Let’s be clear about something: The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not good. No, I'm not referring to the most recent Kenny Ortega-helmed iteration that's the focus of this piece; Richard O’Brien’s original stage play slash cult movie is not good -- and that’s the point. Have you ever heard the phrase ‘the planet Transsexual in the galaxy Transylvania’ and thought, ‘damn, that's good writing’? Exactly.
Now that we’ve got that blasphemy out of the way, RHPS does have it’s own bizarre charm and quirky appeal. The songs are ridiculously catchy, the characters and plot are so nonsensical and disjointed that it’s fun, and the whole production has this air of ‘what is even going on?’ that’s incredibly entertaining. Stir in some representation -- albeit maybe not the most ideal -- for the underrepresented (especially at the time of the original release) LGBT community, and you've got an instant cult classic. The admittedly bad writing does not hinder the musical in any way -- I actually believe it has helped its success immensely, and is perhaps one the largest driving factors of the play’s popularity. However, that popularity -- the film’s, in particular -- could be the biggest downfall for this ‘remake.’
See, the problem with wanting to do a new version of a cult classic will always be the fans, and fans of Rocky Horror are notoriously die-hard. Everyone’s seen the film, everyone's seen stage versions inspired heavily by the film -- but Ortega’s vision came straight from the actual 1973 script and score, including some occasional polite homages to the film. I believe this is the only way this could have been done. No, Reeve Carney didn't mumble the opening lines to the Time Warp -- Richard O’Brien did, but the score indicates that it’s supposed to be sung. No, the infamous dance wasn’t the same -- the score lists certain steps that must be followed, not a complete specific choreography. No, Laverne Cox didn't wear Tim Curry’s iconic black and red corset, and no, Annaleigh Ashford didn't play Columbia the same way as Little Nell, and no… you get the idea.
That being said, The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again is well-done. Love it or hate it, the casting is phenomenal and every aspect from set design to props was done extremely well. No one involved in this production did a poor job, and the end result was a polished, professional and slick Rocky Horror TV film -- exactly what you'd expect to see in 2016. If the original movie hadn't existed and narrowed people’s minds on it, fans of the musical would be perfectly satisfied with this iteration. It's fine. It's enjoyable, it's extremely stage-accurate, and it's gleeful and fun.
I didn't want to mention it, but how can we talk about this production without bringing up the Laverne Cox controversy? If you're out of the loop, Laverne is a transgender woman that’s playing the role of the transsexual Dr. Frank-N-Furter. This stirred up a lot of strong emotions all around, but here’s my piece: Laverne is a strong role model for the transgender community. She has consistently shown that a transgender woman can do anything anyone else can do. On top of that, RHPS stage productions are known for ignoring gender and sexuality. It's really not all that unheard of to see a male Magenta or a lady Dr. Scott. Put those two together, and it doesn't matter if she is playing the mad scientist as male or female. If Laverne, a transgender female, is unoffended by the casting of a transgender female in a traditionally transsexual male role, you really shouldn’t be either. No one forced her to take the part. This is a huge step for inclusivity, and suggesting that it would be more effective to cast a cisgender male in the role for any reason at all is quite a step backwards for the LGBT community.
Essentially, the big problem people have with this movie is a) that it’s not the 1975 film, and b) that it doesn't try to be. But do you think anyone would be more appreciative if they did try? Do you think people would have cried tears of joy to see a modern shot-for-shot remake? This movie was doomed to be loathed from the second it was announced, because people were destined to compare it to impossible standards nothing could ever live up to. Isn't it ironic that fans of the most unapologetically inclusive musical can be the ones most closed-minded about it?