‘Rocky Horror’ as Satanic Midnight Mass

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By: H.B.Gardner

Halloween draws closer! Check locations for movie theaters showing The Rocky Horror Picture Show – preferably with a live cast – as an option for the fearfully fun October festivities.

Behold! Our exalted opinion of The Rocky Horror Picture Show!

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show. A tableau of the taboo.

They congregate at midnight, gathering at select movie cinemas around the world. The cinema – where the public sits in darkness to share a collective dream; or in this case, an erotic nightmare. There is the instant impact of the inversion of the ordinary. Gender has become fluid and unfixed, the conversation veers into strange territory, and the fashion…! Most are dressed in black: satin, lace lingerie, leather… but there are also patches of shimmering silver, scarlet velveteen and feather boas. Torn fishnet stockings, suspended with ruffled garters, cling tightly to hairy, well-muscled legs. Ample breasts powdered with glitter are swelling in a bustier. Sweating catamites with painted faces catcall to one another amidst shining gold sequins and the sharp tapping of stiletto heels. But you are also most likely to see a lot of skin, with people as scantily clad as you will ever see in a movie theater! “Virgins” to the night’s pagan festivities are duly presented and humorously harassed. Lacquered lips shout slick obscenities as an ancient pageantry of innocent love, unbridled lust, sex, death and sacrifice – brought from worlds far beyond the stars – unfolds below the colorful, flickering shadow-play projected onto the wide silver screen.

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No other Cult Film has an actual cult quite like Rocky Horror!

The liturgy of recriminations, bawdy jokes and blasphemies is recited by the faithful. The ritual dance is stepped and thrusted with lively vigor. The  sacraments are dutifully produced and utilized in the due course of the ceremony. Rice is tossed and the triggers of water pistols are squeezed in a riotous seminal discharge (later on, I discover grains of rice that have slipped into uncomfortable places on my person as well as in my hair). Lighters are lighted and waved in the darkness as devotees veil their heads with newspaper. Toilet tissue flies at the drop of a name! Like the profanation of the eucharist, toast is tossed and trampled by dancing feet in an unholy communion. The celebrants of the midnight ceremony, the priesthood decked out in it’s finest lingerie, enact the ancient rituals in a way most congruent with the times.

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Devoted cultists, shrouded in newspaper, assist Janet in finding the Frankenstein Place by lighting their lighters.

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“Great Scott!!”This is not what usually happens when we go to the movies. But ‘Rocky Horror’ isn’t a movie – it’s an experience!

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The presentation of the virgin sacrifice.

The young virgin couple drive happily towards a future of socially sanctioned married bliss. But darkness falls, the storm confounds, and their car gets a flat tire – as though the elements themselves have deemed that the hand of Fate should fall and bring these victims – marked by alien gods – to the very gates of the underworld where all taboos are broken. The virgins are unceremoniously defrocked, stripped bare, and offered unto the altar of Dr. Frank N. Furter – an insatiable, sadistic-yet-charming, alien Demon God/dess of Lust from another world.

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Meat (Loaf) for The Beast.

This Demon God/dess indiscriminately commands and wields the occult powers of life and death. A Golden Child is birthed in beefy glory and enslaved to his Master’s lust. The Wild Hunt is enacted as The Hog – shadow side of the Golden Child – is ritually chased and slaughtered. The cannibal feast ensues. The flesh of the Dying and Resurrecting Son is eaten. Incestuous alien siblings hatch an insidious plot. Morality is questioned and… at this point, rightly discarded. And they are all,  characters and celebrants, fed to The Beast; all are swallowed by the gaping jaws of the Eternal Night. All give themselves over to absolute pleasure.

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The ritualistic ‘Last Supper,’ where a betrayal is revealed.

The naively subversive impact of Richard O’Brien‘s fantastic, funny, sexy musical homage to vintage B-grade Sci-Fi and classic Horror films, rock and roll, and extra-terrestrial androgyny is still being widely felt in our present day. Since it’s release as a film in 1975 (following it’s theatrical stage version as ‘The Rocky Horror Show’), and it’s continued midnight screenings ever since it’s release, tremendous leaps have taken place in culture in the fields of sexual liberation, gay rights, same-sex marriage and the acceptance of all kinds of people – the kinky, the geeky, the alien, the bisexual – who fall outside of the traditional mainstream, or even the side stream! Indeed, one may ask just what “mainstream” even means anymore. ‘Rocky Horror,’ beneath it’s Mardi Gras exterior,  has become a social rite of passage and midnight initiation into adulthood.

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A match made in Transexual Transylvania. The Hieros Gamos, or Sacred Marriage rite.

The barrier-breaking, iconoclastic fervor of the Nineteen-Seventies birthed The Rocky Horror Picture Show at just the right moment; seizing the zeitgeist of the age and pushing the boundaries of what was considered socially acceptable behavior in a way that overturned the conventional. It safely ushered the gays, the geeks, the misfits  and the curious into circles of acceptance where they could share and revel in their diversity as opposed to suffering in isolation. A couple of generations have found their footing in the world from this wickedly wayward psychodrama that has much more to do with the audience that keeps it alive than the actual film. But the story, and it’s disturbed and exalted re-imaging of ancient initiatory Mystery religion, is brought to mischievous life by it’s outrageous cast of characters and vibrant music. For it is here that the song of the deepest soul is sung in The Passion of Frank and Rocky, Brad and Janet, Riff-Raff and Magenta, Columbia and Eddie… “Don’t dream it. Be it.”

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A monster is truly a beautiful thing to behold.

In past centuries, and even today, The Black Mass, or Satanic Mass, (in any of it’s several variant forms – from theatrical to criminal), has been held in secret by small groups of subversive dissidents as a form of religious iconoclasm and revolt against systemic oppression by the institutions of both Church and State. Church and State – neither of which are ever more powerful, or dangerous, than when they merge – are inverted in the Satanic Mass: the crucifix is turned upside-down, the candles are black, the sacraments are profaned, the body of a young beauty becomes the altar, and the patriarchal hegemony is spat upon. Or similarly, like the Cult of Dionysus, or the Feast of Fools in old Europe, we see with ‘Rocky Horror’ dramatic upheavals in consciousness when we are confronted with what surprises and scares us when all normal social conventions are overturned upon the chaotic, gender-bending, Time-Warping altar of midnight madness – where the sacred is profaned and the profane becomes sacred.

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One part “alien David Bowie,” + one part “Mick Jagger on something,” + one part “Bela Lugosi as wharf whore,” + one part “Bette Davis as “Baby Jane” Hudson” as Army General.                                 = All as Tim Curry as Dr Frank N. Furter

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