I must understand this odd ritualistic traditiono and not be a bitch about it
October 22, 2011 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Help me embrace all that is The Rocky Horror Picture Show

I have promised a friend that I will go to this movie. I saw it once when I was seventeen (now I'm 41) I never had a desire to go see it again. Two large factors are:
Help me be a good friend and cheerfully see this movie.

1. In the words of Karl Pilkington, 'I don't like organized fun.' I am not drawn to parades, parties, or orgies. I get sick of holidays a month before they arrive. I am a curmudgeon.
2. I like movies. But I like good movies. I have a big movie snob issue.

BUT I have committed to seeing this movie with my friend. And I want to do it without being a an asshole and sending out 'get off my lawn' vibes. ALSO my friend is a big fan. As in, I think my friend may be dancing in the aisles and shit? Please, I beg you, do not mock.

How do I get into the spirit of this thing?
posted by angrycat to Human Relations (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
whoops, just ignore that third line, there. Also, tradition, not traditiono
posted by angrycat at 7:44 AM on October 22, 2011

When I used to go, everyone was stoned or drunk.
posted by desjardins at 7:45 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

sorry, should clarify - if it's within your personal morals, then get drunk/stoned, or realize that no one there is going to notice what you do/don't do or remember it.
posted by desjardins at 7:46 AM on October 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

You could bring props for your friend and the people around you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:53 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a curmudgeon myself, I also wrestle with this. I appeal to the Buddhist idea of "sympathetic joy," taking pleasure in the happiness of others. Now, in the interest of complete disclosure, I am not very good at this, but you could try to take pleasure in your friend's enthusiasm, and let that improve your own mood.

Also, the film has its own genuine charms apart from the whole "cult movie" aspect, so it's possible to enjoy it on its own terms, and I say that as my own sort of picky movie viewer.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:53 AM on October 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

Drink heavily.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:59 AM on October 22, 2011

And I want to do it without being a an asshole and sending out 'get off my lawn' vibes.

It might help to keep in mind that you're on their lawn.

I find this kind of thing easy to do, probably because I have kids. When you have kids you have to make an effort to be un-self-consciously enthusiastic about a lot of things (Pokemon, Bieber, caterpillars) that you think are lame, because your kids think they're awesome. The thing is though, when you see how much joy those lame things bring your kids, you are grateful for them, and they become less lame as a result. Not awesome, but less lame. It's all related to your feelings for the kid, not your feelings for the lame/awesome thing.

So maybe if you can think about how much joy Rocky Horror (which is actually showing/sold out tonight in my town) brings to your friend, and appreciate the movie for that. Just let your feelings for your awesome friend be the thing that guides your response, rather than your feelings for the lame thing your friend likes.
posted by headnsouth at 8:01 AM on October 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

If you were traveling in the jungle and met a tribe who invited you to their big Full Moon Dance and Feast, would you sit there looking uncomfortable and wishing you had a napkin? Or would you get on your feet and dance along with them, waving your arms in the air and laughing at how badly you do it? I am NOT suggesting that you dance in the aisles, but you can certainly enjoy other people enjoying themselves. It has nothing to do with you, or how you feel about movies, or how Halloween makes you gag. It's about sharing with your friend, it only lasts a couple of hours, your friend will be happy, and you can be privately grateful you won't be asked to eat anything outside your comfort zone.

I give this advice as someone who has gone to a singalong "Mama Mia" with a friend, and a singalong "Sound of Music" with an elderly aunt. You will survive. And the music will fade from your mind in a few days.
posted by kestralwing at 8:07 AM on October 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Even if you personally are not into the props you will want to be prepared for the "rainfall." I had an authentic Cleveland Plain Dealer, but any newspaper will do.
posted by jgirl at 8:08 AM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Kestralwing pretty much nails it. I'm 62 and something of a curmudgeon too, but went with my wife (who is a big fan) and daughters in Oxford last year. I photographed my wife with some of the dressed up fans--and we all had a blast. In short, let your hair down as far as you possibly can. You will not look like a fool or suffer a lifetime of sorrow if you join in with the Time Warp.
posted by Logophiliac at 8:14 AM on October 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

Well, I can give you an angle on understanding the appeal, maybe. It's always been hard for me to watch bad movies. I am probably a snot about it. The first time I saw RHPS I thought it was garbage - it made no sense - I didn't even find it to be stupid funny. But once I'd gone to a few showings with an actual cast, I got into it.

It can help if you think of RHPS as "complete interactive experience". I don't mean so much the dancing in the aisles and using props part. My gateway was the callbacks. When you're busy shouting clever (or cheesy, or lowbrow) things at the screen at just the right times in the movie, and everyone's cracking up at all the clever things other people are ripping off, and you all manage to keep that up for the whole movie, it's pretty fun. (At the very least, it gets you through the couple hours you're there.)

You've got to get beyond the basic callbacks for the real funny (and some places don't! you should be good if you're attending a showing that has an actual cast acting everything out and interacting with the audience). Here's a RHPS callbacks script. Even if you can't time the callbacks, most of the songs are sung with lots of different lyrics (if your cast is Doing It Right) and, if you can tap into the silly there, it will at least stave off boredom.

I'm kind of a person who doesn't like standing up in front of a group talking with all eyes on me (ugh), but every time I got to shout something at the screen at just the right moment, in a dark movie theater with a few hundred people in it, and everyone fell over laughing... that was great. (It was subversive for me, since I would never shout at a movie while watching it in a movie theater.)

I mean, you're basically getting to bust on the movie, out loud, because it's a crappy movie. But lovingly. Think of it like MST3K, that might help!
posted by flex at 8:29 AM on October 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Here's the thing about Rocky Horror: It's a shitty movie. It wasn't until people started yelling at the screen that it even got remotely interesting. When I used to go in HS, it was almost about as much about hanging out with fellow misfits than actually seeing the movie. Let you freak flag fly for a little bit. Bring a lighter, some rice, a newspaper. Watch the crazy people in their get-ups. And look for Colombia's nipple in the scene where Eddie comes out of the deep-freeze.
posted by Gilbert at 8:31 AM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Grab a copy of the soundtrack and listen to it a few times before you go. I resisted seeing the film for a long time, maybe because I had a whole bunch of acquaintances who were obsessed with it in that "I want to be a part of this crowd" way... I actually bought a super cheapo copy of the soundtrack a few years ago and the cheese somehow made sense just as an over the top album to me. When I finally saw the movie I have to admit I enjoyed myself, mainly via the songs. They're ridiculous.
posted by mintcake! at 9:05 AM on October 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

RHPS is kind of a movie for misanthropes. Lots of double-dealing and treachery. Disappointment and loss. Promise of paradise...but! Cop a really bad attitude before you go in, which is precisely how I got dragged to my first showing...for some reason I ended up liking it a lot and watching it a buttload more times.
posted by telstar at 9:13 AM on October 22, 2011

I am very emotionally attached to RHPS. When I was a high school misfit loner, going to Rocky twice a month was the highlight of my life. I looked forward to it like nothing else. For a lot of people it really is about so much more than the movie itself.

That said, I've dragged plenty of people who didn't really want to be there. The way I got them to amuse themselves was to have them watch the movie at home and come up with 5 callbacks of their very own. :D People are very receptive to new callbacks at the theaters I've been to, and a few of the callbacks my curmudgeonly friends have made up are still in use at the theater I go to now. Would it make you feel good to imagine that your silly jokes are still being used a year after you came up with them?
posted by d13t_p3ps1 at 9:17 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is a movie that never ever ever could have been made today! It's delicious when you really start to pick it apart...

I'm on my iPhone so no links, but I suggest you get deep into the trivia. It's a parody based on a stage musical featuring some major talents, plus most of the original stage actors (and the author!) are playing their original roles. This movie has the longest run of any film in history.

And frankly (yes. I just did that) Tim Curry's performance is flawless.

But maybe I enjoy campiness and nerdy facts way too much?

There's a lot more to this film to appreciate. Dig into it before you hit the theater.

posted by jbenben at 9:17 AM on October 22, 2011

And frankly (yes. I just did that) Tim Curry's performance is flawless.

It doesn't matter if you are male, female, gay, bi, straight, or anything in between... if you are willing to loosen up a bit and open yourself to the possibilities, you will discover that Tim Curry as Dr. Frank N. Furter is the sexiest thing that has ever happened on this planet. You will start getting the vapours, and the rest of the movie will all just sort of fade out of view as you drink him in.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:25 AM on October 22, 2011 [31 favorites]

2. I like movies. But I like good movies. I have a big movie snob issue.

In my experience (with others), being a movie snob in this way has more to do with an insecurity over the way one's likes and opinions will be perceived or appreciated by other people than any sort of true aesthetic or intellectual fulfillment.

Look at John Waters' movies. Look at Pink Flamingos, or Female Trouble. These are twisted D-grade movies made by a bunch of petty criminals and burnouts, and what makes them enjoyable has everything to do with the spirit in which they were made, their sort of bratty talking-back-to-the-screen response to other things that were being presented as popular culture at the time. The fact that they pulled their shit together to even make movies at all is pretty astounding, and the perversion that they dared to present to the world as "entertainment" is downright evil genius. And then the fact that it worked -- worked then and still works now -- and helped launch the careers of many, many people, why that defies so many odds that you almost can't even fathom it. They are not "good" movies, but they are extremely enjoyable, challenging, brave, silly movies, and who are we to turn up our noses?

Anyhow that kind of background context is usually what turns a "terrible" movie into a precious artifact. So many movies I've been lucky enough to see over the years -- "White Dog", "Scum of the Earth", "Vamp", etc. etc. -- are an amazing part of the cinematic historical record, and in most cases represent artists exploring and taking huge risks with their professional name and future career.

The entire canon of New Line Cinema releases owe their origin to "A Nightmare on Elm Street," without which that production/distribution company would never have existed.
posted by hermitosis at 9:31 AM on October 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

First, instead of thinking of it as participatory organized fun, think of it as a cultural experience. Study up on it and read some of the history of the movie and of the fandom. As others have suggested, listen to the soundtrack. (The songs are very memorable. I've seen the movie twice in 44 years, and I'm almost simultaneously humming three of the songs right now!) Familiarity breeds ... an inability to remain uninvolved.

Next, recognize that it wasn't meant to be Citizen Kane, but a campy genre mash-up in an era when there wasn't much out there like it. This was pre-snark.

Finally, don't think of yourself as part of the audience, but as part of the show. You're the Greek chorus and the guys from Mystery Science Theater 3000 rolled into one. If you think of it that way, you're not participating in organized fun, but playing a role and if you throw yourself into that "responsibility", you might help you have fun in spite of your expectations.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 9:36 AM on October 22, 2011

Rocky Horror isn't about the movie. You're not going to have a cinematic experience. It's not Ed Wood where they're trying so very hard. It is completely over the top.

You're going to watch a bunch of very drunk and probably high people put on a show while a movie happens to be running that parallels the show. It's about the ritual, going to the show, yelling along with everyone else, singing the songs, doing the dances, watching (most likely) a bunch of amateurs putting on a ridiculous show related to the movie while the audience shouts out their lines, jokes, and wisecracks.

What I'd suggest is see if you can find one of the DVD editions they did that cues you on the lines and when to throw things, because 1. You'll see what the movie is about and 2. You'll have some idea when to participate and get some of the jokes ahead of time.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:14 AM on October 22, 2011

Man, I find that seeing this thing in the theater is actually the worst, because it's legitimately a fun movie with great songs. Like, really, the musical numbers are great. And Tim Curry is genius. Whenever I've gone live, the majority of the audience is comprised of adolescents discovering their sexuality. Maybe you can treat it as an anthropological experience. :-/
posted by namesarehard at 10:47 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was a regular RHPSer back in the day. This is the appeal: A bunch of dorks and outcasts get together and laugh and sing and play. They get to dress up and feel good and be among people who accept them. They get to be the ones with the inside jokes for a change.

Not insignificantly, too, they get to dress up all slutty and feel sexy. Boys can put on makeup and wear lingerie, girls can vamp up with impunity, and rather than being ostracized, they're applauded and accepted and among friends. And there was always something special about the Rockies. At my home theater, basically, anyone could dress up as a character and go up to the front, so there was always some redundancy. And it really made me happy to see all the blond-haired jock types, the types that I'd known primarily as bullies, up there in their gold lame underpants, joyously gaying it up with the Franks.

I tried some time back to relive it a little by watching it on video, but it fell flat that way, without all the people there. So don't focus just on the movie. Focus on all of the dorks and outcasts in the audience with you, and know that this makes them happy in a way that maybe they haven't felt elsewhere in their lives.

There's really just about nothing NOT to celebrate about it. If you can't have fun yourself, bask in the fun-having of others.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:06 AM on October 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Okay, thanks all, I think I have a few things you've all said that are helpful given that:

1. I am a freak.
2. I am a huge fan of MSTK3000
3. I think this may call for pot brownies
4. My friend is a complete sweetheart, so it will be adorable to witness his joy.
posted by angrycat at 11:49 AM on October 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

Whenever I've gone live, the majority of the audience is comprised of adolescents discovering their sexuality.

Yep. I've played Magenta twice and Janet once in college productions. In high school, I was crazy about RHPS; in college, I was happy to be involved, but the bloom was off the rose. It's for the young.

Even then, I understood very well that it was a kind of ritual. It invokes the joy of unbridled sexuality, then its cruelty, and then its emptiness. It uses big cartoonish characters,* not like a movie or even most dramas, but more like a Mardi Gras rite. The ubiquitous black high heels don't even look like shoes to me anymore -- they're signifiers. Everyone in the movie goes home miserable, used and bedraggled, which is catharsis at its finest, along with hubris and nemesis and other millennium-old concepts.

And nobody has to know any of that. It's sexy fun with cheap jokes -- some of which are really homophobic and ableist, depending on where you see it -- and it's for everybody that's there, for better and for worse.

* Possibly this is why no one is really interested in the sequel, Shock Treatment. Well, that and the fact that it sucks.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:52 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Last year I happened to stay at the Oakley court Hotel near Windsor, England. It is a rather staid country house hotel with an oak panelled dining room, a fine view of the Thames and hunting prints on the wall.

But it looked strangely familiar - and it turns out that this is because it was used as the Frank-N-furter’s mansion. In the 70s and 80s the hotel was empty and abandoned - and also just down the road from Hammer Films. It was therefore used as the go-to location for this and many other even worse films. You look at the current brochure pictures and try to compare the present with the state of the building in the film.
posted by rongorongo at 11:52 AM on October 22, 2011

Trivia fact: Kevin Murphy -- who was Tom Servo and a guiding writer of MST3K -- has gone on record, in his book A Year at the Movies, about how much he hates RHPS. I don't remember what he said, but he found it cheap, tacky and fake-transgressive, an opinion which I can certainly respect. I mention this because, as a huge fan of MST3K, I don't think the experiences are alike at all.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:55 AM on October 22, 2011

I think the movie is pretty much crap on its own.
I hate organized fun.
I've seen Rocky Horror Picture Show (too many times!) over 100 times in theaters (and got conned into being the stand in for Columbia a few times).

It's not MST3K. It's like the drunk, angry cousin of MST3K.

"Listen closely. Not for very much longer. I've got to (SMOKE A BOWL!)" is not delicious satire. It's stupid, immature fun. It's the cinematic equivalent of strapping an M80 to army men after school. It's a room full of people -- some SCA people who like to dress up, some who appreciate the sexual freedom thing in the movie and some who've been waiting for that moment they could just throw toast up in the air and watch it hit a stranger in the head.

I listened to the call-back soundtrack in the car a few times before I went the second time and that made it awesome for me (although the clap/herpes/AIDS jokes are a bit dated) to just know a few lines.

I'm a total cinema snob. I make snide comments about robots blowing up the moon while waiting in line for precious indie darlings in film festivals and I do the "Oh, you haven't seen -----" thing enough to make me cringe. But RHPS is the opportunity to just mock the living crap out of a film that delights in it in a semi-angry, campy way. But make sure you don't sober up during the RKO/Rocky climbs the tower with (spoiler!) dead Frankenfurter scene. There aren't enough lines in the world to make that section of the film entertaining.

(Although I must admit that I now hit THE ROOM instead. Less singing and dancing. More throwing of plastic cutlery and mockery.)
posted by Gucky at 12:59 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm somewhat of a movie snob, and I also went to RHPS every week for over a year in my 20's (I'm your age, exactly). I never dressed up and I brought props, maybe once. Squirt guns and rice...

I'll say this, the movie is bad, but it isn't without merit. The songs are good. And the movie itself is a great piece of cinematic history in how it represents the sexual revolution. Brad and Janet, from Denton, OH are the straightest kids this side of Eisenhower. Their car breaks down and they become embroiled in a mad scientist's plot to find sexual freedom (In this case, creating a perfect lover.) But in the end the fuddy-duddies still win because his freedom is still too extreme for his planet or ours. It's a tragic struggle for Frank to be happy, and he never will be, even when he begs to NOT see the world the way it really is. "Rose tint my world, and keep me safe..."

Then the experiences that Brad and Janet have been through change them forever and force them to ask if they will ever be happy with themselves or each other. In fact, their wedding plans may just be off for good. Janet, for example, may not want "What Betty Monroe had." Because she says, "All I know is still, the beast is feeding."

It is bad, but it holds up, I think, an important view of what sexual freedom meant in that era. You could have free love, but not too free...

In this one aspect, despite some of the garish production design and the over-the-top acting, it's an interesting, thoughtful beast on this topic, and I'm not sure if any other movie explores those themes as well as RHPS does. Especially movies contemporaneous to the sexual revolution. Maybe Bob, Ted, Carol, and Alice? So as for cinema history, the movie is pretty unique in this way. And I think that speaks to the people who go to see it every week even if the nature of their attendance appears to mock the film, or just dance to the music, or throw rice at each other... They still hear the message.

Wikipedia tells me Brad and Janet got married by the time of the events of Shock Therapy, but it doesn't matter, RHPS is fine as its bad self. So while you're being a good friend, there is an academic way of looking at the film that can help you to see it differently.
posted by CarlRossi at 1:35 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you seen it live before? If not, then you're a virgin and, if there's a shadow cast present, you should be prepared for the virgin sacrifice. A naughty (yet still kind of innocuous) stunt you will have to perform. It's part of the ritual.
posted by inturnaround at 3:04 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Okay, thanks all, I think I have a few things you've all said that are helpful given that:

1. I am a freak.
2. I am a huge fan of MSTK3000
3. I think this may call for pot brownies
4. My friend is a complete sweetheart, so it will be adorable to witness his joy.

This all adds up to a fun, silly evening for you!

I was almost a cast member when I was younger. The application asked for sexual preference (if vegetable, please explain).
posted by kamikazegopher at 4:49 PM on October 22, 2011

3. I think this may call for pot brownies

Don't dream it. Be it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:13 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well feel like I'm a bit of a film snob and I think Rocky Horror is quite an excellent film. It's a camp comedy musical, none of which puts it in any 'important' or 'profound' category, but it would not be as long running if there were not many great elements. I have seen it more than once, maybe three times? Concentrate on the editing if you need an element (other than the audience) to focus. But do let loose and do the Time Warp.
posted by sammyo at 7:46 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm with you. I don't like organized fun, particularly where lots of people are doing (or expected to do) the same thing: Line dancing isn't dancing, the electric slide isn't dancing, and flash mobs just make me feel sorry for people.

I've seen RHPS about a hundred times. The first half is fun in a campy way. The second half (after Meatloaf's death) is a miserable bore, to the point that I've fallen asleep despite knowing all the lines. As far as dancing in the aisles: If you don't, there's really no point in going. The Time Warp is just about the only fun part of the movie, aside from Tim Curry's performance.

Drugs might help depending on how you handle them, but in my case they would just make it worse. I tried watching Underworld 3 after some particularly strong brownies once, and it seriously felt like that movie was 5 hours long.

Good luck - at least it's not a long movie.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:55 PM on October 22, 2011

Let me help you appreciate the cast a bit more:

Tim Curry has never been sexier to anyone and everyone than he has in RHPC, he is the very definition of over-the-top in this film. Better than Clue.
Susan Sarandon is beautiful, innocent and has a decent voice in this movie, picture her now while you watch it and you'll see where she gets her experience from.
Brad Majors is Clark Kent without the Superman alter ego (except when he takes his glasses off).
Rocky is an Adonis, eat him up regardless of your gender, that's the point of the movie.
Riff Raff (Richard O'Brian) in my mind is the star of the show: he wrote the play, he wrote the songs, he sings, he acts, but he avoids the centre of attention. His knowing glances throughout the film are your checkpoints, assuring you that he's got you covered.
Meatloaf: a great cliché of the lousy boyfriend you can't let go.
The man with no neck: what's a good narrator without hyperbole.
posted by furtive at 11:03 AM on October 23, 2011

Spoke to this friend about the thread; he's not a mefite (tho' I hope that I will change) and at first he groaned "oh...no" and then I told them how supportive you all were and how I now am ready to appreciate this show to the fullest.

Have got the soundtrack from Spotify; will report back in a week.
posted by angrycat at 3:06 PM on October 23, 2011

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