My previous post on Grayson Perry has unexpectedly become one of the most popular things I have
written on this blog. So let me turn to another of my cross-dressing heroes for
a much-needed dose of inspiration and humour.
|O'Brien as you know him...|
To any man who has ever donned a
pair of fishnets and heels, Richard O’Brien
surely needs no introduction at
all. His greatest and best-known opus is the cult musical The Rocky Horror Show
, written in about 1973, which he describes as
“just a bit of fun”. O’Brien (now 70) would then have been about thirty years
old. Later of course, it was filmed as The Rocky Horror Picture Show
in 1975. When I first saw it, I couldn’t actually
believe what I was seeing, and I couldn’t sleep that night for replaying it
over and over in my head.
O'Brien: Rocky’s allowed a lot of people who wouldn’t normally have the
opportunity to express themselves have that chance to be more open and to free
If it had just been about
crossdressing, Rocky Horror would have fizzled in a season. What makes it work
is not just the crossdressing, but the other stuff too: the loving and careful
parodies which are both flagrant and subtle (and Tim Curry’s
performance in the movie is a triumph). Like other wonderful parodies, it was
clearly hard for O’Brien to decide how to end the story of Brad and Janet. We
clearly couldn’t just have them going back to their normal lives, so O’Brien
had to write an ending of even greater weirdness, with something of a
deus-ex-machina flavour. (Don’t even get me started about the ending of Blazing Saddles
|O'Brien: a sweet transvestite|
RHPS has always been a troublesome issue for me. On the one hand, it's SUCH a fun show and the music is painfully addictive, and of course there is the crossdressing theme. On the other hand, there are two messages in it that I don't like. The first is the celebration of unrestrained sexual excess. Believe it or not, once you get past the whole "guy who wears dresses" part I'm a pretty conservative bible-thumper and much of RHPS comes across like a guide on the best way to load yourself down with an assortment of STDs.ReplyDelete
The other problem I have with it is that from that moment on, public perception of "transvestite" was Frank N. Furter who isn't just a run-of-the-mill crossdresser but an affirmation of every negative stereotype in the book; a full-house pansexual drag queen.
That probably sounds like I'm reading out of Fred Phelps' book, but that's not what I mean. Homosexuality is an issue I feel is best left between the person and God; I have too many logs in my own eye to gripe about the speck in someone else's.
All I'm saying is, it's a frustrating exercise to convince the general public that most crossdressers are straight when the media portrays us like Frank. THAT's the message that sticks in people's minds, regardless of what the real trannys say.
Hi Ralph, and thanks for posting.Delete
You're quite right, of course. Sadly the image of Frank'N'Furter is what a lot of people conjure to mind when crossdressing is mentioned.
And you're right about the unrestrained sexual excess too: "It's not a crime to give yourself over to pleasure," notes Frank, with that lovely British drawn-out rolling of the word "pleasure".
I could make some comment about O'Brien deliberately choosing a character as completely at odds with Brad and Janet as possible; but I think it's far more likely that Frank'N'Furter is O'Brien's id allowed to run wild and then given not just a voice, but a face too.
On the other hand, RHPS has really brought crossdressing into mainstream entertainment, and it's fantastically popular. For some people, it's popular because it's clever, funny, and the music is toe-tapping. For others (and here I include myself) it's popular because you can wear your highest heels, your shortest skirt, your reddest nails and lippy, and you are positively celebrated for it.
I don't disagree with your points. I just think there is more positive than negative about it.