Dream It In Your Living Room, Be It In The Theatre


“I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey…”

Every weekend since the late 1970s, clusters of androgynous individuals gather in theatres across the country to see the infamous midnight movie–The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Wearing blazing red lipstick, sequined corsets, and shredded fishnets, attendees come together as if it were some sacred mass for drama kids.

Released in the United States on September 26, 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a failure when it first showed its heels. In the film’s opening weekend, it grossed a scanty $21,245. Critics said it was “utterly immoral” and parents barred their children from seeing the movie (Something they still do!).

Based on the 1973 stageplay by Richard O’Brien, audiences follow the story of Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, a newly engaged couple on a night out. After their car breaks down, Brad and Janet must pay a visit to the bizarre residence of Dr. Frank N. Furter, a mad scientist in drag. Trying to use a phone, the young lovers encounter an array of crazed characters including a tap-dancing groupie and an eerie butler.

The picture wasn’t made for casual viewers, so when the public saw Janet Weiss sing that she “wanted to be dirty”, they were shocked. If anything, the moviegoers of the 70s were much like Brad and Janet themselves. They were clean, good-doers whose innocence was stripped away as they explored the home of the Transylvanians. If the majority couldn’t relate to what they were watching, who could this movie have possibly been made for? How had this campy rock-and-roll freakshow become the longest-running film in history?

Truthfully, this piece of cinema was made for the outcasts, the people that didn’t fit in. Maybe they uniquely expressed their gender, like Frank. Perhaps they liked to dress up and be extravagant like Columbia. They might have felt alone and ignored by the people who were supposed to care for them, like Riff Raff. These fans saw themselves in the characters onscreen, one way or another.

It may sound absurd, but the show about a scientist in bedazzled heels who can “make a man in just 7 days” has saved lives. Devotees found a place to look weird, to be queer, and to have fun. The interactive double feature has had a hold on people’s lives for decades. The disciples draped in feathered boas, holding toast and newspapers, whoop and call out at the silver screen and each other. When Riff Raff opens a coffin-shaped clock containing a skeleton, the audience clamors “Hey Riff! Show us your sister!”. When Columbia shows off her tap-dancing skills, they shout “Eat your heart out, Anne Miller!”. It almost feels forbidden, as we are taught to be as quiet as possible when we see a film, but at Rocky, you’re encouraged to be loud and make a mess.

Most importantly, the viewers took the message of “don’t dream it, be it” to heart. The cast of the film is unapologetically queer, campy, funny, and unique. Many fans saw what they wanted to be when they watched Rocky Horror and absorbed the film’s philosophy. The moviegoers dressed how they wanted, said what they wanted to say, and did what they wanted to do. In the theatre, they lose themselves for an hour and 40 minutes. They dreamed it. They got to be it.

Time is fleeting, but 45 years later, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is still making audiences shiver with antici…pation!