“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)
Frank N. Stein: There’s no crime in giving yourself over to pleasure.
Audience Response (Boston): There is in Massachusetts.
Long a staple of the disappearing urban Midnight Movie circuit, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a movie discussed in terms of its post-initial release cultural phenomenon rather than as simply a film; albeit one which has profited by taking advantage of a novelty scheduling strategy with each screening’s unashamed encouragement to engage the full range of its audience’s exhibitionist participatory propensities: to, in
essence, become a member of the cast, and thus a culprit in obscuring the genuine merits or demerits of the film on an unpolluted aesthetic level. Cultism run amok- especially when coupled with novelty populist enticements -is bound to generate a great deal of misplaced emphasis on disingenuous critical assessment based on an artificial cultural impact which has more to do with the emergent in-theater pageantry rather than with any intrinsic value in the film: the seduction of empty Populism as an easy and thoughtless substitution for critical acumen.
Every area of cultural endeavor demands a certain amount of popular reactive observant filtering, not only for the necessary promulgation of said endeavors (unfortunately the pursuit of culture is shackled with the necessary evil of some form of patronage, were Art to exist in a vacuum it would lose all meaning) rather than the very idea of Art which is the result of efforts beyond mere craft and into the purview of certain indefinable tangents of humanist instincts. However, when that same audience patronage intrudes on the attended work’s intention- as designed -the resultant deliberate alteration for the sake of the audience’s own self-generated idiosyncratic amusement, a breach is created between artistic intention and mere populist utility, and when the critical estimation of a work is entirely regenerated with this altered form is prominently evaluated above that of the original form- allowing the individualistic interests of public patronage counter the original , a schism is created beyond the mere empty idolatry of cultism, with the work overwhelmed by popular external stimuli; thus not being in actuality what the creative artists intended, but instead becoming a substitute wish fulfillment for the audience: an intentionally calm body of water may be given active ripples by a bystander throwing a rock into the surface. Unfortunately, in critical terms, a puddle is often just a puddle.
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