Festival
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: A Modern Folk Festival

Context:

The subject is a white gender non-conforming individual from Brooklyn, New York. This interview takes place a couple days after the subject and I attend a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show together. I would describe the experience as a weekly or monthly folk festival. People, usually teenagers and usually members of the LGBT community watch this 80s flop movie while poking fun at the film’s ridiculousness. When I talk to them, the subject identifies as gender non-binary, I ask them about their first time going to Rocky as well as what the experience is like. Their first time going was a different cinema in New York City, where they’re from, they reference the differences between that and the rituals we saw in Los Angeles, showing multiplicity and variation. I find these midnight screenings fascinating as they are interacting with a piece of authored work but turning it into their own folk customs. While each place does similar things, there is always variety.

 

Piece:

“Um, so you’re….um so my first time going, sorry if this is not allowed, but you get really wasted before hand, is the idea. Um you dress as revealing as you want to, which is normally a lot, especially for me. Uh, and I went with a bunch of my friends and the lines pretty long but you get through it and then you write, if you’re a virgin meaning that you’ve never gone before to the show you get a V drawn on your forehead with red lipstick. And uh, so I got a V drawn on my forehead cause I’d never been before and we, and then, they yell a bunch of stuff when you get there like “Welcome to the Ro…” OH! It started out with a dance party, that’s what’s fun, they don’t do that in LA, or atleast at the NuArt, but in New York they start with a dance party so they get everyone up in front and everyone dances together and it’s super fun. They do a bunch of other weird shit at the front, just some fun intro games and stuff. Uh, I don’t remember those, it’s just like them yelling things and being silly and doing really short bits. But then, they have all sit down, and they’re like “Oh if you’re a virgin”, meaning that you’d never been to Rocky Horror before, come to the front. So I went to the front, and they like pick out of the people who go up there, and they choose me, as well as a bunch of other people. And they were like “ok, what you guys are going to do is your best orgasm noises”, this is technically a secret, virgins aren’t supposed to know before they go to Rocky Horror but I’ll let you in on it. Um so, we all did our best orgasm noises, and I won actually, I won Best Orgasm Noise, by like audience participation, like so they like clap for, you know, like the loudest clap, my friends screamed a lot for me, so that’s why I won. And my prize was I got to be in the show, which they also don’t do in LA, but they do in New York. So, so what I got to do is be in the married couple, thats like in the beginning because you know how Brad and Janet are at a wedding. So I got to be uh, I think I choose to be the bride, they let you choose though because Rocky Horror is very queer and genderfluid and its whatever the fuck you want. And my hus… yeah, my groom was this very hot person, uh, so they were like “hi, we’re getting married” and like flirting with me and I was like “I can’t handle this, I’m too fragile and gay”. Um, but yeah, I got to be  the bride to their groom and we went up there and I through my bouquet and Janet caught it and uh that was my bit and then I got to sit in the audience. And, uh, then Rocky Horror ensues, which is just like, do you want me to describe it? Ok, so it’s this really shitty movie from the 80s that’s really out there and wild. Uh, and basically how they do it now is they do it live and they like a shadow cast perform the same thing they’ll perform the same thing thats happening onstage [I think they mean onscreen] but like sillier with jokes and more ridiculous and usually very queer. Like the person playing Brad was a…. woman, the person, as far as I could tell, was a woman, the person playing Rocky was a woman, Frankenfurter was a woman. It’s very cool and exciting , very sexual. Um, so I can only remember LA’s calls and responses, but youre, whenever Brad introduces himself on screen you’re supposed to yell “Asshole” and whenever Janet introduces herself on screen, you’re supposed to yell “Slut”. Um, you’re also supposed to make fun off, there’s this one guy who shows up sometimes in between and he has no neck so people will just shout at him about how he has no neck, um. Some more fun call and responses, uuuhhm, badibaba, I’m having difficulty remembering. There’s these people who walk p and down the aisles, I think they’re tech slash security, and they’ll yell things like “Oh Rocky show us how you masturbate” and like on screen Rocky, just like in the movie, not knowing people have said this in real life, will go like. He’ll shake his arm or something. [They demonstrate a arm-shaking movement] Um, just fun stuff like that. You’re also supposes to call out when people start stripping onstage or having sex. The lips! You’re always supposed to go like “ow ow” at like you know, cause you know in the movie is just lips talking, but in the live version, I mean the shadow cast, they’ll have like a dancer which is really fun. Uuuum, yeah it’s stripping, yeah I’d call it burlesque, usually what goes down. It’s a passed on tradition, they people that go the most they’re like dedicated fans and those who go only once in a while, they enjoy what the dedicated fans are doing.

 

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