Monday, August 17, 2009

Personal Reflections on The Rocky Horror Picture Show Experience

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is something that should be experienced, even just once, by everyone. At the Plaza Theater Classic Film Festival, it was screened not in the large Kendle Kidd Performance Hall or the smaller Philanthropy Theater but out in the Arts Festival Plaza, the open space between the theater and the El Paso Museum of Art.  

In retrospect, I think the reason is simple: as a historic site, The Plaza Theater might not survive the audience participation The Rocky Horror Picture Show inspires.  It HAS to be held either outside or at a venue which doesn't mind cleaning up.

I've always felt that El Paso is not a town that welcomes excessive individualism. Being weird here is still frown upon, not like our state capital Austin, which revels in its eccentricities.

That is reflected in the audience at the film's screening: most people were not dressed up like the characters and were taken by surprise by the various activities that make up the RHPS Experience. For example, in the opening moments most everyone around me was thrown off by having all this rice thrown all over the place. I heard someone say, "The pigeons are going to explode!", causing me to burst out in laughter. 

As as sign of how square I am, I was shocked when I saw what appeared to be pieces of bread flying through the air until I made the connection between this and Dr. Frank N. Furter's cry of "A toast!"

Yes, naïve is a quality I have in spades.

It was clear that most of the audience didn't know any of the songs, but like respectable El Pasoans sat quietly while trying to listen to them. All, except for Time Warp. That one definitely got just about everyone trying it out. The fact that it was held outside might have been the problem. Sometimes it was hard to hear what was on the screen because the true devotees were up front and the noise they made, along with the outside noises like cars, made things hard to hear at times.

For myself, I enjoyed what I could make out of the film. What I would really like to do is go to an actual theater that allows for such intense participation. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, after seeing it, was to me a cry to reject "normality" and surrender to a near-anarchy. It is the ridiculing of standard behavior (certainly by referring to the squares Brad and Janet as "Asshole" and "Slut" respectively) and the celebration of the bizarre and non-conformist that the film gets its holding power. 

I'm probably too much of a square to fully get into The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I admit it. I certainly wouldn't appear in drag but if I did go to a midnight screening, it would be as more observer of the audience than the film, which I wasn't overwhelmed with. I can't say I didn't enjoy myself, but I was a bit puzzled by it all. I may find the people who dress up odd, but time has softened me to where I can see them as more curious than insane.

I can, however, see the appeal. It appeals to all those who feel different from their peers, out of place in a world where you are not in a clique--the Jock, the Nerd, the Beautiful People. It's a cry to loosen yourself from the restrictive patterns of accepted behavior. 

I have nothing against nonconformity and individualism. I do have an issue with flying toast and exploding pigeons.

DECISION: B- (for the viewing experience)
DECISION: C- (for the film itself)

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