Let’s Do the Time Warp… Again
Remakes are never easy. From angering dedicated fanbases to altering the most iconic of scenes and roles, a remake changes the very nature of a film that audiences around the world have come to love and accept.
It’s even more difficult to remake cult films, especially one that holds the record for longest cinematic debut in history. The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been in continuous distribution since its original release in 1975, so even though it’s 41 years old, fans across the world are still seeing it in theaters every weekend, complete with costumes and props.
Naturally, when Fox announced their modern-day-made-for-TV remake back in 2015, there was some pushback, and most of it revolved around the casting of Emmy-nominated trans actress Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank N. Furter, the lead role made famous by Tim Curry in both the first film and original stage production.
Now, Cox is responding to the critics.
Don’t Dream It, Be It
Born Roderick Laverne Cox in Mobile, Alabama on May 29, 1984, the actress knew from a young age that she was different. When she was just eleven years old she attempted suicide after suffering from years of bullying for not acting the way boys were “supposed to act.”
Her breakthrough role was that of Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black, an equally groundbreaking part of a trans woman dealing with the same prejudices in prison that trans people face in the real world. In a matter of a few short years, Cox’s fame propelled her to become a world-famous actress and trans rights activist, and in 2014, she became the first openly-trans person to be nominated for an Emmy in an acting category.
Regarding her role on Orange Is the New Black, Cox has said, “Sophia is written as a multi-dimensional character who the audience can really empathize with—all of the sudden they’re empathizing with a real Trans person. And for Trans folks out there, who need to see representations of people who are like them and of their experiences, that’s when it becomes really important.”
More Than Just a Sweet Transvestite
Still, in a day and age where activists are fighting to have minority roles in movies and TV–be they gay, Latino, or trans–played by real minorities, even trans allies and lovers of Rocky Horror alike are still hesitant about Cox playing the famous transvestite Dr. Frank N. Furter, but it’s not for the reason you might think.
All haters of remakes and reboots aside–for whom no one less than Tim Curry would do–the premature criticism being cast at Cox has nothing to do with her acting capabilities, the color of her skin, or even the fact that she’s not a man. Trans journalist Rebecca Juro put it best in an article for the Advocate:
“Laverne Cox does our [trans] community proud. It’s precisely because of this that I read the news of Cox’s casting in the lead role of Fox’s remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with some trepidation [….] The role of Dr. Frank-N- Furter, even though fictional and played for camp and comedy, isn’t one of someone who is assigned male at birth but considers themselves female. The character is presented as a bisexual man who cross-dresses for fun and pleasure, a very different thing.”
According to Juro, having a world-renown trans activist parade as a pansexual transvestite could do major harm to the trans cause everywhere, even though it is acting and even though it’s in one of the most camp movies ever made. At the very least, she argues, it will give conservatives and hate groups some justification in their misguided beliefs that trans people are merely crossdressers gone a step too far.