Trigger warning: ableist, homophobic, and misogynistic slurs; brief discussion of rape
This might sound weird to a lot of people, but damn do I owe a lot to Rocky Horror. The soundtrack, minus one or two songs, got me through a lot of rough patches, from puberties to abuse.1 The songs are permanently etched into my head — I have Rose Tint My World stuck in my head right now, actually.
And so what could be better than going to a shadowcast? I’d have other freaks and geeks there with me, people who gladly and repeatedly immersed themselves in the funky waters of both subversive and exploitative sexualities, and who continuously reflected upon all the kinky morals and moral kinks in the movie. A safe space.
Goddesses, I can be naive.
I went to a shadowcast and I’m not sure I ever want to go to another. I can listen to the soundtrack without feeling horrible, thankfully, but I’m not sure I’m going to be okay watching the movie itself for quite a long time. It was fucking terrifying to see just what blends of misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, acephobia, ableism, and compulsory sexuality other freaks and geeks can come up with.
Movie: …Brad Majors…
Movie: …Janet Weiss…
…first off, has anyone thought of how absolutely fucked up it is to call a rape victim a stupid slut repeatedly? No, no, I will not have anyone telling me that it was okay because she enjoyed it, or because it opened her eyes to the idea of sex. What Frank did both to Janet and to Brad was not okay; both of them were raped, pure and simple.
And then Janet gets rhetorically pummeled for it. ‘Oh, what a shame it is that Janet didn’t remain a dainty little virgin and save herself for Brad’s honeymoon suite. How dare she get raped, and then how dare she have consensual sex with a second person instead of waiting for her owner to fuck her as is proper,’ said no decent person ever whose lips weren’t positively dripping with sarcasm and vitriol.
So what does the audience want, exactly? Is there any route Janet could have taken to avoid being ensnared in the sharp thorns of the madonna-whore dichotomy? Of course, the answer’s going to be ‘no.’ The whole point of the movie is to present a metaphor for the dangerous, multi-faceted, terrifying world out there; it’s a paradise lost scenario with sex and kink serving as heaven, terra, and hell all at once. There was no way for Janet to avoid her fate and keep the same narrative, so the fault is with the audience, no? The movie uses rape as a narrative vehicle and we use rape culture as a weapon against the most ‘shrill’ and ‘uppity’ woman around.2
And that’s not the only thorny piece of obligatory sexuality that popped up. This one, though, was probably not part of the standard script, just a whim of my particular cast. The Virgin sacrifice we had was just horrible. Four random people were picked out of the Virgin lineup, posed as homoerotically as possible, given popsicles, and told to suck on them all the way down to the wood.
Did we enter a time machine to the 1960s on crossing the threshold to the theater? For a supposedly ‘progressive’ crowd, there was a lot of hee-hawing about having some random people (who are always assumed to be straight unless proven otherwise) be all gay with one another.
I’m not harping on the fact that they wanted ‘straight’ humiliation because I want to garner pity for the straight folk of the world. I bring it up so much because I think it’s problematic that people are, by default, assumed to be straight.
I also bring it up because it’s wrong to make crowd acceptance conditional on being forced to be sexual. That hurts rape and abuse victims; asexual, demi, and other gray-a people; autistic and otherwise non-neurotypical people; and is just generally creepy and invasive. Don’t do it, please.
Zeroignite and I, nervous and wanting to gain the approval of the fickle crowd, almost made out for their amusement, but didn’t get the chance to do so. We’d be outing ourselves as lesbians, and thus as certified queers, we wouldn’t be the main attraction; they were out for the blood of those they assumed are/were straight. Talking about it later, we were both glad that we didn’t do it; it wouldn’t have made us any happier to be sex fodder for a creepy and demanding audience.
It was this way the whole movie. The audience enjoyed engaging in the sharpest, loudest, most discordant way possible. They threw out words like cripple, faggot, bitch, slut like there was no tomorrow. I was half expecting someone to yell out the n-word in the middle of it, just to make it as clear as can be that I and my friends are not welcome here.
A friend blamed this on a particularly bad audience that night, but I think that it’s more than that. Even she, someone I trust almost wholeheartedly to be a decent person, gave in completely to the crowd’s problematic attitude.
The show encourages you to become uninhibited, but… still, that shouldn’t be more important than hurting people. I mean… the point of sharing in a shadowcast is to be together. Some people might claim that some of the things I’m talking about are part of the typical experience, but then… unless you want to create a very specialized clique of mean-acting people, why would you stand for it? I want to be part of the experience, I want to feel at home with everyone, but I also can’t do that with so many parts of my identity being attacked.
I’m a biracial trans* immigrant; a girl with nice magenta hair and a wicked classy black dress which I wear whenever I can; a victim of abuse who grew up with a caretaker in a wheelchair and two senior citizens; a bipolar, depressed vegan with increasingly pained feet from lack of a good pair of shoes; a video game nerd and programmer and staunch intersectional feminist. It’s hard enough trying to deal with society as a whole. Please don’t add to the strain in what’s supposed to be a refuge for us all.
Sweet Transvestite and I’m Going Home, as a trans* person, are both… complicated songs. I have a love-hate relationship with them.↩
I don’t feel that it’s my place to debate whether Rocky Horror’s use of rape as a narrative vehicle is a good thing or not. I haven’t been a victim of rape and I don’t want to appropriate or twist anyone’s experiences in my ignorance. I have to defer here to the people who (tragically) know better than I.↩