This is like being able to see Queen WITH Freddie Mercury, or Rocky Horror with Tim Curry. JCM is 51 — this is likely the last time he’ll don the wigs and heels. If you love Hedwig and the Angry Inch, consider seeing it played by the man who wrote it, and performed it first.
I remember watching the film for the first time, mostly because the back of the DVD case said something about it being like Rocky Horror. It’s not. They both have men in make-up in them and they’re both rock n’ roll musicals — that’s as far as any responsible, critical comparison can go. I, being a very big Rocky Horror fan, was defensive. I was thirteen or so, and all I could grasp was a film unfairly riding the popularity of my much-beloved cult favorite.
When I got older, I understood that the comparison to RHPS was a marketing technique and nothing more. Hedwig was not trying to be a newer, or better, Rocky Horror. Hedwig was, and is, it’s own very different thing.
Dr. Frank N. Furter is a man who accepts himself as he is — as a (“sweet”) transvestite. His struggle is in facing a society that is repressed and, thus, cannot accept him; he works to bring that society along with him on his journey. Hedwig is a woman who was pushed into becoming what she is, and the break was not a clean one (hence the “angry inch”). Her struggle is in accepting who she is without society’s approval, finding self-love and permission from within instead of chasing the approval of others.
They’re opposite stories, if we step back. One acted, the other was acted upon. The one doesn’t care what people think, and the other cares too much. The one is a loner. The other is alone.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is, in many ways, more responsible in its message than Rocky Horror. It’s campy, but only on the surface — just because campy is (unfortunately) what we call it when dudes wear make-up and sing rock songs about sleeping with other guys. The circumstances are not campy — they’re not funny at all. We’re not expected to accept, and look past, things like murder-by-pickaxe or cannibalism (as we are in Rocky, because whatever, camp, right?). Hedwig is a human being, and we can love her/him as such and not be kidding.
I love Rocky Horror. It’s my favorite-favorite. Don’t dream it, be it — by all means. But I love Hedwig, too, and for deeper, darker reasons. So I’ll be there when John Cameron Mitchell puts on some make-up and turns up the eight-track.