The crossroad between camp and horror
by Zac Bakella
The Rocky Horror Picture Show was one of those movies that I had heard much about yet never got around to watching. It is a cult classic in its own right and widely beloved by many; however, I had always thought it to be haughty and kitschy, catered for artists and intellects who just seemed to get it. There was always an air of arrogance when someone discussed why this movie was so great and trailblazing, which made me want to watch the movie even less. Nevertheless, I caved and began to realise how wrong I was!
The costuming and acting are two aspects of the film that particularly help to create the campy aesthetic which makes the movie so beloved and identifiable. Dr Frank n Furter is first introduced in skimpy black corseting and clothing, his face painted white with overdrawn red lipstick. The acting is exaggerated and over the top, showing a sense of melodrama and comedy. It soon becomes apparent that the movie is meant to be comical and tongue in cheek, and that the writer Richard O’Brien, who plays the servant Riff Raff, created the screenplay to parody and pay tribute to 20th-century science-fiction and horror movies.
The movie is so effective for aspects like these, as it provides an inclusive and safe space for many who feel disregarded or under-represented within a society built on traditional norms and values. This is true for many within the LGBTQ+ community, who take solace in the positive representations of bisexuality, sex, and the more taboo subjects presented throughout the movie – Dr Frank n Furter is shown to seduce both Brad and Janet on separate occasions. In showing such progressive themes in a celebratory and positive light, it is understandable why many fans love and have formed a connection with the movie.
For many of those who relate to the film, singing the songs or dressing up as the characters become a form of their own queer or individual expression, a reason why the film became a cult classic. Additionally, moviegoers implemented traditions into The Rocky Horror Picture Show viewings, for example when Janet (Susan Sarandon) runs through the rain both she and the audience would put a newspaper over their heads. Rituals like this perfectly show why the movie is so effective, creating an all-inclusive and shared viewing experience.
I feel I unfairly judged The Rocky Horror Picture Show, taking it at face value to be a senseless and tacky film about nothing. However, that is precisely the point - in parodying the melodramatic and often exaggerated nature of these old horror and science fiction movies, it allowed the campy and flamboyant style embraced by the LGBTQ+ community to flourish. And although it has been heavily embraced by such communities, the movie’s inclusive and all-encompassing nature allows people from different walks and backgrounds to enjoy it. Even if you cannot relate to some of the aforementioned themes, you cannot deny the joy and excitement felt when singing the ‘Time warp!’