High Fidelity is Hulu’s new adaptation of the movie and the book of the same name. Starring Zoe Kravitz as Rob, Hulu flips the race and gender of its main character, as well as supporting characters. However, does making Rob a biracial, bisexual woman change the entire narrative? Maybe not.
In the original film and novel, John Cusack plays Rob, an owner of a local Chicago record store. Rob is an egotistical white male surrounded by other white men. The movie was written and directed by an all-male team, so the film itself is centered around these music-loving men and the downfall of Rob’s fragile male psyche. High Fidelity, the film, goes through Rob’s relationships and highlights his enormous ego and his journey to discovering himself.
In contrast, Hulu’s High Fidelity adds a much more diverse cast. The show stars Zoe Kravitz as Rob, who is a Black, bisexual woman running a record store in Brooklyn. At first glance, it may be evident to the viewer that having Kravitz play Rob does in fact shift the storyline a little, since it introduces gender and all the expectations and stereotypes around it. Our Rob is not typically feminine, and she’s also not dripping in chauvinism. However, as her storyline progresses, it is clear that she possesses just as big of an ego as her movie counterpart, and exists as a slouchy, grungy, music-loving, self-absorbed bisexual woman. It is also relevant to note that the show was written by female writers, in contrast with the film as well. Hmm.
Similarly, Jack Black’s role was also replaced by a Black woman. Charise is Rob’s best friend who also works at the record store and dreams of becoming a famous musician one day. Charise faces many obstacles in her dream, particularly a lack of self-confidence in her talents., The show highlights the fatphobia entrenched in the rock-n-roll industry through Charise. Brillant. The supporting cast of the show, including Charise, offers viewers parallels to the movie, but with more twists.
In the film version, Cusack plays a self-absorbed, mildly aggressive man who plays the victim is nearly every single relationship he has. While Kravitz is a woman and her version of Rob is bisexual, this actually does not change much about her personality. Hulu’s Rob is still egotistical and has trouble admitting blame in all of her relationships. Both versions of Rob experience a lot of self-pity and indulgence in their romantic and platonic relationships, almost as if they are blind to what is really going on around them. The new Rob is bisexual and biracial, but her character development almost remains the same.
As in the movie, Rob still complains to her best friends every day in the record store about her various break-ups and relationship blunders. Charise and the rest of the supporting cast always offer their support and love to Rob. However, the entire cast does have their own storylines as well, which really allows the viewers to fall in love with them. The passion between the record store gang is their love of music, and the show’s killer soundtrack brings the viewer along for the ride.
Rob is still a huge snob when it comes to music. Often Rob breaks the third wall to talk about music and various playlists she makes when it is relevant, especially after a breakup. Both versions of Rob make continuous lists like the playlists, about pretty much anything that is relevant to their lives. Again, extremely self-absorbed. Thus, Hulu’s Rob again stays true to the movie adaptation despite being an entirely different type of character.
Kravitz plays Rob as a cool-girl, which makes her even more lovable to the viewer, while also highlighting her own toxic traits that make her the epitome of an anti-hero. Rob goes for a grunge style, often in baggy t-shirts and jeans, sporting a unique jacket that is all her own. This is also similar to the Cusack version, though presented over two decades later. Kravitz does an amazing job of portraying Rob in a nonchalant, 90s kind of way that is very similar to Cusack.
So, if both Rob’s are fairly identical, what is different about the movie and the show? Everything.
By changing the race, sex, and sexuality of the main character, Hulu did not change the storyline exactly. Instead, Hulu is holding space for Black, bisexual women to be what we’ve seen men be a thousand times: unlikeable, screwed-up, finding themselves. Viewers get to see Kravitz play Rob exactly like original Rob – self-obsessed and egotistical. This in turn does change the narrative, but not within the show itself. Instead, it presents the idea that normal people can in fact be normal. Bisexual, biracial women can exist with faults and do not always have to play into traditional gender or racial roles and expectations. They don’t have to be perfect models representing each of their hybrid identities.
Thus, Kravitz’s version of Rob illuminates that women are also human. Women can be self-absorbed, ignore their friends, and spend too much time dwelling on their relationships. Women can be music snobs and business owners. We rarely get to see Black, bi women characters that aren’t an amalgam of stereotypes. We rarely see protagonists whose identities, whether those are race, sex or class, are not plot points in themselves. By presenting Rob just as she is, Hulu’s High Fidelity shows us more actual diversity of Black women’s experiences, rather than as tokens or tropes for the sake of diversity and inclusion. Rob is raw and real, and Kravitz’s portrayal of her is something many of us can relate to.
By presenting Rob as an anti-hero, the movie and show create a character where viewers can be a part of their development. Hulu’s High Fidelity allows viewers to grow alongside Rob during her journey to self-discovery. Painting Rob as not particularly likeable, and definitely not someone who has her shit together, is incredible because it gives room to the notion that women, in particular bisexual and biracial women, make for watchable, three-dimensional narratives, not just stereotypes, side-kicks or tokens. What more can you ask for? Maybe a season two?