Columbia and Magenta are gal pals in Fox’s ‘Rocky Horror’ remake

touch-me-original
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975): A still from near the end of “Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me.” Columbia is on top of Magenta; both look delighted.
touch-me-fox
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again (2016): A still from near the end of “Touch Me.” Columbia and Magenta stand on a bed, applauding.

[content warning: critical discussion of rape culture in Rocky Horror, discussion of sexuality generally]

Like many queer youth, I had a time when I was really into the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Unlike some queer youth, I hadn’t yet realized I was queer. But Rocky Horror, in all its mess and glory, didn’t demand queerness of me. It was there in all its bisexual genderfuck debauchery whether I was fully along for the ride or not.

When I went to the Neptune Theatre’s anniversary shadowcast showing of Rocky Horror, I made a pretty fabulous Magenta. I ratted out my already-big Jewish hair, sprayed it red and made my own “domestic” costume from a black velvet wrap dress and towel scraps.

I went with two friends, both of them dressed as Columbia. Our Columbia-at-night, in her Mickey Mouse ears and striped pajamas, was my first girl crush, but I didn’t know it yet. I just thought it was really fascinating that she was bi and I wanted to listen to all her favorite music and buy her the zebra-striped bra she wanted.

It’s been a while now since I went to a shadowcast production of Rocky Horror, but I’ve kept the maid outfit and the red hairspray around in case I ever suddenly needed to be Magenta.

With my affection for Rocky Horror dormant but still in my heart, I had hopes for the remake. Specifically, I hoped that it would keep the queer and sexual awakening for Janet and Brad while writing out the original’s rapeyness and replacing it with informed consent. Instead, the remake keeps all of the original’s rapeyness while censoring out some of the only (implied) consensual sex in “Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me.”

Let’s get one thing queer: Columbia and Magenta are femmes, they are friends, and they are fucking. In the original, they start the “Touch Me” scene having fun together while watching Janet singing in her underwear and seducing Rocky (who is at best questionably capable of consent). While their voyeurism isn’t consensual, their intimacy with each other is a rare scene in the movie in which two people fully understand the circumstances in which they’re consenting.

The two are touching from the beginning of the scene, Columbia painting Magenta’s toes and Magenta blow-drying her hair and gossiping about Janet’s virginity. When Janet hits the first chorus, Columbia clutches, then strokes, Magenta’s leg.

After the second chorus, the scene cuts from Rocky massaging Janet’s breast to Columbia holding Magenta’s leg and shoulder, bringing their faces together as she sings, “Touch-a touch-a touch me.” Magenta laughs, grabbing Columbia’s boob then pulling her in by the unbuttoned pajama top as she echoes, “I wanna be dirty” in reply. Columbia leans her whole body over Magenta’s, her face briefly dipping into Magenta’s neck.

Magenta points her blow-dryer at Columbia’s chest and Columbia cries out just as the visual cuts to Janet’s moan at the beginning of the third-chorus climax. As Rocky and Janet switch positions so Rocky’s on top, we see Columbia get directly on top of Magenta again, her body between Magenta’s spread, fishnetted legs, both of them laughing and writhing in ecstasy. It’s a sweet moment and also one that the parallels between couplings mark as undeniably sexual.

If there was any doubt left that this was multisexual, promiscuous, and a sex scene, the “creature of the night” montage gives us Janet on bottom, arching her back and grasping at the air, and everyone else on top.

Fox’s remake opens with femme friend fucking potential that quickly evaporates. Columbia and Magenta share a bed, Columbia again in pajamas and mouse ears, Magenta in a short dress and fishnets. They both suck blue lollipops while watching Janet and Rocky on the monitor and exchange a glance as the song begins. Magenta and Columbia aren’t facing each other, but Magenta’s legs are wrapped around Columbia’s waist. When they gossip about Janet’s virginity, they’re lying side by side, touching only incidentally.

The remake gives most of their screen time during the song to Janet and Rocky, even during Magenta and Columbia’s brief echo of the “touch me” line. There is a moment of Magenta and Columbia standing in bed, Magenta sliding her body down Columbia’s, but the shot quickly cuts back to Janet and Rocky. Lest anyone find too much woman-on-woman sensuality in this, our final view of Columbia and Magenta is of them standing up applauding for Janet and Rocky, not touching each other at all, with Magenta fist-pumping and whooping. This version of the song has no montage; Janet and Rocky are the only creatures of the night here.

Where the original built the enthusiasm and intimacy between Columbia and Magenta throughout the song, the remake gradually reduces it to nothing.

Even the Glee rendition of “Touch Me,” with its substitution of “heavy sweating” for “heavy petting” and complete lack of a bed for anyone, gives its lesbian and bi couple more sexuality and intimacy than the Fox remake does. Brittany and Santana have all of the screen time for their own lines as they watch Emma the guidance counselor seduce Mr. Schuester the choir director in a classroom. They clutch each other’s arms and shoulders throughout the scene and each get a moan just before the second chorus. For their echo of the “touch me” line, we see them joyously dancing through the halls, Santana twirling Brittany around. They’re clearly into each other and clearly aroused. The contrast between Glee and the Fox remake is all the more baffling because Glee also aired on Fox.

To be fair, the Fox remake also gives Janet and Rocky a pretty de-sexed “Touch Me.” With Rocky flexing, bicep curling Janet, and thrusting her into the air rather than thrusting on or into her, it looks like his muscles are the only thing that might grow while he poses.

Still, if Fox chose to keep Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s sexual violation of Brad and Janet in the new version of Rocky Horror, it certainly could’ve kept Magenta and Columbia’s playful, enthusiastic sex.

The gal pals version of “Touch Me” chills me a little, but it won’t thrill or fulfill anyone.

 

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Performances

I have performed at venues throughout Seattle, including Seattle Parks & Recreation’s “Sparkle in the Park” queer youth performance showcase (2015 & 2016), the University of Washington, and featuring at Seattle SPIT at the Wild Rose bar. I am available to perform poetry and/or read prose. Please email me at kaylarosenzines@gmail.com to discuss details and rates.

Workshops

I have experience facilitating dialogues and workshops about social justice and the arts. I am available to lead these workshops or to plan a custom workshop for your organization. Please email me at kaylarosenzines@gmail.com to discuss details and rates.

Past workshops:

  • “Allyship is an Action LGBTQIA+ Support Workshop”: Being a meaningful ally to LGBTQIA+ community members takes commitment, effort, and ongoing education. In this workshop, we will explore what each of these identities means and how you can interrupt heterosexism, biphobia, and transphobia in our campus community. Learn the difference between sex and gender, what a pronoun check-in is and how to do one, and more.

    Whether you’re an aspiring ally who is new to these topics or an experienced advocate already, we will support you in expanding your understanding.

 

  • “A Page From Our Books Zine Workshop”: Join us to learn about zines: small, do-it-yourself publications that often focus on identity, oppression, and liberation.

    We will discuss the history and social context of zines, demonstrate examples of some zine-making techniques, and provide time and materials to make your own zine pages. Zine pages can be submitted to us for publication.

    We’ll provide materials for all sorts of fun and meaningful pages: printer paper, scissors, glue sticks, tape, scrapbook paper, magazine scraps for collaging, stickers, pens, and more. We will not have typewriters or printing, so please come prepared with any typed materials you want to include in your creation. Feel free to bring any other supplies you’d like to use as well.

 

  • “Accessible Event-Planning”: A discussion of what accessibility means in a broad sense, why you should plan more accessible events, some potential access needs, and strategies for meeting them. Participants practice writing image descriptions and access information. We will also discuss anti-ableism and how to go beyond access in including disabled people.

 

  • “Disability and Zines”: There are lots of disabled, d/Deaf, sick, neurodivergent, mad, crip, etc. folks making great zines! Let’s hang out and talk about it. We’ll discuss the politics of disabled art, how zine culture and disabled culture intersect, how we make and share zines to create access. Disabled zinesters will have an opportunity to share work they’ve made and how they produce, distribute, and take in zines. Abled people are welcome to attend and are asked to respect the space by prioritizing disabled attendees.

 

  • “Bisexual Inclusion: Beyond Mythbusting”: Bisexuality is frequently misunderstood, resulting in harm to bi people both in dominant straight society and in “LGBT” communities. Stereotypes contribute to biphobic oppression, but simply denying stereotypes can further marginalize bi people who, for example, are promiscuous. In this workshop, we will use small- and large-group discussion to deconstruct biphobia in ways that are more inclusive and supportive of all bisexuals.

 

  • “Dine and Dialogue: Queering Valentine’s Day”: Join us for a free lunch and a discussion of how heteronormativity and other systems of power shape whose identities and relationships are valued on Valentine’s Day and whose are left on the margins. We’ll also explore how to make more affirming spaces for ourselves and each other in all our relationships.

My Zines

Today’s Identity of the Day Is…

#1: (no subtitle/unthemed) My first zine, a collection of poetry and visual art. It’s mainly about disability and abuse, with a side of (a)gender and (bi/pan/a)sexuality. Each copy has little individual touches.

Etsy: physical | digital

#2: Transitions: an ode to autumn and a discussion of all the changes in my life in the last year, including finding incredible community, changing my pronouns, realizing new things about my dis/ability, and taking on a femme identity.

Etsy: physical | digital

#3: Man-Hating Bisexual: Equal parts political statement and misandrist gossip, Man-Hating Bisexual is the story of how my sexuality has gradually shifted away from men, told through stories about the guys I’ve dated or almost dated (and one girl I didn’t realize I wanted to date).

Man-Hating Bisexual includes helpful material such as a thorough breakdown of my definitions of bisexuality and pansexuality and statements of why claiming bi matters to me and how my man-hating bisexuality works.

Etsy: physical | digital

Dirty Laundry

[tw: r*pe and abuse mention]

Prose, poetry, prosetry, a lot of drawings of clothes, and some miscellaneous other visual art. It’s destruction, transformation, and humor. You can think of it as a Today’s Identity of the Day Is…#1.5

From the intro: “This one is for the poor, disabled, femme victim/survivors of abuse, because we know dirty laundry in all its forms. Dirty Laundry is about the nasty, messy, grimy shit that won’t come clean. When it’s not terrifying and gut-wrenching, it’s tedious and tiresome.

Sometimes it’s the big concepts – abuse, rape – that really get to me, and sometimes it’s the little things, the obscenely mundane. It’s not fun, but I know hearing other people’s gritty details would’ve helped me with my own. So I’ll stake my claim and wave my dirty laundry like a flag. Let’s find each other.”

Etsy: physical | digital

Empty Gender, Full Bladder

A zine about the difficulties of using all-gender bathrooms on a campus that has far too few, in a cissexist world where people don’t really see what the point is anyway. This zine uses documentary photography, prose, poetry, paper cutouts, collage, humor, and wordplay to weave together a narrative about my daily struggles.

Etsy: physical | digital

Disabled Artist Affirmations

From the introduction: “While these affirmations are meant to be encouraging, they’re not entirely “positive” in the sense that many mainstream affirmations are. In my experience, affirmations are most powerful when they also acknowledge how unpleasant reality can be. I want affirmations that can meet me in the pit of hopelessness and despair to lift me up a little, not ones that ask me to wish or believe my way out.

There are also some recommendations of other artists and media because they’re relevant and important to me and I couldn’t resist.

I love you, disabled artists. Your art and your solidarity are vital to my well-being. I hope my affirmations can help you feel more secure in your beauty and your value.”

Etsy: physical | digital

About

About me

I’m Kayla (they/them), a 24-year-old disabled white agender bi femme from Seattle. I make zines, blog, and lead workshops about queerness, allyship within and beyond the LGBTQIA+ community, and art. My cane looks like a candy cane.

About my art

I’m a multidisciplinary writer and artist, focusing most on prose, poetry, and nonbinary prosetry. I’ve also worked in drawings, rubbings, documentary photography, and simple manipulations of signs and maps that resist conventional interpretations.

I make zines because moving fluidly between media allows me to tell my each of my stories in the most meaningful way.

My zines explore themes of (a)gender, sexuality (both in terms of orientation and more broadly), disability, trauma, and healing from a radical perspective. I use personal experiences of oppression and identity to resist the limited and limiting representations of people like me in the media.

My main series is called “Today’s Identity of the Day Is…” and looks at how my identities change, both rapidly and long-term, which is a big part of my experience with Borderline Personality Disorder.

I’m also finding ways to make art more accessible, from font choice to image descriptions to access statements and transcription.

Today’s Identity of the Day Is…

  • (AFAB) transgender/nonbinary/agender
  • bi/queer/demisexual
  • white
  • femme
  • Ashkenazi Jew
  • polyamorous
  • chronically ill/crip/physically disabled
  • neurodivergent
  • emotionally/psychiatrically disabled/mad/BPD/bipolar/depressed/etc etc etc
  • autistic
  • raised upper-middle-class; low-income/tenuously class-privileged
  • abuse victim/survivor
  • college dropout and graduate

Other websites