The Rocky Horror Picture Show is being remade and nobody appears to be happy about it. I mean that’s usually how it goes with remakes, but this one really has people upset. Like Ghostbusters reboot upset. Usually projects like these tend to split fans down the middle, with some people looking forward to it and others outraged at its very existence, but I’ve yet to see anyone come out of the woodwork in support of this one. If anyone does appear to be looking forward to it, they’re keeping suspiciously quiet. Part of that surely has to do with the fact that the people who don’t want this remake to happen are very loud and very passionate. It’s as loud as I’ve seen people since the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Which is somewhat baffling to me because this is a TV presentation. If it actually does turn out to be bad, it’s going to be forgotten, even though it’s a huge title and people will remember it for a while, it could still easily fade into obscurity. The first remake of Carrie is better than the second, but most people don’t even know that the first remake exists because it aired on TV. Horror fans on the Internet are constantly commenting and posting things like “Wait, they made a remake of The Shining?” because as huge a title as it is, that remake was made-for-TV. It will take a lot for this Rocky Horror remake to be remembered. But the worst thing that can happen to any film is for it to fade into obscurity.
I think this new version has to set itself apart visually because it looks like it’s sticking to the original script almost word for word, from everything we’ve seen so far. The lines in the trailer were the same as the original, delivered with the original intonation. Considering that no remake should try to be exactly the same as the first feature, creating a different and distinct visual look for this version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a smart idea.
When you look at the way this appears to be performed, it’s not that different than just another group performing Rocky. While most people are treating this title as a sacred cow, the truth is that Rocky Horror is one of the most often adapted properties in the world. There are performances going on all the time around the country, even around the globe. Yes, these shadow casts act out in tandem with the film playing on the screen behind them, but they still contain other actors of all ethnicities and gender identities playing those roles all the time. There are plenty of stage adaptations as well, without the feature playing in the background. Shadow casts will frequently find ways to change things up, whether by changing the costumes or having themed shows, so that people aren’t always getting the same experience.
This remake is doing exactly that, but on a larger scale. It’s not a threat to the original. This new version of Rocky Horror will not force the longest-running-theatrical movie into retirement, mostly because, again, it’s made for television. When people go see a midnight showing, they’re going to see people shadow casting the original, not the remake. There’s no harm here. This production is honoring the first, as much as people would like to say the opposite. It’s honoring it much more than most remakes do.
For example, so many fans are complaining that you cannot replace Tim Curry and that a Rocky Horror reboot could never happen without his involvement. Apparently those people are forgetting or just ignoring the fact that he’s in the movie. Even while recovering from his recent stroke, Tim Curry is on board for the remake and is playing the part of the criminologist. That’s more of a nod to the original than most remakes make. Robert Englund wanted to have a cameo in the Elm Street redux, but he didn’t get one. Here, Curry doesn’t even cameo, he simply plays another classic role from the original.
Of course, it would be naïve of me to go without mentioning Laverne Cox, the person who is actually—according the Internet—stealing Curry’s iconic role from him. People are saying a whole lot of things about this actress and this role and how unfit she is for it, and quite a bit of what they’re saying is stuff I wouldn’t even want to repeat here. There’s a lot of hate for her and I’m going to weed through the most outrightly bigoted stuff to get to the major issue, which is that people believe Frank should be played by a man because Frank N Furter is supposed to be a transvestite and therefore should not be played by a transgender actress. It ties into the other argument, that a white male character should not be played by a black woman.
That stuff is trivial and, honestly, is kind of getting tired. It’s weird that we have the exact same argument with the casting of the Human Torch in Fantastic Four that we have for Frank N Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The only thing they have in common is the fact that they’re black, this argument shouldn’t even be happening. What harm is there, really, in racebent casting? It doesn’t make any difference.
There’s nothing inherently white to Frank’s character—he’s an alien. And as for the fact that Frank in the original is a transvestite—well, that’s a 1974 term. It’s not really a part of the cultural vocabulary anymore. In fact, it’s pretty widely regarded as a slur, so it’s not a part of the original we need to honor. And I’m sure the remake will use the word, even still. But having a transgender actor at the forefront is the biggest thing the Rocky Horror remake could do to tie into everything the original film was actually about.
We just don’t know enough about it at this point to truly justify getting as upset as we appear to be. Most of the reaction to the remake so far seems to be outrage for the sake of outrage. It’s a new thing. It’s its own thing. And I think the smartest thing it could do is what it appears to be doing, and that’s to set itself apart from the original with a different look and visual style, while keeping true to what made the first so iconic. Just because this is Rocky Horror for a new generation doesn’t mean the original is out of date.
After all, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is for every generation as showings around the country continue to prove on a weekly basis. If there’s any movie that will outlast its remake, it’s this one. And that’s not just because it’s made for television.