The first time I saw Rocky Horror Picture Show, I was eleven years old. I was sleeping over at my friend Trina’s house, after trick-or-treating and subsequent pigging-out. Trina had fallen asleep, but I stayed up bingeing next on cable (we didn’t have cable at my house). I just happened to stumble on this movie and it was the most shocking thing I’d ever seen. And I couldn’t peel my eyes away.
I told Reegan, a fellow board director and friend, that the movie is considered by many to be an iconic queer movie, that, when it came out in 1975, it inspired a generation of queers to come out, too! At that time, before AIDS and just six years after homosexuality was decriminalized in Canada, the movie was an over-the-top display of sexuality, and I imagine that after so many years of government-sanctioned persecution of LGBTQ2 people, it must have felt like a gigantic relief, a totally cathartic and campy celebration of the “obscene.”
Reegan’s first glimpse of it was a short one. “I walked in on Rocky being felt up by the ‘transvestite’ and my parents kicked me out of the room. I was a sheltered child.”
The word “transvestite” is not a term we often hear today (and it is offensive and harmful to confuse this term with “transgender”), but at the time, this word was common. And Tim Curry’s character, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, does self-identify this way …
Don’t get strung out by the way I look
Don’t judge a book by its cover
I’m not much of a man by the light of day
But by night I’m one hell of a lover
I’m just a sweet transvestite
From Transexual, Transylvania
Reegan saw the whole movie when she was fourteen (she is now nineteen). “And I just thought it was strange, but I liked the tunes. Then I watched the Glee episode of Rocky Horror and Glee was my jam so I loved it. Then last year I watched it at Cinacenta (the on-campus movie theatre at UVic) and everyone was yelling at the screen.”
She hadn’t thought of it as a “queer” movie before, and to be honest, I doubt I thought of it that way either. But when I was eleven, I’m not sure I even knew what a gay person was!
Whatever your opinion, it’s a cult classic, an iconic queer movie, a Halloween tradition, sex-positive, campy and, by today’s standards, probably very problematic. What do you think?
If you’re an LGBTQ2 youth or ally under 25ish and you live on the Sunshine Coast, join us for some Halloween treats, pumpkin carving and games, followed by a little movie-night! Can you guess which movie? Friday, October 27. Check out the calendar for details.
Andrea Routley is on the board of directors of Sunday in the Park with Pride Society and a contributing editor of Pride Guide.