Time Warped: How ‘Rocky Horror’ Got It Right 40 Years Ago


This year we are celebrating 40 years of The Rocky Horror Picture Show an incredible cult classic famous for its tongue in cheek humour and, well, Tim Curry in fish nets. The musical is a satirical acknowledgement of science fiction and horror movies, but not only that, Rocky Horror recognises and draws upon the issues of sexuality and gender that mocks society’s attitudes towards these matters. Sadly for some reason it has taken 40 year for parts of society to even truly consider taking a page out of Rocky Horror’s book, and begin to accept sexuality and gender fluidity.

In fact it appears that society was somewhat behind the “unconventional conventionalists” in the support for equal marriage rights. Only recently has the entitlement for non-straight marriages become truly acknowledged and accepted. Rocky Horror sought to disrupt the once heterosexual privilege of marriage decades ago by parodying the orthodox beliefs surrounding ‘tying the knot.’

Initially, the film hilariously ridicules the values of marriage through its constant association with death, which is apparent by having the wedding next to a graveyard, and having a funeral set up in the background of Brad proposing to Janet in the chapel. Combining a wedding with death makes fun of the standard values of marriage by suggesting that in fact these values are out-dated and we now live in a time where alternative possibilities do exist. The film further makes a mockery of marriage through the re-enactment (in the background of the wedding) of the famous painting ‘American Gothic’. The original painting symbolises puritan values and traditional roles of man and woman, therefore, by recreating this image in the background of a wedding it expresses the limitations and constraints of marriage, and that in fact, marriage represents the stereotypical societal roles of man and woman.

Also, let’s not forget the marriage between Dr Frank and Rocky which secures the bind of homosexuality. What is significant about the marriage between Rocky and Frank N.Furter is that it does not take place outside of a church. By having Rocky and Frank N.Furter’s wedding independent of the church, stresses that marriage and sex does not have to be for reproductive reasons only, and ultimately the church does not own the sanction of marriage.

This film draws upon many issues surrounding the acceptance of non-straight sexualities and gender diversity and it does so brilliantly. The sweet transvestite Frank N. Furter teaches us that sexuality and gender are merely concepts formulated by the society we live in, and that we should break away from these expectations and not be afraid to be who we want to be. In other words “don’t dream it, be it.”

As much as it is wonderful that these sorts of issues are being recognised and addressed, it’s a shame that it has taken so long for society to get up to speed with what The Rocky Horror Picture Show celebrated 40 years ago. It’s now time to keep following in the footsteps of Dr Frank N. Furter by rocking fish nets and accepting people for who they truly are and choose to be.