People Like Us: The Cult of the Rocky Horror Picture Show

Curators’ Corner

People Like Us: The Cult of the Rocky Horror Picture Show

People Like Us: Rocky Horror Picture Show- Jen

Forty years after its premiere in September of 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has the longest-running theatrical release in film history. It’s difficult to trace the exact origins of the phenomenon that became this midnight movie, but it’s clear why it has endured to this day. The shows are accompanied by teams of actors who diligently re-create the film’s every frame in groups called ‘shadow casts;’ they are largely responsible for keeping the Rocky tradition alive.

Rocky Horror Picture Show Crowd

It is a beautiful story to be told, and for the past six years photographer Lauren Everett has been documenting it – gathering the pieces together through photographs and interviews of fans and cast-members alike. What started as a school assignment while studying portraiture at Los Angeles City College, Everett’s People Like Us: The Cult of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, grew into an adventure that has taken her to cities all across the country where she has attended fifteen different midnight shows, and produced over 140 portraits of shadow cast members.

Rocky Horror Picture Show Collage

Photographed in costume, but surrounded by their everyday environments, the portraits stir an emotional mix of loneliness and hope. “This is not just a project about fans of a film,” says Everett, “this is a project about creating a community where people are accepted, especially people who feel like outcasts and feel like they have nowhere else to turn to. Or perhaps don’t even have a family that’s supportive of them. This Rocky family becomes their family. [Stories like this] are in many of the written passages of the book.”

Rocky Horror Picture Show Lisa

Although widely known as a “cult classic,” the fan dynamic for RHPS is more like that of a family. The feelings that fill the small dark theatres where the shadow casts perform are that of love and acceptance for all. There is no race, there is no gender, there is no sexual normalcy. People go to laugh and sing and be together. “It’s a safe place for you to go, you can dress up however you want, you can do whatever you want, and you can be yourself – or be whoever you want to be,” says Everett.

Rocky Horror Picture Show- Terri

Perhaps it’s a result of the not-so-subtle message behind the film – that there is freedom in being true to oneself, and loving others just as they are. Don’t dream it, be it. That is the gospel of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and forty years later its congregation continues to spread it through their midnight masses in theatres all across the country.

Rocky Horror Picture Show

The shadow cast members are not paid actors. They make their own costumes, they do their own promotion, and they put together their own casts. The shows are a success because of the dedicated and passionate fans who band together to make them happen, and the same is true of this book. The costs for the project were all expensed by Everett, but to make the book a reality required a little help from some friends. Funds were raised via an IndieGoGo campaign.