Rocky Horror: Beloved but controversial

First exposure to cult classic leaves much confusion but nothing to the imagination


KEISHA BROKAW | The Daily Evergreen

Winner of the costume contest at the screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” Tania Vargas as Pikachu, left, and runner ups Morgan Hostettler as Waldo and Allison Wolf as Janet Weiss.

MORGAN LESTER, Evergreen columnist

I had my first “Rocky Horror Picture Show” experience Monday. My conclusion? Much like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” you leave your first viewing with the understanding that something has just happened, but you’re completely mystified as to what it was.

That being said, it was a rather fun experience; the movie was not there just to be viewed, however – all who attended were given a bag of props to use during the movie, which included a playing card, a newspaper, a bell, a clapper and a small flashlight. They also interacted vigorously with the movie, shouting at the screen at specific moments. Unbeknownst to me, these were marks of tradition.

“A year after the movie was released, it was released as a midnight movie. Over time, audience members began yelling ‘callbacks’ – jokes about the characters, puns, or pop culture references … It has even evolved to include props,” said Kylie Lynch, chair of ASWSU’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance and the main organizer of the event.

The callbacks occurred throughout the movie, with the primary ones being calling Brad “asshole” and Janet “slut” whenever their names were said through the course of the movie. Another running joke was about the narrator, where many in the audience wondered aloud where his neck was; in one instance, they were leading shouts timed such that he responded that it was lost in space and time.

The props were a little different, and some were missing because the showing was being hosted in the CUB Auditorium. The clapper, for example, was used when the character Rocky was introduced, to echo the applause given to Tim Curry’s Dr. Frank N. Furter. Another prop was a piece of toast that, while not used for this showing, was to be thrown when Dr. Furter called for a toast during a dinner scene.

Outside of the movie experience, GSA held onto what appears to be another tradition with Rocky Horror: dressing up as the characters from the film. Thus, at intermission of their second showing, which started at midnight, they held a costume contest; those interested dressed up as a variety of characters, and were judged on the CUB Auditorium stage. While many still dressed up, only a few actually participated in the contest. The winners received “Rocky Horror”-themed items.

The movie itself was curious, as Dr. Frank N. Furter appears to be a satire of all the stereotypes of the LGBTQ+ community, and is sexually predatory, psychopathic, abusive and inhuman. Alongside the other characters, this made him stand out, and has caused some concern within GSA; Lynch said that GSA began reconsidering the event when they began receiving feedback.

“We began to reconsider this event when we received some feedback from our community that [“Rocky Horror Picture Show”] perpetuates negative stereotypes within the LGBTQ+ community and is steeped in transmisogyny,” she said. “Going forward, we are deciding if we are still going to do this event.”

While there has been a downturn in interest from the student community – the main reason why the show had no shadow-cast this year –  Lynch said there was a loyal following of students on campus who still come to see the show and have fun. To anyone new to this film, she asks that viewers keep in mind that the film is more than 40 years old and times have changed.

“The primary message I hope the audience gets out of RHPS,” she said, “is to remember the historical context of older films, and maybe consider how it effects other movies currently.”

Morgan Lester is a freshman architectural studies major from Leavenworth, Kansas. He can be contacted at [email protected].