I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West

drew's writing:

  • "Always Forever Now," Ideomancer volume 13, issue 2
  • "Black Sun," Black Static # 32
  • "Bread or Cake" and "Pride/Shame,"2nd Annual Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival
  • "Copper Heart," Polluto Magazine issue 5, A Steampunk Orange
  • "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
  • "Hating the Lovers," and "Pipe Down!" Geez Magazine: Thirty Sermons You Would Never Hear in Church
  • "Beth/slash/Nathan," Paper Fruit Blogiversary Contest

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rocky Horror, original, and Glee album version

divine lorraine 028

The film of a stage play, made with the original cast, is already a record of a living thing vanished--or, vanishing as we watch it, as if the film itself is the unraveling thread of a live experience. Casablanca is the only movie I can think of as suffused with nostalgia for itself as Rocky Horror: both were plays, both are vitrines of tropes from older films, both have characters who suffer over treasured (if, of course, non-existent) past experiences. In his brief interlude between suspended animation and death, Rocky Horror's Eddie wants to know "whatever happened to Saturday night?" while his killer and ex-boyfriend Frank asks the same about Fay Wray, or Steve Reeves, or any of the myriad of burned-out stars who represent his own lost capacity for feeling--much as Rick in Casablanca will always have Paris, though he will never have--and never did have--Paris--except when remembering it in a song.

The greatest tragedy is when theory outstrips performance, Leonardo said, but it's more tragic still when performance outstrips life--when life is upstaged not by actual memories but virtual memories of passively received cultural experiences. We meet, and will meet till we die, that man who regales us with memories of films that excited him and bygone TV shows he remembers and invites us (horrible!) to (re)(live) with him. A culture with entertainment as good and ubiquitous as ours will inevitably produce citizens so spellbound by narrative that they cannot grip life--but these are the least fortunate of monsters. Dickens's Miss Havisham, monstrous as she is, would be more monstrous if memories of a romantic film ensnared her, instead of memories of actual romance.

Havisham of Havishams, ravishment by solitary cultural experiences is Frank-N-Furter's downfall in Rocky Horror--and our own downfall, if we watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show anywhere but in a theater, with friends. Frank's castle is stuffed with past and potential future lovers, but no one can compete with Frank's memories of his favorite films. Though Frank's empire of sex and virtual memory is threatened, he can't turn his face from the past long enough to save it. Riff Raff, Frank's ex and underling--we are all Frank's exes and underlings--defeats Frank only because Riff Raff's bond with his sister/bride Magenta keeps him hooked to present sweetness--even if the world Riff Raff and Magenta share is also, largely, a remembered one--of distant homeworlds and outmoded dance fads. Enervating as it is, the film implies, the incest of Riff Raff and Magenta's shared world proves less enervating than the auto-erotic cultural necrophilia of Frank-N-Furter.

The only characters in Rocky Horror who escape death or the time trip back to the burned-out homeworld (which is a more lingering death) are the innocent bisexuals, Brad and Janet, for whom memory is meaningless, who look only to what's ahead--and who, devoid of culture, can never be ensnared by it (unless romance novels and televised sporting events lurk in their future). In the stage version of Rocky Horror, Rocky--the engineered creature who has evolved into a handsome hero type--escapes with Brad and Janet, and this is fitting. Rocky stands for Brad and Janet's once-hidden desires, which are more pan- and poly- than they dared imagine--and also more wholesome! Perfect, golden Rocky is so wholesome he's dull, but that's as it should be. Rocky is Frank's dream, his lost and nearly-found innocence; if Frank's dreams couldn't save him, they liberate Brad and Janet. That's nice for all of us: the happy ending Brad and Janet find in Rocky Horror is invincible, they can never again be contained by narrative, or any closet: they are out. I think this is why the Rocky Horror sequel, Shock Treatment, fizzled: Brad and Janet have found the way through the labyrinth, for good.

The power of Rocky Horror lies in the viewer's wish that his memories could have been as exciting as Riff-Raff's... You can never do Riff-Raff's favorite dance, the Time Warp, for the first time, you can only ever do it again: the Time Warp negates virginity. The illusion, the cheat, works only if there is something real behind it--which is, of course, the original musical, with the cast that (mainly) returned for the film. I have the soundtrack of the Glee Rocky Horror episode, and it's terrific: a plastinated version of the original that is just as good and maybe better: some of these kids were fans. Glee's Brad and Janet are a funnier, more demented version of the all-American boy and girl, Chris Colfer burrows straight into the heart of Riff Raff, and Naya Rivera's Late Night Double Feature is perfection.

(My only beef is the, bizarrely, heterosexualized Sweet Transvestite number: decadent and enticing as non-alcoholic jello shots offered by a Christian sorority girl.)

For Glee creator Ryan Murphy's planned feature film Rocky Horror remake to be successful, or even better than the original (which *he whispers* is sometimes boring) it should be invested with fresh memories, i.e, the new Rocky Horror Picture Show feature film remake will work best if it is a remake of its own Rocky Horror (live stage) Show.

In which case--if the slick, candied decadence and humor of Rocky Horror Glee Show cast album is any indication--it may be poisonously memorable.

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