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Glee's "Rocky Horror:" Not So Horrific After All
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29 Oct 2010 EST

- by Drew Kolar, Staff Writer

Controversy is a major issue in the arts. Whether it’s over the content or to the group performing it, there will always be some opposition to a risqué production. My high school experience in a college production of the musical Hair in 2004, featuring onstage nudity (yes, I participated), faced some community backlash, but for a small town in West Virginia, the production was a major step in opening minds and eyes to art beyond censorship. Similarly, this week’s episode of Glee focused on a production of The Rocky Horror Show and the issues surrounding it.

Let me get this out of the way: I’m not a fan of Glee. To be honest, the show makes everything too cheesy for its own good, and the singing sounds way too forced and clean. On that note, Glee’s Rocky Horror episode makes more sense than others in terms of plot, but as a fairly dedicated Rocky fan—I painted a Rocky mural on my high school theatre department’s door and have “Don’t dream it. Be it.” tattooed on my arm—there’s some obvious bias.

We’ll start with the good side. True to form, the episode opened with the lips we all associate with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Guest appearances by original cast members Barry Bostwick (“Brad”) and Meat Loaf (“Eddie”) were a welcome nod to the film as well, and throwing in John Stamos didn’t hurt. Musically, the cast generally held true to the songs and style, with only a few unfortunate, flinch-worthy edits. Most importantly, however, the show made some accurate and insightful remarks on censorship.

The episode was both about pushing the envelope and about self-discovery. The main concern was the question, “Is Rocky too suggestive for high school students?” Perhaps it is. In West Virginia, the production of Hair was at the community college—my high school barely acknowledged its existence, other than a few teachers who spoke out against it. Ohio is not much different, so it is easy to see why they faced ridicule from teachers, parents and community leaders. The idea of being scantily clad onstage was also a concern to both Finn and Sam, while another character pulled out because his parents wouldn’t let him dress as a transvestite.

American censorship also took a bit of a toll, particularly on “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me,” in which many of the suggestive lyrics were softened (“heavy petting” became “heavy sweating,” while “seat wetting” became “bad fretting”—seriously?). Also, while censorship isn’t to blame, the edits to “Sweet Transvestite” were horrible; a female Frank is fine, but changing the line to “I’m not much of a girl by the light of day” nullifies the term “transvestite.” Quinn’s singing for the Magenta role during “Time Warp” was also irritating, and overall, the entire cast’s vocal performance was way too polished for a gritty rock musical.

Meanwhile, is it just me, or is Will Schuster always a bit of a selfish prick (at least in every episode I’ve seen)?

 

All gripes aside, one great thing has come of this Glee episode: the show has exposed the awesomeness of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to a wider, younger audience. While some Glee fans may not totally get it and have probably never seen the movie, maybe new Rocky virgins will check it out. Even if the episode was a bit too “teeny-bopper” for its own good, they did their best to pay homage to a classic that has been going strong for 35 years. Let’s just pray that the rumored MTV remake doesn’t ruin it for everyone.

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