This past Friday, Sykes after Dark had its ninth entertainment event, kicking off the Halloween weekend with a performance of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
The film originally began as a musical play, but in 1975 the stage production ignited more viewers to see this movie repeatedly. Its appeal has much to do with the content and how it defies a mainstream outlook on society. Much of this movie focuses on the sexual initiation of an American couple entering a world of eroticism in Transylvania. The peculiar movie fits into the “cult classic genre.” In most cases cult classics can be found under various genres such as science fiction, horror or even romance. In the article “Tapping into the Appeal of Cult Fiction,” Kelly Fann and Barry Trott discuss and explore what cult classics are and what makes them fit into the genre.
According to the article “Tapping into the Appeal of Cult Fiction,” cult fiction is a growing trend in publishing and film making. Cult fiction is not the horror’s genre “occult,” or an idea from a religious perspective. “Cult classic” is simply a work in literature or film that has received the highest degree of phenomenon. Fann goes on to explain how cult fiction tends to be ground breaking either through its prose style or through the subject matter the writer has chosen to explore. Subjects often include sex, drugs, controversial content, or criticism of an establishment through exploration of the human condition or creation of dystopian societies (Fann).
Whether it is a mystery with a vampire detective, a futuristic romance or inspirational thriller, film goers and readers are enjoying movies and literature that defy standard genre classification; yet instead they gravitate to cult fiction which inspires, amuses, mesmerizes and captivates a viewer or readers attention. In the book, “Classic Cult Fiction,” Thomas R. Whissen discusses a loose criteria in placing movies and books under the cult fiction genre.
According to Whissen, the first aspect to cult fiction literature or film is alienation. In most plots, the main character(s) is separated from the world around them. Similarly, the movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the main characters, Brad and Janet are lost and end up at a castle of the transsexual Transylvanians. The next aspect to cult fictions is what Whissen refers to as the Ego- reinforcement. According to Whissen, Spectators and readers identify with the alienated character(s) and connect with their displacement. Cult fiction appeals to people who feel cut off, socially disenfranchised or deprived of their rightful place in society.
The next piece to cult fiction criterion is a behavior modification. Whissen believes a change in the person’s outlook on life will begin to take place after reading or seeing a cult fiction. According to Whissen, cult fiction offers an opportunity for readers to experience a pivotal moment of clarity to see the world beyond the stereotypical or mainstream consciousness. The last facet to cult fictions is vulnerability. Whissen identifies vulnerability in the sense that readers or film spectators blindly accept the message in the plot. This message will stir the public and ultimately make these peculiar titles fit the cult classic genre.
In a nutshell, a title achieves cult fiction status based on its reception by people. This sets these titles apart from other genres. Authors knowingly write books that fit in typical genres, but they do not knowingly write a cult fiction book or screenplay. Cult fictions reach their status when numerous people see the movie or read the book, and afterwards the plot either speaks to them or for them.
Dominique Perry is a fifth-year student majoring in professional studies and minoring in journalism and studio art. She can be reached at DP633925@wcupa.edu.