The Rocky Horror Picture Show has become less of a film and more of a ritual. Every Halloween, people flock to midnight showings dressed as the characters. There is a script for the audience to participate with the film as it plays. It is a fun, sexy, and vulgar tradition that has been going since the films first midnight showing in New York in 1976, but it is more than a shocking piece of cinema, it was groundbreaking in its representation of the fluidity of sexuality and gender identification. Richard O’Brien not only incorporated all of the taboo elements of sex and sexuality, but made them into main characters and plot lines.
Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the main character, is a mélange of characteristics from all spectrums of the LGBTQ community. He is a queer transvestite that indulges in sexual activity with men and women. He and his two companions, Riff Raff and Magenta, from their planet of Transexual Transylvania (who have copious amounts of incestuous “elbow sex”) create a safe haven for experimentation in every form. They are alien, not of the world we see in the begging of the film with the young engaged couple, Brad and Janet. When Brad and Janet wander into their midst, the two are introduced and awakened to their sexuality, a part of themselves so repressed by the outside world that they had never before confronted it. Rocky Horror Picture Show confronts it and forces its audience to confront it as well.
Frank-N-Furter represents what most forms of art, entertainment, and media are missing. There is very little representation of the LGBTQ community in film and until RHPS there was none, unless an antagonist was plagued by some sort of “perversion” as the criminologist narrator explains it. Frank-N-Furter is manipulative and a murderer, but his aim is not to destroy, but to create beautiful things like Rocky, or his stage show. As soon as he brings any attention to himself or gets any kind of recognition, he is hunted by older white male figures such as Dr. Scott and the Criminologist who claim his ways are a danger to society. Even his companions turn against him, claiming he is “too extreme” before they destroy him. His creation fights against Riff Raff and Magenta, trying to survive even after his creator is gone, but they destroy him too illustrating how a gay or queer artist had an incredibly difficult time getting their work to see the light of day if it even got made. Brad and Janet are the typical consumer/viewers that stumble upon the work and enjoy it thoroughly, but will never admit it.
Rocky Horror gave a silenced community a voice. It revealed the inequality of representation in film as well as all forms of public art. It illustrated that the various forms of sexuality and identity are not perversions, but preferences and are not to be feared or reviled, but embraced. “Give yourself over to absolute pleasure.”