feel their ideas of transgender people just being “perverts’” have been reinforced tonight.