5 Reasons Why: Rocky Horror Picture Show is Still Relevant
40+ years ago, a writer named Richard O’Brien wrote a musical entitled The Rocky Horror Show. It was a hit in its native London and it wouldn’t be too long before it was adapted for the big screen. On September 25th, 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released in theaters and the reaction was…not favorable. In fact, to be honest, it bombed. It was a critical and commercial failure and it very easily could have just been forgotten about — another film lost to the pantheons of history. But then, a funny thing happened. While mainstream, casual audiences didn’t know what to make of RHPS, it was quickly discovered that, maybe, this film wasn’t for them. In the words of Dr. Frank ‘N ‘Furter, “I didn’t make [it] for you!”
Rocky Horror wasn’t made for theater critics or debutantes. It was for the outcasts, the weirdos, the rejects and the freaks. It was made for those people who wanted to give themselves over to absolute pleasure. With its views on love, sex, and Rock and Roll, Rocky Horror Picture Show became the movie for a generation of dreamers, doers and the disenfranchised. In its 40+ year existence, Rocky Horror Picture Show has become the template for “cult classic.” Though initially panned, RHPS went on to become one of the highest-grossing film musicals ever made. On a meager budget of $1.4 million, Rocky would end up grossing over $140 million. More than just dollars and cents, though, the impact that Rocky Horror had on movie-goers is still being felt to this day. Numerous theaters across the world continue to offer interactive midnight showings of the film, every Friday and Saturday nights. Today, 40 years after its initial release, Rocky Horror Picture Show still remains relevant.
5) IT’S IN ON THE GAG
Rocky Horror Picture Show is not a film that takes itself too seriously. Because of this, it has in-jokes, fourth-wall breaking and a host of nods, winks, and tongue-in-cheek dialogue. It takes great delight in parodying films from previous eras at certain points. Dr. Frank ‘N Furter even looks directly at the camera in some instances, acknowledging the fact that there is an audience watching. Yes, that’s right. Frank ‘N Furter broke the fourth wall way before Deadpool, Ferris Bueller, or Zach Morris. These days, it seems like almost every film or television show tries to break the fourth wall. But just remember, Rocky Horror Picture Show did it first.
Speaking of films from other eras…
4) IT PAYS HOMAGE TO CLASSIC B-MOVIES
The song at the beginning of the film goes through a list of scenes, characters, and titles from classic movies of the ’50s and ’60s. There are references to The Day the Earth Stood Still, King Kong, When Worlds Collide, The Invisible Man, and a host of others. Beyond just namedropping, Rocky Horror takes great delight in satirizing all of the cliché moments from those films. There are monsters with hearts of gold created by mad scientists. Deep in the woods is a dark and eerie mansion. There are aliens and greasers and prudes, oh my! Rocky Horror Picture Show turns all of those clichés on their heads. It delivers a film that both lampoons and honors the Sci-fi films from years before.
3) IT’S GENDER-NEUTRAL
The star of Rocky Horror Picture Show is, of course, Frank N’ Furter, played by the fantastic Tim Curry. Beyond Curry’s sheer magnetism and charisma, part of the allure of Frank ‘N Furter is that he really isn’t gender-specific. Obviously, the actor playing him is a man But he is, in his own words, “a sweet transvestite.” The cast and crew behind Rocky Horror were really some of the first ones to say it was okay to refuse gender roles and embrace whatever clothing or sexuality made you feel whole and beautiful. Even the straight-laced, conservative Brad (played by Barry Bostwick) came to understand how sexy one can feel in a pair of fishnet stockings, regardless of gender.
2) THAT TWIST ENDING
Throughout the film, Frank is portrayed as the antagonist to Brad and Janet. He lies, cheats, manipulates and seduces in order to get what he wants, which is absolute pleasure. Frank is the evil, narcissistic mad scientist that audiences have been conditioned to despise, thanks to all those 50’s movies. Throughout most of the film’s run time, audiences are rooted firmly against Frank ‘N Furter and his evil plans. But then.
Towards the end of the film, our protagonists, who we previously thought were in grave danger, begin to…have fun! They’re singing and dancing and everybody is having a great time. Suddenly, Frank is no longer the antagonist. He’s the muse. And just as we’re about ready to heap praise upon him and think everybody gets to live happily ever after, Riff Raff and Magenta emerge as the true masterminds behind the whole operation. They are the bad guys and they waste no time in disposing of Frank, Rocky and anyone else who gets in their way. Frank started out as the villain of this film but, just like Brad and Janet, we were seduced by him and eventually we end up crying over his death at the end of it. How’s that for an entertaining twist.
1) DON’T DREAM IT; BE IT
The biggest message of Rocky Horror Picture Show — and the biggest reason why it is still relevant today — is because it dares audiences. It tells them “Don’t dream it, be it.” That’s the theme of Rocky Horror and it’s one that has lasted throughout the years. When Rocky Horror Picture Show first came out in the ’70s, it wasn’t for casual audiences and it wasn’t for those looking for “a night at the theater.” Rocky Horror Picture Show was for the dreamers and the outcasts. RHPS was for anybody who felt smothered by what they were “supposed to do” or who they were “supposed to be.” Frank, Rocky, Brad, and Janet taught people that it’s okay to be weird. It’s okay to be silly. It’s okay to be you.
All it takes, is just a jump to the left.