Dear Glee Producers,
When we heard you were going to devote an entire episode of your show — of which we are big fans — to the cult classic Rocky Horror — of which we are also big fans — we were beyond excited. We expected to find small things to nitpick, and we did: the way you cut short “Science Fiction/Double Feature” in the opening sequence, the way you replaced “heavy petting” and “seat wetting” with “heavy sweating” and the totally nonsensical “bad fretting” in “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” (you do realize it was an adult singing those lines, right?), etc. But we never expected an episode we so greatly looked forward to would end up pissing us off so damn much.
There was a lot to love, sure. Who didn’t think Sue Sylvester and the hysteria-mongers who run cable news were a match made in satire heaven? And it was a stroke of genius to have Mercedes do Dr. Frank-N-Furter. First of all, her performance of “Sweet Transvestite” was the best number of the night, a thoroughly successful update. It was great to watch her confidently slip into Frank-N-Furter’s corset and totally own it. The subplot that had Finn and Sam obsessing over their bodies (partly because girls watch internet porn and develop unrealistic expectations) was delightful in the way it translated the gender-fucked world of Rocky Horror to a 21st-century high school.
We were ready to stop worrying and love the episode until, towards the end, Will caught a glimpse of Sue’s Rocky Horror takedown and actually agreed with her. The play was full of “adult material,” she argued, and kids shouldn’t be forced to play a part in grownups’ culture war! Now, Sue Sylvester may always be fabulous, but she is never right! It’s true that the production grew out of Will’s pathetic desire to get close to Emma. But let’s take a look at what those kids got out of it: Mercedes gained a whole lot of self-esteem (not to mention the new motto “don’t dream it, be it”). The guys learned first-hand about the pressure girls feel to be attractive. So what if Mike’s parents pulled him out of the show? The parents of high schoolers get bent out of shape about dumb things all the time! That doesn’t mean they’re right! And finally, none of the kids actually seemed particularly disturbed about the content of the musical itself — which, it’s made clear, Will has already edited substantially.
What really turned us off, though, was Will’s awkward speech at the end about how, when he was younger, Rocky Horror wasn’t for daring “envelope pushers” but for pathetic “outcasts” looking for a home. But in what world are those two groups mutually exclusive? The point here isn’t to quibble over semantics but to highlight something you, the Glee producers — in your total cop-out of a final, “private” performance — kind of miss about Rocky Horror: Underneath the makeup and lingerie and freaky sex, it’s about freedom and celebrating diversity, no matter how weird. By shutting down the public performance and downgrading it to a feel-good, support-group production for the Glee Club kids, you sent the message that teens should watch where they fly their freak flags, lest they offend people just by being themselves. For a show that generally does a great job of representing the weird kids out there, it was pretty disappointing.