I was watching Rocky Horror Picture Show tonight, for the first time in over a year. It was a shocking realisation of how queer I’ve become. Before, I thought it was just a bad film, made fun by corsets. I was so shocked I actually asked my friends “Is it bad that I actually understand this film now?” I think they assumed I meant the plot, but the plot was simple, it was the film that was giving me problems.
I’m going to need to watch it again, looking out for the meaning beneath the words, but there were moments when it just pierced me. At the end, when the house in which your wildest dreams come true, the house of mirrors, vanishes, Brad, corset torn, looks up at the camera and says that, through all his searching, through all the crapsack of identity and gender and power and pain, he is never any more than he was when he started, bleeding inside, an eternal question mark without hope of answers or solid ground. I almost cried. It begins with answers, solidity, gender stereotypes, certainty, and ends with nothing but the potential of what the individual might one day be, if they weren’t so afraid, so lost, so alone. I’d heard of the interpretation where it’s all about ‘yay, let’s celebrate our sexualities’, but I didn’t give it much credence because, well, Frankenfurter is a rogue. Columbia rips into him about his horrible power games and then he carries them out anyway. He is punished for his transgressions, and dies unmorned except by the primitive and external id that he created. How’s that for non-judgemental?
But now I’m seeing it as part of the cleverness. It isn’t just the anthem of sexual freedom, it’s the story of it. Metaphorically, it’s what is going on inside us all, and inside our societies, when we decide to challenge established ground. There is fear and pleasure and lies and knowledge and ignorance. Nothing is real, and you have to keep comforting yourself that at least you don’t believe the lies. If there wasn’t badness, it couldn’t be sex, because sex can be bad (and there’s a radical asexual notion I’d like to stand behind).
And I’ve always seen Rocky as asexual. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it started with the first time I watched, when I missed his sex scenes, but even after I re-watched and saw Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me and the song where he’s like “My libedo hasn’t been controlled,” I still think of him as a sex-liking asexual. He never (until he’s hypnotised) initiates sex, he goes along with it when two powerful and domineering people push him into it. And that’s a beautiful little thought- Janet has to pretend that he’s the big, strong man, and can’t admit, even to herself, that the reason she gets with him is because she needs someone to do what she wants, but has to externalise it and pretend it isn’t coming from her. Everyone externalises onto Rocky. In fact, now I think of it, I remember thinking something very similar when I decided he was asexual, and they’re connected. Everyone has their own desires, their own perversions, and they take them out on Rocky. Rocky never has real opinions or ideas or arousal shown, he’s just the playtoy of all the others, and I feel like I can see through the unreliable forcing of the other character’s motives onto him and see through to the simplicity of him. He likes sex because it feels nice, and because he has a libedo, but there doesn’t seem to be genuine sexual attraction there.
He’s an unlikely asexual champion, I’ll admit. But I like him.