Case Study on stereotypes and how to deal with them: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Yesterday was Halloween, and since I had nothing planned, I decided to go watch a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.


Yesterday was Halloween, and since I had nothing planned, I decided to go watch a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

So I asked a friend if she wanted to join, and she told me she didn’t like it and that it perpetuated harmful stereotypes about transgender and gender variant people. I had never seen the film before (yes, totally saw the film with a V stamped on my forehead), but looking at trailers and various images, I could see what she meant.

Why I decided to go anyway

First, I had already bought a ticket. Second, I like to get my own opinion of something before judging. And after some research online, it was pretty clear that nobody was taking this film seriously, so I was really curious, and went anyway.

So, how are the stereotypes?

Bad. They’re very, very bad. And it’s not just transgender, it’s everything. Every character is a bad stereotype who acts in a very stupid way. (1)


But I don’t think it’s harmful.

See, there are a lot of movies throughout history where you can actually debate whether it’s alright to watch them. There are great films that show very harmful stereotypes, and you can definitely wonder if you could put them in context to decide if it’s still worth seeing, or if you consider that art and historical context doesn’t justify going through such things. I really think this matter needs to be taken into consideration case by case, and depends on your own feelings and the reasons why you want to watch these films. If you need an example, let’s say that in Blade Runner, Deckard sexually assaults another character. How do you think about that?

But RHPS is not such film. It’s a stupid 1975′ horror-SF-comedy musical that tried to capitalize on stereotypes, bad acting and terrible art choices (again, see note 1). 40 years later, it’s a curiosity that people love to make fun of. They even came up along the years with a very codified way to enjoy it, mixed with live performance and improvised audience participation. In the end, it’s not a screening, it’s a humiliation/execution for the enjoyment of the crowd (if you think about it, that’s even more disturbing). As I told my friend, in my opinion, it’s like the school bully who ends up being mocked by everyone. All its power has vanished by being ridiculed by the crowd. And in the end, that makes for a very enjoyable show. And it correlates with what I saw online before watching the film.

But you’re saying people who thinks it’s offensive are wrong.

Of course not. I just want to point out that the audience coming to see the show are not stupid enough to fall for these stereotypes. They don’t mention them? Well, it’s probably because they’ve seen it 20 times over, and they don’t feel like the need to go over this every single time. Quite frankly, I’m talking about that because it’s my first time watching it, but after a few time, I’ll be like “what, are we still on that?”

For me, it’s like Cards Against Humanity. If you know what kind of content may come out and if you feel like you may be offended, it’s probably safe not to watch it. But if you want to have some fun at the expense of a terrible film with a cheerful crowd, then don’t hesitate to give it a try. Just don’t watch it alone in your living room. That would totally suck.

And on a final note…



(1) There are people who honestly think there is a real plot with social themes and that the movie is made stupid on purpose to be critical of other musicals. To me, it looks like people are trying too hard to justify why they enjoy it, but I guess it’s debatable. I’m just not really interested in that debate.

Author: Élise

I'm a 30-something French writer, living in Montréal QC, who has a lot of ideas but struggle to put them on paper. I am also socially awkward and I can't go out without my social shield.

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