Rocky Horrible Picture Show
(first appeared at broadstreetreview.com on 6/24/2013)
I got to thinking about The Rocky Horror Picture Show the other day, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized it could be used as a metaphor for life. Not the actual 1975 Tim Curry-Susan Sarandon movie itself, but the way that things move us in one direction or the other.
Let me expound on that topic a bit. Certainly you had to see some expounding coming. Describing anything as a “metaphor for life” is not only passé but also screams for a good expounding.
In high school I used to attend the midnight showing of Rocky Horror with all the other nerds, freaks and faggots from my school. I wasn’t gay, but it was made perfectly clear to me by my larger and psychopathic peers that I was a faggot. Anyone who participated in any theatrical production was given this nickname. But I like to think I was the most faggoty of the lot.
Every Friday we would all dress up and bring the requisite rice and newspapers and squirt guns and toast, and we would dance and sing and realize we were in the midst of not only a good time but also something bigger. To this day I can’t put my finger on it, but it was somehow transcendent.
First of all, “not only” having a good time was no easy feat at that time in my life. If it was “only” that, I would still consider it time well spent. But what made it so important that I’d be thinking about it so many years later was this: I belonged— and I belonged in the middle of some interesting and talented people. To feel as if you belong to people you admire is a powerful feeling.
Our group’s spectacular answer to Dr. Frank-N-Furter was the lead in all of my school’s plays for good reason. The larger and more psychopathic peers at my school were particularly verbose when addressing him as a “faggot” because he was actually gay. Very gay.
Some gay guys wouldn’t approach him because they felt they weren’t gay enough. He was like movie star gay. Even if I had been gay, I could never have thought about banging or getting banged by him.
Every straight guy occasionally says he wishes he were gay because he can’t seem to get to first base with a girl, as if he would suddenly be transformed into a prize catch if he suddenly started swinging from the other side of the plate. Our Frank-N-Furter said otherwise.
When he was decked out in his Frank costume, he wouldn’t have taken a second look at any of the football players or student council members. And don’t let them tell you that his rejection wouldn’t have stung just a little, however straight they might have claimed to be.
Our group’s Brad Majors was awesome. Our Janet Weiss was amazing. And you could have spent countless weekends searching midnight screenings across the state without coming across a better Riff Raff.
Every week we just seemed to get better until going to a midnight show was more like a family reunion than a movie. The experience seared into my brain all that was great about being different. About being a nerd. A freak. A faggot.
It got to the point where, where when I heard those epithets screamed at me in the halls, I would actually stand up a little straighter and say to myself, “Damn right I’m a faggot.”
That was then. Curious about the type of people who go to Rocky Horror these days, I made the terrible mistake of attending a recent midnight showing.
Now, I don’t want to seem like I’m making a blanket statement about all Rocky Horror shows these days. I’m sure you could have found theaters back in my day whose participants were lame, just as I’m sure you can find outstanding examples of all that’s right with Rocky Horror today, if you attend the right theater.
My point is that I didn’t. Where I went on that night, Frank-N-Furter was a middle-aged, overweight, obnoxious dick who was far more concerned with making sure he was the center of attention than with the quality of the experience for those around him. The outfits were substandard. There wasn’t even a Magenta or an Eddie to be seen. It was a travesty.
That’s when the realization hit me: The nerds and freaks in attendance would take no sense of pride in the weekly ritual. No sense of belonging. None of the elements that shaped me and made me the person I am today. Just another disappointment in what is surely a long and growing list.
That’s the metaphor I was going for when I commenced this expounding: How fate can either deal us a 21 or roll us snake eyes and there’s fuck-all we can do about it.
Same film. Different results.
“And crawling/on the planet’s face/some insects/called the human race/ Lost in time … and lost in space …. and meaning.”
Life in a nutshell.
In this case, I just feel bad for all the faggots who got dealt a lame Frank-N-Furter.
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