Black Swan as the new Showgirls/Rocky Horror?
With awards season now safely behind them, Twentieth Century Fox apparently feels relieved the burden of having to treat Black Swan (out this week on DVD and Blu-ray) as a work of cinematic genius. Granted, the new DVD release continues to take the film seriously, but an “interactive” midnight screening in four cities this weekend suggests that the studio is attempting to give the film a second theatrical life as the new Showgirls. Hint: It involves drag queens.
The fact that they’ve registered the website IWasPerfect.com already indicates a devilish sense of humor on someone’s part at Fox, but the site itself takes things further by promoting midnight screenings on April 2 in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. (RSVP now!)
And what, pray, do they mean by “interactive”? Well, the invitation to “Come as your favorite swan queen and join your fellow prima ballerinas” suggests a Rocky Horror/Mommie Dearest type of midnight movie event, replete with call-backs to the screen and the waving about of props. Encouraging this sort of behavior will be drag queen hosts in each city: the hilarious Drew Droege will be co-hosting the L.A. event in character as “Chloe Sevigny,” New York gets Manila Luzon from RuPaul’s Drag Race, San Francisco legend Heklina will emcee in the city by the bay, and Chicago gets Latina bombshell Frieda Laye (best known as one-third of “Chico’s Angels”).
So yeah, not exactly the sort of screenings Fox was setting up for Academy and Hollywood Foreign Press members. But given how very Showgirls-y Black Swan often is — when Natalie Portman visits Winona Ryder in the hospital, I leaned over to my partner and whispered, in my best Gina Gershon accent, “My law-yuh got me a REAL nahce settlement!” — it’s pretty brilliant that the studio is ready to milk one of its high-toned critical faves as a newly-minted camp classic.
There is a theater 5 minutes from my place that still plays Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday at midnight. I've only gone once (a couple years ago), and I don't think the crowd was into it as much as they were supposed to be, but a few people seemed to know when to shout things at the right times. On whatever special edition of the DVD I have, they have an audio commentary track that plays the audience participation noise and puts the things we can't see them doing (like shooting water guns or whatnot) on screen in parenthesis. It's pretty funny stuff.
I'm all for Black Swan becoming a cult smash like this, because I liked it a lot (just got my Blu-ray delivered from Amazon about 45 minutes ago), but is it fun enough to be this kind of midnight feature? Well, I guess it is the more I think about it. It's bizarre in general, it has those memorable moments that sort of burst in, then disappear a moment later, the ending is full of frantic energy. This is actually a pretty good idea! I doubt I'll actually show up, but I'm for it in concept.
This kind of appropriation or meme-ification is not something you can force on people; it develops organically, if at all. Case in point was the sequel to Rocky Horror, called "Shock Treatment". Yes, you probably don't remember Rocky Horror HAD a sequel, either. Because it sucked.
After Rocky took off in it's second life, a sequel was made where they *planned* the "audience interactivity" into the shooting and edit. This bombed horribly. I do recall that "Shock Treatment" had two not-bad musical numbers in it; "Little Black Dress" and "Looking for Trade". But whereas Rocky Horror (and it's core audience)unapolagetically went all-in for celebtrating gay and bi and trans lifestyles and camp, at a time of a great cultural awakening and liberation about sexuality and it's expression, the sequel was more mainstreamed and corporatized, to appeal to a broader, but more heterosexual, less daring demographic. It came off as the cheap attempt at exploiting the audience that it was.
Some things *become* "meta", others don't. But you can't usually succeed in forcing something to become "meta". Remember the plot of the first "Wayne's World"? Trying to appropriate free-form anarchy to service conventional commercial interests is the antithesis of the original point, and that's why it always fails.