Frank N. Furter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Tim Curry as Frank N. Furter in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

This personal essay was written for a friend of mine, a die-hard Rocky fan who wanted me to “explain myself,” i.e. why I’m not as devoted to this film as she is.

Long before I watched the Rocky Horror Picture Show––a decade before, to be exact––it was already an integral part of my adolescent consciousness. “Let’s Do The Time Warp Again” is high canon at CTY, a summer camp for “talented youth” ages 12 to 16. At every dance, this (and about twenty other songs) have to be played, with some thirty or forty low-canon songs rotating on the playlist as well.

I watched bowdlerized parts of the film on Comedy Central and read a review on capalert, a Christian website dedicated to detailing the licentious and violent scenes in every popular film––which was great for us teens, since it told us which films had all the good stuff. I quote:

Ignominy in this cult flick included homosexual song and talk, homosexual presences and practices, and vulgar behavior such as a man’s head between a man’s legs behind translucent drapes; detailed statue nudity, nudity in plain view and behind translucent drapes, intercourse behind the same; inappropriate touch (both hetero- and homosexual) and begging for it, very brief clothing, group licking/kissing; transvestism, adults in underwear, suggestive (homosexual) eye movements; vulgar positioning in very brief clothing, explicit homosexual song/dance; expressions such as “There’s no crime in giving yourself over to pleasure” speaking to trying homosexuality.

Ebert never wrote such a glowing endorsement.

My mother conflated Rocky Horror with Pink Flamingos, and believed (believes, I’ll bet) that midnight showings were (are) a den of iniquity, where people throw shit at the screen, have sex on stage, smoke marijuana cigarettes and slash up the seats with switchblade knifes. Having never been to a midnight showing, I cannot confirm this, although I rather hope it’s true.

In high school, a friend invited me over to watch the movie at her house. I must have been sixteen or seventeen; at the time, I was taking fistfuls of prescription drugs for a trumped-up bipolar charge and a bad case of not doing my homework. My memory is therefore unreliable, but I remember there being maybe half-a-dozen people there besides me and her. One of her friends, a veteran midnight-showing-attendee, wrote “V” on my forehead in lipstick. “V” for virgin, for someone who has never before seen the film. As it turns out, watching RHPS on a television in the evening is nothing like seeing it at midnight with an entire audience shouting at the screen. Out of all the attendants, only her veteran friend knew the callbacks, which he quickly abandoned.

I’d never seen anyone like Frank N. Furter before, fictional or otherwise. I’d seen drag queens, sure, but they weren’t that sexual and foreward. Tim Curry steals every scene he’s in, doesn’t he? At sixteen I thought so. Despite this, I couldn’t figure out the plot–-I still can’t.

I forgot about the movie until I was twenty-three, when I watched a pirated copy on my computer. The film depressed me, though at that age, street signs and rainbows depressed me. The dinner scene reminded me of my upbringing––not something you want to think about while watching an escapist sci-fi/fantasy parody film. That was the second, and last, time I watched the film.

Rocky Horror Picture Show is an enjoyable movie with good music. Not for nothing does it have the longest-running release in movie history. At heart, it’s a filmed play; its format encourages, perhaps demands audience participation. And Tim Curry is by far the best thing in the whole movie; without him, I doubt the film would be remembered at all. I may not share your dedication, but in some way I understand it and, yes, admire it.

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