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Rocky Horror


It’s Halloween-time, which means it’s the perfect time to talk about everyone’s favorite late night double feature picture show, Rocky Horror Picture Show. The beloved classic premiered in 1975 and since then, has become the epitome of a “cult favorite.” Featuring singing, dancing, aliens, and a plot that cannot be defined as anything besides campy, Rocky Horror has become a global phenomenon in the decades since its release. Unsurprisingly, shows still happen on late Saturday nights in cities around the world, including Washington D.C.. Originally a commercial failure, Rocky Horror has undoubtedly far exceeded expectations of its possible cultural impact. The iconic cult classic has long stayed in the hearts of it’s fans, even as of 2015, Rocky Horror has become the longest-running movie of all time.[1] Noted film critic, Roger Ebert, called it,“not so much a movie as more of a long-running social phenomenon.”[2]


According to former Rocky Horror Fan Club president, Sal Piro, the time-honored tradition of yelling at the screen began over Labor Day weekend 1976 with a response to a soaking-wet Janet (ACTRESS), “buy an umbrella you cheap bitch!”[3] In London, however, the myth is that Angie Bowie (yes, married to that Bowie), started the tradition three years earlier with, “No, don’t do it!”, while Riff-Raff threatened Dr. Frank-N-Furter. This was while it was still a staged musical before the film.[4] Soon after, the floor show began, and people came dressed as characters and both traditions have continued ever since. As time has gone on, more and more lines have become commonplace, but every show is unique because every night’s audience differs from the last at each show.


Sal Piro claims that the first people to throw things at the screen were Amy Lazurus and her friend, throwing torn paper during the wedding scene. Props have only gotten more elaborate since the show in April 1977.[5] Lori Davis began throwing cards during,“I’m Going Home,”; people began lighting candles during, “Light in the Frankenstein Place”; and a determined Alan Riis made newspaper hats while Janet covered her head with newspaper catch-on.[6] The props became increasingly messy, including food and in some cases, a real motorcycle to echo Eddie’s (Meatloaf) entrance to the film.[7]


Certain parts of the Rocky Horror experience are almost encouraged by the film--- if they did not want people to dance to “Time Warp”, they should not have included the dance steps in the very lyrics. It is hard to believe that when the song says, “it’s just a jump to the left and then a step to the right,” if they didn’t intend for the audience to follow along. However, in an era before the Internet, it’s amazing how far and wide traditions would quickly spread.[8]


For those unfamiliar with Rocky Horror, one of the main characters is a self-described, “sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania '', Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), who steals the show while scantily clad in high heels and make-up. Brad (ACTOR) and Janet, the heterosexual, white couple, are the outcasts, while, “gender fluidity and pan-sexualism are joyfully celebrated.”[9] The film, Rocky Horror and the community it created became heavily connected with the LGBT+ community, especially in the 70s when LBGT+ representation was far and few between. Current Rocky Horror Fan Club president, Larry Viezel, spoke of the importance of Rocky Horror, “I know of a lot of people whose lives were saved by this movie. Especially for those in the LGBT community, it’s a place where they could be themselves and find people who were their family. I don’t want to give that up. I want people to still have a place to be.”[10]


Rocky Horror has only grown in the public consciousness in the 21st century, with countless references on TV and film, including a Glee rendition (which, to many is tantamount to heresy).[11] In 2016, Fox network put out a TV remake including huge names like Laverne Cox, Victoria Justice, and Adam Lambert.


With the outset of the pandemic, there has become a real fear that Rocky Horror has reached the end of its road--- it is, after all, an experience that requires a large group of people in a small space together. Recently, elements of Rocky Horror and the fan participation have been called into question if they are still socially acceptable. Much discussion centers on Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who is not a particularly moral character: he eats Eddie, he tricks both Brad and Janet into sleeping with him, and he calls himself a transvestite, a term that is no longer considered acceptable by much of the LGBT+ community.[12] In addition, Disney now owns Rocky Horror, which spurned concerns in the fan circuit that it would be shut down by the monopolizing but beloved company. However, Rocky Horror and it’s cult fan base still continues, in spite of a pandemic and a Disney-takeover to this day.[13] Now, if only I could convince them to play it on campus, that would really rose tint my world.




Bibliography:

Ebert, Roger. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” RogerEbert.com. 1 January 1975. https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-rocky-horror-picture-show-1975.

Ivan-Zadeh, Larushka. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The film that’s saved lives.” BBC Culture, BBC, 19 June 2020. https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200618-the-rocky-horror-picture-show-the-film-thats-saved-lives.

Piro, Sal. “How It Began.” The Rocky Horror Picture Show Official Fan Site, accessed 28 October 2021. http://www.rockyhorror.com/history/howapbegan.php.

Schwab, Katherine. “After 40 Years, Rocky Horror Has Become Mainstream.” The Atlantic, 26 September 2015. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/09/after-40-years-rocky-horror-has-become-mainstream/407491/

[1] Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The film that’s saved lives,” BBC Culture, BBC, 19 June 2020, https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200618-the-rocky-horror-picture-show-the-film-thats-saved-lives.; Katherine Schwab, “After 40 Years, Rocky Horror Has Become Mainstream,” The Atlantic, 26 September 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/09/after-40-years-rocky-horror-has-become-mainstream/407491/. [2] Roger Ebert, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” RogerEbert.com, 1 January 1975, https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-rocky-horror-picture-show-1975. [3] Sal Piro, “How It Began,” The Rocky Horror Picture Show Official Fan Site, accessed 28 October 2021, http://www.rockyhorror.com/history/howapbegan.php. [4] Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The film that’s saved lives,” BBC Culture, BBC, 19 June 2020, https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200618-the-rocky-horror-picture-show-the-film-thats-saved-lives. [5]Sal Piro, “How It Began,” The Rocky Horror Picture Show Official Fan Site, accessed 28 October 2021, http://www.rockyhorror.com/history/howapbegan.php. [6]Sal Piro, “How It Began,” The Rocky Horror Picture Show Official Fan Site, accessed 28 October 2021, http://www.rockyhorror.com/history/howapbegan.php. [7] Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The film that’s saved lives,” BBC Culture, BBC, 19 June 2020, https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200618-the-rocky-horror-picture-show-the-film-thats-saved-lives. [8] Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The film that’s saved lives,” BBC Culture, BBC, 19 June 2020, https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200618-the-rocky-horror-picture-show-the-film-thats-saved-lives. [9] Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The film that’s saved lives,” BBC Culture, BBC, 19 June 2020, https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200618-the-rocky-horror-picture-show-the-film-thats-saved-lives. [10] Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The film that’s saved lives,” BBC Culture, BBC, 19 June 2020, https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200618-the-rocky-horror-picture-show-the-film-thats-saved-lives. [11] Katherine Schwab, “After 40 Years, Rocky Horror Has Become Mainstream,” The Atlantic, 26 September 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/09/after-40-years-rocky-horror-has-become-mainstream/407491/ [12] Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The film that’s saved lives,” BBC Culture, BBC, 19 June 2020, https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200618-the-rocky-horror-picture-show-the-film-thats-saved-lives. [13] Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The film that’s saved lives,” BBC Culture, BBC, 19 June 2020, https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200618-the-rocky-horror-picture-show-the-film-thats-saved-lives.

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