Why Did 'Glee' Do 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show'?
The second season of Glee premiered last month, catching up with New Directions after their loss at Regionals.
To help make sense of it all, we have a panel of musical theater and pop culture buffs—Meghan Brown, Patrick Burns, and Kevin Fallon—to provide their takes on how realistic the show feels, how well the romances develop, and of course, how good the musical numbers are.
They weigh in on this week's show, in which New Directions channels The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
MORE ON GLEE:
Kevin Fallon: Are the Stars of 'Glee' Really Role Models?
The Atlantic Glee Panel: 'Glee': Hitting a High Note, or a Sophomore Slump?
Kevin Fallon: 'Glee' Enters the Illinois Governor Race
Kevin Fallon (writer and producer for The Atlantic's Culture channel): Did Glee's writers time warp forward when they were penning this episode? Were they able to foresee that the show's female leads would be at the center of a major controversy over scandalous "art" just a week before the episode aired? Maybe, because "The Rocky Horror Glee Show" seemed to address the show's GQ magazine drama—impressive, considering the episode was shot months ago.
The show began with Schu expounding on the purpose of art: pushing boundaries for the purpose of self-expression. It's the rationale defenders of the sexy GQ spread are using, that both Glee and the photo shoot have artistic merit, even when making their audiences uncomfortable. The episode also provided an answer to critics who accused the photo spread of being misogynistic (it featured two scantily clad women and one very covered-up man). Not only were Sam, Schu, and Finn frequently shirtless, but the girls took gleeful delight in the boys' body image insecurities. Dianna Agron's Quinn basked in schadenfreude, rationalizing, "They objectify us all the time." Perhaps as she was in the pages of a men's magazine?
Sue even weighed in: "When pushing boundaries is the only aim, the result is usually bad art." While the merits of that sentiment are debatable in relation to the magazine controversy, this episode only benefited from its envelope-pushing. The way it presented Rocky Horror might even have improved on the source material. Eliminating the odd, slightly boring book scenes—as Sue critiqued, "This play has some serious pacing issues"—to focus on the music was smart. As was giving the raunchiest numbers to the show's adult actors, allowing "Touch-a Touch-a Me" to be sexy without being creepy and Uncle Jesse to rock out harder than Cory Monteith ever could.
Mercedes' soulful take on Frank-N-Furter, while not iconic, made for a more musically interesting "Transylvania" number. The original Rocky Horror is not for everyone. But by playing a majority of it out of context and emphasizing its message over its content, Glee may have pulled off pleasing Horror haters, fans who religiously dress up for the midnight showings—and maybe even people outraged by the GQ scandal, too.
Now where can I buy a Peanut Allergy costume?
Patrick Burns (writer, composer, and star of the original one-man-musical, From Foster Care to Fabulous): Dear Glee,
I know it's harder for you to come up with good plot lines when you are doing a themed show. I forgave the holes in the plot of the Britney Spears episode because the musical numbers were so fantastic. The songs were not as good this week. The best one was "Sweet Transvestite," yet I must point out that despite Mercedes' fantastic performance, she is, in fact, not a transvestite at all.
There was nearly no plot this week, Glee, and when there was plot, it was dumb. Sam has body issues? Is that why he takes his shirt off in every episode?
Next time you decide to stretch, just do me a favor and make sure that your musical numbers are going to blow my mind. Also, when I was in high school the local dentist was not allowed to join the cast of our school musical. Just sayin'.
Meghan Brown (co-founder of the Giraffe Hunt Theater in Los Angeles): OK. I'm mad again.
What. The. Heck. Is. Going. On.
Why would a relatively conservative high school in Ohio put on Rocky Horror? In what universe is RHPS Emma's favorite movie? How is a whole musical going up in a week's time? Why is everyone OK with adults (especially non-faculty adults LIKE THE SCHOOL COUNSELOR'S DENTIST BOYFRIEND) being in a sexy musical with high schoolers? Why is Amber playing Frankenfurter instead of Kurt? How did Sue's anti-Rocky rant end up being the most logical part of the show?
More importantly: Why do we care? Why do we care if Emma and Will get together, when Will is sort of the world's worst person? Why do we care about a musical that we can tell from the get-go isn't going to end up happening?
Look, Glee isn't Rocky Horror, and Rocky Horror certainly isn't Britney Spears. A fakey homage consisting of a watered-down, Disney-fied version isn't going to cut it.
Past Glee panels:
'Glee': Hitting a High Note, or a Sophomore Slump?
'Glee' Gets Religion, With Mixed Results
'Glee': Britney Spears Meets Britney S. Pierce