My first apartment downtown in the 80’s was near a repertory cinema, and I could decide at the last minute to attend a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Full audience participation was de rigueur, and sometimes I would look around before leaving and find rice or toast or a newspaper to bring for props. The story is ridiculous and utterly absurd, and has become beloved like an often told, but X-rated, fairy tale. It doesn’t take much exposure to chant along with the audience responses, and repeated theatre viewings only enhance the experience.
FOX’s televised reprise of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with Laverne Cox in the lead (and Tim Curry as the narrator/criminologist) has inspired much handwringing in blogs about the gender politics and queer representation by casting a real trans-woman as the sweet transvestite.
Of all the plays in all the world, this is not the one to take seriously. There is no point beyond the camp. Our hero is a rapist, a murderer, and a cannibal and that’s just three scenes. Yet we root for him when he wistfully sings I’m Going Home with full mascara streams, only to be thwarted by his fellow Transylvanians.
His incestuous servants-turned-masters declare
“Frank-n-Furter it’s all over. Your mission is a failure, your lifestyle’s too extreme. I’m your new commander, you now are my prisoner. We return to Transylvania, prepare the transit beam.”
before a round of murder, and a dramatic King Kong homage by the doctor’s creation/boy toy Rocky who carries Frank’s lifeless body up a prop of the RKO tower.
But we still love our sweet transvestite, because he taught us to
Give yourself over to absolute pleasure
Swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh
Erotic nightmares beyond any measure
And sensual daydreams to treasure forever
Can’t you just see it?
Don’t dream it – be it.
But in the end, it’s all sexy sci-fi camp. It’s the charisma of Curry, and Sarandon, and Bostwick, and the genius of an old fashioned musical with rock songs driving the story that attracts us. Add a touch of German cabaret and English panto-theatre, and then a jump to the left, and then a step to the right, with your hands on your hips, you bring your knees in tight. But it’s the pelvic thrust that will really drive you insane.
It was just a tale of aliens, no meaning or politics, just a late night double feature picture show.
Last lines of the movie:
“And crawling on the planet’s face, some insects called the human race. Lost in time. And lost in space… and meaning.”