The Rocky Horror Picture Show: A Look Back At The Cult Classic

Amy Child

The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been hailed as one of the greatest cult classics of all time. Following the recent passing of Meat Loaf (who played the role of Eddie), now seems the perfect time to pay tribute to this iconic comedy horror musical. Join me as I try to unpick the madness and reflect on why this film is so widely adored.

On first watch, The Rocky Horror Picture Show may seem entirely nonsensical, but it certainly doesn’t fail to leave an impression. Plot-wise, the film centres on a young couple called Brad and Janet, whose car breaks down in the rain near a castle. Seeking assistance, the couple venture inside and soon become swept up in a world of madness, glamour and – in the words of Frank, a cross-dressing scientist from Transylvania- ‘absolute pleasure.’ However, is the plot really the point of the film? Arguably, the themes of sexual liberation, self-expression and pure enjoyment are the core of the story, and the key takeaway for audiences.

When Rocky Horror was first released in 1975, the reception was overwhelmingly negative. The film seemed destined to be forgotten. However, it soon became known as a ‘midnight movie’ which attracted an enormous cult following. Audience members returned to the cinema night after night, participating with call-backs, dressing as the characters and even creating performance groups who mimicked the actions of the characters whilst lip-syncing their lines. The cult following particularly attracted members of the LGBTQ+ community, who identified with the embrace of liberation and androgyny, and bonded over their love for the film. Judith A. Peraino compares Brad and Janet’s initiation into Frank’s world to the self-discovery of ‘queer identity’.

Rocky Horror remains a cultural phenomenon and is considered to be the longest-running release in film history. Many of the glam-rock-inspired songs, particularly The Time Warp and Hot Patootie/Bless My Soul (sung by Meat Loaf), are famous for their catchy, energetic tunes. The film’s aesthetic showcases camp and is said to have directly influenced the fishnet stockings, glitter and coloured hair of 70s punk style.

The audience know they have witnessed something strangely spectacular… without knowing exactly what happened

Most importantly, Rocky Horror exists to entertain. Though it has moments which hit surprisingly deep (including such quotes as ‘and crawling, on the planet’s face, some insects, called the human race. Lost in time, and lost in space… and meaning’), the impression it leaves is one of sheer delight.  The audience know they have witnessed something strangely spectacular… without knowing exactly what happened.

The ultimate message of The Rocky Horror Picture Show can be summed up in Frank’s words: ‘don’t dream it, be it.’ Watching Rocky Horror can feel a lot like dreaming, but towards the end, the audience are told that the self-expression and freedom they see within the film can exist in reality. It is this message – to dare to be oneself – that has resonated with thousands of people since the film’s release, and which explains why Vera Dika wrote that, to the fans, watching Rocky Horror is comparable to a religious event. Evidently, there is more to the weird and wacky story than meets the eye.

Amy Child

Featured Image courtesy of drmvm1 via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

In-article image 1 courtesy of helenhunt via instagram.com. No changes made to this image.

In-article image(s) 2 courtesy of psychedelfe via instagram.com. No changes made to these images. 

In-article trailer courtesy of 20th Century Studios via youtube.com. No changes made to this video. 

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