Confession time: I have an irrational fear of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. I simply have so many associations with it, personally and culturally, which I have a hard time looking in the proverbial eye. I first saw it on home video when I was twelve years old, and that tape would suffer my constant demands for years, sometimes more than once a day. I have a hard enough time thinking about my childhood without a heaping helping of chagrin, but things only got worse a few years later when I made teenage friends who loved Richard O’Brien’s cheeky survey of human sexuality. These people were, inevitably, theater dorks, as was I, and I can hardly describe the distress it causes me to recall the desperate, sad, amorphously horny environment of the high school performance community. Of course, this is not a uniquely personal understanding of the most successful midnight movie of all time; theater dorks of all ages, the whole world ‘round, are the chief preservers of the film’s enduring fame. Sure, the polymorphously perverse story celebrates a Kinseyesque sexual spectrum, but in truth, ROCK HORROR serves artifice and exhibitionism more than it does a genuine exploration of life in the human body. Put more generally: The beloved cult classic seems to point to people I do not enjoy, and a past person I did not enjoy being, so while I never denounced it as a work of art, I’ve been profoundly afraid of watching it as an adult. I was just as profoundly relieved, this Blogtober season, to discover that my adult self is actually more capable of enjoying, and even understanding, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOP than any lonely youngster could possibly do.
You all know the deal. Newly betrothed squares Brad and Janet (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) find themselves stranded at a castle full of decadent Transylvanians (from the galaxy of Transsexual, not the sovereign state of Romania). Their monogamy and heterosexuality are put to the test by the cross-dressing Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry), whose sexual appetite is left unquenched by the disappointingly fickle Charles Atlas-like homunculus (Peter Hinwood) who has just emerged from Frank’s laboratory. Further intrigue is generated by the murder of juvenile delinquent Eddie (Meat Loaf), who has a surprising relationship to the college professor (Jonathan Adams) that Brad and Janet were traveling to see in the first place. Meanwhile, a rebellion seems to be brewing among the doctor’s other acolytes (incestuous domestics Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn, along with pop singer Little Nell), who may be motivated by sexual frustration, or something more sinister.
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is not a B movie. At least, not in terms of the popular conception, of low-budget commercially motivated films whose charm is typically accidental, or activated post mortem by nostalgia. It is frequently categorized as such by non-initiates, and critics who have failed to understand it. What I don’t understand is how badly it tanked upon initial release. Richard O’Brien’s adaptation of his own stage musical absolutely explodes with wit, charisma, and infectious songs. The production is not itself an uncontrolled oddity, but a besotted tribute to the many actual B-grade movies and genre classics on which the writer was raised. The wonderful sets boil over with a wealth of eccentric detail, the outlandish costumes only allude to O’Brien’s love of lingerie while radically outstripping any forgone notions of eroticism, and every performer brings their A game. At that, I feel not enough is said about the talent of director Jim Sharman, who somehow harnessed the violent kinesis of a powerhouse like Tim Curry, while simultaneously ensuring that everyone else was brought up to the same (or at least, a similar) level. Finally, RHPS’s unique exoticism is given a fascinating spin by cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, who you know from either EMPIRE STRIKES BACK or David Cronenberg’s back nine, depending on who you are. Suschitzky’s curiously gritty, confrontational manner of shooting takes what could be an exceedingly obvious study in glitz and glamour, and turns it into something that is worthy of the weird conceit that the whole story is being relayed to the audience by a criminologist (Charles Gray).
ROCKY HORROR is plainly a loving homage to the titillating sci-fi and horror opuses of yesteryear, but I insist that it is also About Something. The movie is commonly read as “making no sense”, other than that it charts the disintegration of a traditional American couple as they learn to give themselves over to absolute pleasure. That certainly happens, but other things happen also, that make strong statements about the destructive power dynamics unavoidably created by self-worshipping behavior, and the inevitable corruption of any monarchy. The regal Dr. Furter, most famously pictured slung across his throne amid a gaggle of slavering devotees, imagines himself to be the enemy of conservatism and self-denial. He sees Brad and Janet’s commitment to each other and immediately tears it asunder, all the while pontificating about his superior philosophy of personal satisfaction. However, while he mocks the theoretically possessive and stifling institution of marriage, everything he himself does is motivated by jealousy. He murders Eddie for sharing himself with the sequined starlet Columbia, and loathes Dr. Scott for attempting to rescue Eddie from his involuntary confinement in the castle; then, he goes mad when he discovers that his creation Rocky gave his virginity to Janet, even though this is a direct consequence of Frank liberating Janet from her sexual repression. We learn also that Frank and Columbia were once lovers, but ever since which time he has both ignored her personally, and murdered her new companion out of pure selfishness. Frank’s pseudo-utopian philosophy of ultimate decadence is not only hypocritical, but politically untenable; just as everyone is turning against him, his domestics reveal themselves to be spies from the Transylvanian government, poised to put an end to his egomania all along.
This is what I find most interesting about THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW today, its reflections on old world authoritarianism, marked by arcane intrigues, incest, cannibalism, and sexual slavery. The story is a gothic and, actually, somewhat realistic allegory about the degradation of royalty. It has future proofed itself by lending itself to an interesting commentary on the treacherous nature of sexual relationships; it’s all well and good to view ROCKY HORROR as a kind of satanic thesis about being true to oneself above all else, but it also points out the central fallacy of that position, which leads to emotional violence and ejection from one’s own context.
After this impassioned drilling down into the film’s darker and more punishing themes, it may not surprise anyone to learn that I am “a Riff Raff”. Even after all these years of distancing myself from the RHPS community, I still maintain that association with no shred of embarrassment. Richard O’Brien’s performance as this luminous skeleton with the dual identity of master and servant still gives me the chills, as does his otherworldly voice, and fascist turn at the film’s climax. When I was 12, I wrote him a long fan letter about how important his movie was to me, stating more or less that I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. He wrote back very kindly in the guise of one of his other characters, Mephistopheles Smith, who admonished me that O’Brien is “not as clever as he thinks he is.” I still wish there were more O’Brien-heavy media accessible to me in the world, though. And if anybody has a line on any of the more obscure Jim Sharman movies, please hit me up.
19 Women Reveal The Male Body Part They’re Just As Obsessed With As Dudes Are With Boobs
It’s going to get hot in here
Hold on to your panties ladies
1. Forearms. Forearms. So. Much. Yes.
2. More forearms. Pro tip: Wear a button down and roll your sleeves up to your elbows. It is the most attractive thing in the world.
3. Aaand more forearms. I can look at forearms all day. Some days I think ‘unf those veins dear god that’s so attractive’ and other days I’ll drool over not-veiny forearms. I don’t know what it is but they’re hot.
4. Your jaw. Jaw line. Insanely hot!
5. The “V.” The V section, and the hips. That whole lower abdomen area… It’s like a network of muscles, bones and strong hotness. And also backs, I have a thing for backs.
6. More V please. THE V. How did I forget about the V.
I make sure to kiss my boyfriend’s whenever I see it.
7. Big, rough hands. Hands… I know its weird. But im a sucker or big rough hangs. Hands that look like they can break a neck. Simply sexy ugh!
8. Or hands of any size. Same, but not even big bulky hands, just hands in general. I like holding them and looking at them and laying in bed with them spread over my belly or chest when I’m being held.
9. A defined torso. Big arms, broad shoulders, muscular back.
10. “Cupped, defined” butts. I never notice butts unless they are absolutely fantastic. I was at a tennis match and out comes this guy on the court with the greatest looking butt I have ever seen. His shorts fit him so well too. They weren’t too baggy and just kind of cupped and defined his butt. It was amazing to look at.
11. The V. Again. Yes this- the only reason my SO putting on 30 lbs has made me a bit sad. I miss that beautiful V. I mean obviously the company is more important. But. Ung. With I could still look down while we were fucking and see it.
12. Your happy trail. HAPPY TRAIL. It’s like a magical path to the penis.
13. Definitely your happy trail. mannnnn when a good looking guy stretches and you see that happy trail peak out I just grabjdafhuaahalhf
14. Your eyebrows? Eyebrows. Nothing like a good solid pair of eyebrows.
15. Your legs. Calves. All day, every day. Give me some wickedly defined calves and I’m yours.
16. Visible shoulderblades. A nice sculpted back with shoulder blades that protrude slightly
17. Adrien Brody noses. Noses. Big, crooked nose with a strong jawline.
Adrien Brody noses.
18. Your armpits. I LOVE MY SO’s ARMPITS THEY SMELL SO GOOD.
19. Broad shoulders.
The shoulders, collarbones, and neck. I don’t know what it is, but whenever my guy takes his shirt off for me my eyes are drawn to that area. Broad shoulders just give off an air of masculinity and I love the contours of the bones there, they look so inviting and I want to nibble on them.
It’s ridiculously sexy to me to see his bare shoulders and think that I could be holding onto them during sex. The neck is the same way, because personally it’s a very sensitive place for me and I want to make him feel the same pleasure I do by kissing and nuzzling there. It’s a very intimate spot and I love everything about it.