Illustration by Drew Jefferson.
I first saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show when I was seven, which is a fact that causes quite a lot of controversy when I mention it. Many people think it’s highly inappropriate for a young child to watch Rocky, because there’s a man in a corset and heels – people tend to see it and want it to be hidden away again. It’s weird, but most people tell me it’s ‘inappropriate’ due to the clothing worn, rather than the actual sexual content. For me Rocky Horror was nothing more than a colorful array of individuality and acceptance.
Personally, I owe The Rocky Horror Picture Show a huge amount of credit for helping me through my teenage years. I’m pretty sure 13 year old me would be in awe of, and a little intimidated by who I am now, and I know without The Rocky Horror Picture Show I’d be nowhere near as confident.
It was 13 year old me, who was having a bit (read: a lot) of an identity crisis trying to figure out my sexuality, and how the hell I was going to deal with it, that vaguely remembered a film I’d once seen. In true internet-lover-to-be style trawled the internet to try and find out what it was.
At last! I found my film, watched ‘Sweet Transvestite’ on YouTube about 50 times on repeat, and bought it on DVD. Suddenly, instead of the small village conservatism I had grown up with, I was confronted with a glittery, rock n’ roll, musical theatre wonderland. I saw people who expressed themselves however they wanted to, without any sideways glances or ‘I don’t mind as long as it’s not in public’ type statements. For a young teenage girl who feels entirely lost in a world where she doesn’t feel normal, presenting her with a world that tells her she’s just fine the way she is is a relief beyond imagination.
The creator, Richard O’Brien, has discussed many times the positive impact the show has had: “you can’t just put the lid on things and pretend that they don’t exist”, he said in a recent BBC interview. Perhaps this is why the show scares some people so much. It doesn’t allow them to live in a world where they can just ignore things that they don’t understand. This is also why the show is so dear to so many people, including myself. When you go and see Rocky Horror, for one night and one night only you can live in a world without lids, and just have fun. In my experiences with Rocky, it doesn’t matter how you identify, how you look or what you wear, because literally no one with question you- they’ll most likely compliment you only on the effort you put in.
Richard O’Brien’s Rocky encourages an environment and exploration of identity encouraged by the creator himself. In the same BBC interview, O’Brien discussed his views on gender identity – “ I believe myself probably to be about 70% male, 30% female” and goes on to say about which box he ticks on forms, ”I tick the M,” he says. “But I would quite like to have Other to tick.” His attitude is one that has been supported from research at Cambridge, and by the experiences and views of increasingly loud and outspoken young people that are no longer accepting traditional roles of gender and sexuality.
I’ve seen the show 3 times live now, twice at the Theatre, and once at the Rocky Horror Gala for Amnesty International, and every time has been incredible. The initial time I was a little overwhelmed even though I loved every second, because after becoming so used to hiding any sign of my sexuality, I was unused to an environment where I knew I could be exactly who I wanted. It was even better than I had imagined.
The second time I went with a friend, and we had the best time, shouting the scripted call outs and dancing with our fellow audience.
Although I’m still not entirely confident in my sexuality, Rocky Horror has helped me along the way. I probably wouldn’t have the courage to be writing for Margins right now without Rocky, and I certainly wouldn’t have the confidence I carry with me in everyday life.
This Halloween I’d like to give love to every late night showing of the movie, every shadow cast, every amateur or professional production of the musical and to the film itself because, in the end, Rocky Horror isn’t about just dressing up in a Halloween costume, it’s about being who you are.