The Rocky Horror Picture Show

I write about a lot of films that are unfamiliar to most viewers, so in an effort to engage more people in making comments or engage in a discussion, I decided to review a film that most people have seen, or at least few people haven’t seen. But also a film that is hated as much as it is loved. So it would have to be an older film and a controversial film that has a cult following but one that everyone has an opinion about.

Which film would fulfill all these criteria? I think that the one film that qualifies as a well-known cult classic that is loved and reviled or at least misunderstood in equal parts is The Rocky Horror Pictures Show (1975). I know I was completely baffled and appalled by this film when I first saw it and didn’t know quite what to make of it. It was certainly bold but who would make such a crazy film? I saw it as part of a University Cult Night film festival that also included a Monty Python film And Now for Something Completely Different (1971), and A Clock Work Orange (1971) that I was invited to back when I was around 17 or 18 years old. 

I’m glad that I was older when I first saw these films because I was a little shocked upon the initial viewing, never having seen anything like it before and it certainly made a big impression on me.  I later learned to appreciate these films for the powerful allegorical artistic expressions that they were.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show celebrates the uniqueness and passions of misunderstood misfits that are ostracized by society. Using the Frankenstein story structure and Rock n Roll musical genre to illustrate the grotesque outcast as lonely and tortured individuals with deep feelings, a conservative straight laced couple, stranded and seeking refuge in a haunted house full of sexual deviant outcasts, overcome their initial fear of the unknown when they find they are not so different from them in their desire for acceptance and respect. This is a fun and outrageous film with great sing-a-long music.

This film may actually be more poignant today than ever. Even though we seem to be more accepting today of different cultures, religions and life styles, there is more division between the rich and poor, the working class and the privileged, the cyclist and the SUV driver, people who are motivated by a passion for their craft and people who are solely motivated by profit, or the hoarding of wealth. Part of the problem is that we as a society encourage and reward bad behavior.  We have been taught by society to do anything as long as it makes a lot of money; that whatever you do is not worth doing unless it makes you rich. So now we have a lot of unhappy, lonely people who are working in unfulfilling jobs and we have become a society of people who allow greed for profit to always take priority over any other humane or moral obligations.

If you look at the Occupy movement that is happening in many major cities in the world, these marginalized people are being characterized as a bunch of hippies, commies, junkies, freeloaders, you name it but in fact these are people from all walks of life and from all age groups who are victims of our society’s greed for profit.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is about the persecution of those who are different; the marginalization of people who chose not to follow the mainstream and the fear we have of anything that is strange or unknown. We must respect and know that everyone has a unique ability and can make an important contribution to our society.  



Shiran said...

Strong article beyond just a film review. Very apt, in the current political climate.

mike martin said...

Great post and I agree RHPS is a great model for socio-political change movements. If I was an OWS person, which i would be if I was younger, I would definitely suggest watching this movie on the street.
Good job.

JP said...

Thanks guys for your positive comments.

MsJWoodard said...

I saw this show as a teenager because there was so much talk about it and my friend and I basically sneaked in, wasn't old enough. I thought it was the wildest thing I have ever seen and actually wanted to take my boys, but couldn't find it playing near me.

I agree that this would be a great time for a re-release of this film, the same one, not a remake. Times are in an upheaval for many people and as usual the young are looking to make a change. It seems the closer we seem to come, the further we are actually apart.

Happy blogging,

Michael Charney said...

There is no question that we experience one "time warp" after another: socially, politically, culturally. This movie is a great reminder.

Plus, it's just so damn much fun!

Nader said...

Hey John-
Great post, and great subject matter. I have been a huge fan of RHPS since I first saw it around '79. And then about another 100 times or so. I loved the music first. Then I loved the theater of it all - catching it in theaters at midnight on Friday nights (in the back row!)

But to your larger point, I gravitated towards it for the reasons you articulate. Some of us felt "different" at a delicate age, and it was hard to find words to describe your own feelings. Maybe it was upbringing, or being displaced, or wanting acceptance. But I found a community in RHPS that seemed to make some sense.

It's no surprise that I also gravitated to the shows HAIR and RENT for much the same reasons. Thanks for bringing all this back!