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The drag queen as Christ figure, or, Everything I Needed to Know About Rocky Horror…

The drag queen as Christ figure, or, Everything I Needed to Know About Rocky Horror… published on 2 Comments on The drag queen as Christ figure, or, Everything I Needed to Know About Rocky Horror…

…I Learned from A Film Freak Commentary…

In any event, this is not supposed to be a speech about a dragon. This is, indeed, a song about a dragon…

No, seriously…In Film Freak Central, Alex Jackson provides some personal and perceptive commentary on Rocky Horror [and Shock Treatment, but I’m ignoring that part].

Because Jackson never got converted to the Halloweeny mania of midnight showings, he has an outsider’s slightly more balanced view to the whole proceeedings. Interestingly enough, he thinks that the fan celebration of RHPS as an excuse for silliness “neuters” the fact that it’s an interesting, very good, really touching movie. [Yeah, it grabs him where he likes to be grabbed.]

Now I’m not sure that RHPS is very good or even really touching, but I agree with some of Jackson’s observations on what makes it more interesting and textured than a throwaway diversion. He notes a persistent threat of angst, sadness and loss that looms [heavy, black and pendulous] across the movie. Jackson is at his most insightful when he’s talking about one of my favorite themes, the pathos of the villain:

… The film introduces him as the monster, but by the end we cease identifying with Brad and Janet and embrace Frank as one of us. Often Frank will look directly into the camera and grin or break the fourth wall with a line of dialogue, facilitating the identification process and establishing that he owns this movie and that everything that happens in the film happens on his terms. It doesn’t, of course–he has to brainwash his friends to get them to stay and he is subsquently surprised, slain, and defeated. The pathos of the film is in the total humbling of this god-in-his-own-mind. Frank has what I think is the most powerful moment in the film: Riff-Raff and Magenta tell him that they are returning to Transylvania and he sings “I’m Going Home” with tears forming in his eyes. As he slowly approaches them, expecting to leave this mortal coil, he imagines an audience applauding him. …

So his point is that the movie divorces us from B&J [Blow&Job] and links us with Frank through techniques of breaking the fourth wall. We thus grow invested in this supposedly villainous character, identifying with him such that we feel that we are like him, control-freaky and manipulative though he may be. When Frank sings I’m Going Home, it’s not just the ironic delusional of a nutcase; it’s a character singing about his sadness, his isolation and his rather pathetic need to imagine a theater full of accepting, adoring fans because he can’t get any in real life except under duress. Because we sympathize already with Frank, his expression of loneliness becomes a conduit for a general human desire for love and companionship. And, if you want to get really really deep about it, the fact that Frank is just about to die is really just an intensification of the fact that all of us in the audience are going to die too, probably without ever transcending our painful daily lives and seeing the “blue skies” of happiness and safety promised by the mythic state of “home.”

So, by twanging on the heartstrings labeled NEED FOR LOVE and FEAR OF DEATH, Frank in this song reveals himself as the most recognizably human and accessible character. Because he voices thoughts and feelings that we usually keep squished and because he does it so vulnerably [nakedly…vulnerably… same thing], it is very easy to respond to him. This is why, every time I listen to I’m Going Home, I seriously feel heartbroken. It’s a nondescript little ditty [as so many O’Brien tunes are] out of context, but, in context, it’s an encapsulation of our primal desires and our eternal state of yearning.

I do think that the comparison between Frank and a Christ figure is pushing it too far, though. Christ figures are like Nazis; whenever they enter the discussion, the tenor just devolves into something flat, stupid, repetitive and uninteresting. Christ figures are not useful devices. They obfuscate the humanity of the character that is supposedly such a figure. They are saintly and godly and powerful and pure and passive and dead and glowing and awesome and really, really, really boring. I wish they would all go away, but that is a separate entry.



Alex Jackson here. Just want to thank you for the thoughtful and perceptive critique of my critique. I bust my ass writing these reviews and I ESPECIALLY busted my ass writing about Rocky Horror when less thought and certainly less typing might have sufficed.

Knowing that I was able to not only articulate something you were feeling as well, but also provoke some real critical feedback is powerfully validating.

‘preciate it is all.

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