Embracing “Rocky Horror” fandom

Photograph by Riley Hanna

By Riley Hanna

The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” released in 1975, forever changed the cinematic experience. The film’s plot pushed so many envelopes for its time, as it dealt with sexual liberation, experimentation and gender nonconformity. Its release marked a cultural revolution, pushing viewers to question societal norms and values.

Many viewers were quickly enthralled with the film and its message of sexual expression. The movie quickly developed a following and it is now regarded as a “cult classic.” These fans dove into the rose-tinted world of “Rocky Horror,” and began to act out the film as it showed on the big screen. The tradition of “live showings” was born shortly after the film’s release, which allowed fans to embody the message of Dr. Frank-N-Furter: “Don’t dream it, be it.”

I went to my first live showing on Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Clinton Street Theater in Southeast Portland. The venue has been hosting live midnight showings of the film every Saturday since 1978, making it one of the longest-running movies in the world.

For many, going to a midnight showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a Halloween tradition, and people really go the extra mile. Every audience member in attendance was decked out in their most charming underclothes, fishnets, heavy makeup and lots of glitter. As it was the Halloween Special, there was a costume contest before the screening, and the attendees who were confident enough got up on stage to show off their attire.

During the movie, a cast performed on stage as audience members engaged by singing along to the soundtrack and shouting out commentary that fit with the rest of the movie. While the commentary wasn’t always politically correct, it was extremely entertaining and fit nicely with the risqué nature of the show. The cast of the show was very well-rehearsed, and worked hard to give everyone in the audience the best “Rocky Horror” experience.

Michael Mulrennan ’22 had never seen the movie before and had no idea what he was getting himself into.

“It was incredible. It is definitely the way you should go see it because it’s such a different concept and a different show than anything you’ve ever seen before, just the movie in itself” Mulrennan said.“Seeing the show live with people performing definitely related to the show itself and its convolutedness. I thought it was really cool and eye-opening in terms of what a show can be when you go to see a live performance.”

Others in attendance have gone to midnight showings for years. Nicole Dean ’21 has been attending midnight showings ever since she was a child, and the movie and culture mean a lot to her.

“I think ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ is a musical that was an important first step in entertainment history with the message that sexuality should be fluid and free,” Dean said via email. “It was one of the first productions to prove that you don’t have to dress, look, or act a certain way to be accepted and loved for who you are. It’s an old production, and in 2018 a lot of things have changed to better fit with the times. However, even in my lifetime this musical has made me feel liberated in regard to sexual and gender roles. I would like to see many more productions with a similar message that better fits with more progressive ideas, but for now I feel good dressing up with my friends and doing the time warp.”

While “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was progressive for its time, Dean is right in that some of the values of the show and culture are outdated. Despite this, everyone should do the time warp and attend a live showing at least once in their life, as it is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

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