Rose Tint My World: “Rocky Horror Picture Show’s” Niche Spot in Pop Culture and MTSU History


Kathryn Lewis stands confident in the iconic Dr. Frank-N-Furter look on Friday, October 19, 2018, at Middle Tennessee State University. (MTSU Sidelines / Makayla Boling)

“Rocky Horror Picture Show” is an unconventional and exuberant movie-turned-phenomenon about two innocent newlyweds embarking on a bewildering, R-rated, soul-searching journey after wandering into an extraterrestrial transgender scientist’s mansion filled by eccentric characters adorned with glitter and fishnets.

Also, there’s singing and dancing. And murder. And party hats.

There’s also a door it opens into an awe-inspiring, death-defying and just plain weird land of misfit toys.

The “RHPS” film was released in 1975 to commercial and critical failure and did not get a wide release. 

Over the years, it has grown to become a Halloween-favorite cult classic with a devoted fan base who dress up as its characters, shout phrases and responses in sync and toss designated props while a shadowcast acts out and lip syncs the film onstage in front of a screen.

“It’s definitely like an experience where you have to come in person to get it, and then when you leave you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I loved it!’” said Films Manager for Student Programming, Gracie Sizemore.

Also, you can see Nashville-based shadowcast Little Morals perform it live at Middle Tennessee State University next month.

This year’s 13th annual showing is scheduled for Oct. 21 and 22 at 10 p.m. in the Student Union ballroom.

“Rocky Horror” has shown on campus sporadically since at least the 80s. 

A Sidelines article mentions that the film was banned at MTSU for five years after a particularly boisterous crowd became unmanageable, until 1994 when student and Film Committee member, Adam Kroger, begged school officials to re-allow showings.

However, it wasn’t a yearly event until 2010.

A happy couple attends the performance on Friday, October 19, 2018 at Middle Tennessee State University dressed as Brad and Janet. (MTSU Sidelines / Makayla Boling)

Tyler Adkins, then student, initiated MTSU’s first annual “Rocky Horror” 12 years ago where it sold out. Now, Adkins works as MTSU’s Assistant Director for Student Programming and Activities where he continues the tradition for a new generation of students.

“I do think there’s a lot of community interest in going to a place where yes, people may yell out wild and crazy things at the screen and all that, but it is a space where everybody can feel safe and everybody can feel comfortable in exploring these different parts of their personalities,” Adkins said.

The 2020 coronavirus outbreak threatened the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” record for the longest running theatrical film release of all time. 

“We live in a world of online streaming so you can go home and watch it but you’re not gonna have as much fun and get the same experience,” Sizemore said.

“RHPS”’ film license costs more than most other films shown on campus throughout the year, and Adkins said this is, “a credit to how much this program is beloved across the country.”

“I think that film is really ahead of its time,” said Cris Marbibi, film production student and President of the MTSU Film Guild.

Marbibi, who attends “RHPS” every year he can, said it’s best for newcomers to go in without much prior knowledge: “Go to one…Don’t ever watch the movie just by itself, it’s not fun like that. It’s not a good movie, it’s an experience.”

Every venue has different restrictions on props and MTSU’s detailed guidelines will be available alongside ticket sales. The Little Morals typically provide approved prop bags at their performances.

It’s recommended to purchase tickets ahead of time. Tickets can be bought on the MTSU Campus Life website in early October and you must show proof of ID or college ID.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Ethan Pickering, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter at @Sidelines_News 

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