The Rocky Horror Pandemic Show

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the representative film of cult culture.

“Brad!” …“Janet!”… “Rocky!”… “[just looks at Tim Curry because he can’t speak].”

The 70s were a wild time. Tim Curry perfectly displays this as Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a stage play turned cult classic film. The film revolves around a scantily-clad, self proclaimed “sweet transvestite” who lets a bland couple stay in his castle during a bad storm. This also happens to occur on the same night he decides to resurrect a Baywatch model as his eternal boyfriend. It sounds more confusing than it actually is.

The film also happens to be a wildly catchy musical. Iconic songs like “The Time Warp” and the aforementioned “Sweet Transvestite” encourage wild, uninhibited fun and rebellion. In fact, the movie got its own Glee special (if that’s your thing) with Mercedes playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Why is this strange, raunchy musical from the 70s revered and beloved today? Can it be relevant in a pandemic stricken world?

Rocky Horror and Community

the main cast of the rocky horror picture show sitting around a chair covered in white cloth, on a stage
Tim Curry looking mighty fine in fishnets on that weird furniture cover he shouldn’t be sitting on. (image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The movie musical was a box office flop upon initial release. Despite this, the film drew in a huge LGBTQ+ crowd after it shifted to midnight showings. The musical grew into a cult phenomenon where shadow casts reenacted the movie as it played. People were encouraged to yell at the screen and use a variety of immersive props. For 30+ years, this audience engagement has been growing and becoming an annual spooky tradition.

What grew this film into a classic wasn’t necessarily the film alone. The film’s rebellious attitude certainly helped, but during a time of LGBTQ+ struggle, it provided a space for camaraderie. It provided representation for people who were seen as less than by society. It also gave them a reason to dress up and hang out with people they cared about. Some guys hang out at sports bars and some ghouls go for a night out to the theater. 

Can this Musical Rock During a Pandemic?

Tim Curry dressed in medical scrubs, flanked by Magenta and Columbia
The cast of Rocky Horror resembled the outcasts of the LGBTQ community, wielding positions of power and self-confidence. (image credit: 20th Century Fox)

“No” is the short answer to this. “Maybe” is the longer answer. Ideally, a Rocky Horror viewing takes place in an overstuffed theater with costumed fans screaming their saliva at the screen and throwing things they’ve put their grubby fingers on. None of this is very COVID-19 safe, is it? 

However, there are still opportunities for pandemic-safe fun. The president of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Official Fan Club holds Zoom meetings where the film is reenacted and people can show off their costumes. It could be possible to host small-scale parties where friends can watch the film and hold their own reenactments. Just because theaters are closed doesn’t mean we need to go without Tim Curry in fishnets. During these times, the “sweet transvestite” is needed now more than ever.

By John Castro

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