Ethics: Rocky Horror

In this essay, I have been asked to discuss the ethical issues and dilemmas from a professional production. Ethics is known as a moral philosophy. The word moral comes from the Latin word mores, which means customs or habits. With this, the general meaning of ethics is the science of custom or habits within society. It is known as a normative science where we seek norms within society, meaning that what is normal for one person will not be for another, also it can vary from culture to culture. We encounter ethical dilemmas day to day which will test our personal ethics and values. The ethical behaviour is value driven, meaning our beliefs and preferences.

For this production, I have decided to work on ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ Not only as it is a hit musical, but because of the ethical dilemmas which arise during the performance, starting with transvestites, incest, cannibalism, creating life, adultery and homosexual activity. As it is set in the 1970’s, the ethical dilemmas are different to modern day, so I shall also discuss how they differ from one point in time to the other.

Set in Denton, Texas USA, the story is about Brad and Janet, who are on their way to meet with friend Dr Everett Scott to announce their engagement. Whilst on the journey, they get a flat tyre and have no choice but to walk to a castle which was passed. During this visit, the young couple are exposed to a number of activities which are deemed unfit for society around this period. Brad and Janet are two of the main stakeholders in this performance, as their relationship and faithfulness is tested by a multitude of sexual temptation.

Within this essay, I am going to focus on the ethics of being a transvestite and committing adultery. The reason being is that I personally believe these are the biggest ethical issues within this production that can be related from the 1970’s to modern day.

The first issue which I am going to address is being a transvestite in the period in which this is set. In the 1970’s to early 1980’s was rather difficult. This is because there were demoralising setbacks of the 1960’s which affected how people would see transvestites/transgenders. Across USA, it was becoming easier to change their designations on government identification documents. On the other hand, feminist ethicist Janice G. Raymond states that ‘transsexuals were the mindless agents of a nefarious patriarchal conspiracy bent on the destruction of women.’ (GLBT history: Transgender activism, no date) This is stating that men dressing as women was an attempt by men to poke fun at women. On the contrary, she states that female to male transvestites/transgender are traitors to their sex and the act of feminism.

In the production, we see Dr Frank-n-Furter, a sexually obsessed cross dressing extraterrestrial from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy Transylvania, being depicted as something out of Sigmund Freud’s Id. This is acting out his fantasies which may be unfounded for people in the 1970’’s.  The use of costume and makeup clarifies Furter’s obsession with cross dressing, which he seems to take great pleasure from. Throughout the show, we never see Furter in clothes made for males, which indicates he is comfortable and happy in his female attire. Following the statement which I provided from Raymond stating it was to make fun of women, I feel that the show took a different approach. On one side, I feel it is about showing that you can always be who you want to be without having to be discriminated against, however, due to the negativity transvestites received during this time, could have been used to humiliate the people who are “gender confused.” Now running in its 43rd year, times have changed which means the ethical issues and dilemmas would have changed. Being a transvestite is now under protection from mockery and discrimination, which means it is being more widely accepted. There is still stigma, as some people still think it is a mental illness, or even an indication of being a sexual predator. People still get ridiculed as some do not understand it, however progress has been made since the 1970’s.

For the next section, I am going to be discussing adultery, which is still an issue today. Back in the 1970’s, only 51% of the well educated USA population thought that adultery is always wrong. Here is the following statement: “In the mid-1970s, only 51 percent of well-educated Americans agreed that adultery was always wrong.” (Sides, 2011) The Americans appreciate monogamy. In some cases people only got married so they could have intercourse and when the excitement had gone, one or both parties would look elsewhere. More people seemed to be committing adultery and divorce rates were going up due to the amount of unfaithful individuals. It was looked down upon and caused a number of psychological and emotional issues in the affected parties. This is what is portrayed during ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ Janet has sexual relations with Furter. At first she feels guilty and ashamed, as back then it was even more of a taboo subject. As soon as she sees that Brad has also had coitus with Furter, it leads her into a downward spiral and to act irrationally. She goes to the first person who shows her attention and affection, which is Furter’s playmate, Rocky. She seduces him and they end up having intercourse. When Brad catches them on TV, his insecurities and irrationality also kick start. It runs in a circle until the end of the performance when Brad and Janet reconnect and show affection towards each other, similar to the affection they shared in the opening scenes of the production. It appears that Furter is a stakeholder within this part of the production, as he is able to live out his sexual fantasies. He has everything to gain and nothing to lose at this point. He can see that it would ruin Brad and Janet’s relationship but he does not care as his Id personality has control of the situation. In today’s society, home wrecking is still deemed unacceptable as a relationship is between two people and those two people alone. My own personal ethics believe that monogamy is still something that should be paramount within a couple. On the other hand in some cultures, relationships and marriage can be arranged by the parents, or when a child hits puberty, it means they are ready to reproduce and get married. This could be from the age of 8.  The concept of relationships/marriage have clearly changed over the years and are becoming less notable. Looking at the performance in modern day, as I only saw the production in January, it is more of the norm looking at this issue. More and more people commit adultery without guilt or second thought. At first Janet is resilient until Furter turns on his charm. The same with Brad, in the beginning, he tries to spurn Furter’s advances, but Furter manages to wear him down with his persistence. All it took was for Furter to seem nice, and complimentary, for him to manipulate them into doing what he wanted them to do.

In conclusion, I have not discussed everything that I would like to due to the word count, but I feel the two issues I have addressed are genuine issues that can shape or destroy people’s lives. Not only were the issues I have discussed pertinent in the 1970’s, it still affects people’s lives today. Being a transvestite, people still get bullied, beaten and murdered for they way they are and want to live their lives, even though we have Human Rights Acts and Hate Crimes are illegal. With adultery, people’s lives are still torn apart, not only the other party, but families and children. This production shows how it affects people’s lives, but it also shows how it can be pieced back together with the emotions you feel and forgiveness. Yes, it is a fun production to go and see, and people laugh at Furter for being a transvestite. People do laugh at the way he seduces Brad and Janet; it is now a musical in which you can laugh along with. When it was first made it was meant to be a comedy, but I feel this musical was way before its time. People would have probably been quite offended by it in the 1970’s, but modern day, it is now definitely a comedy. Men dress up as Furter to be involved with the show and rest of the audience don’t get offended, as it’s just a bit of fun. However if you walked down the street in the outfit on a regular day, you would probably be ridiculed. I feel that this musical is down to personal preference. It is mainly the younger generations that enjoy this musical rather than the elderly, as the negative connotations and ethical issues are now more accepted within society and protected by the government. The elderly’s morals would be learned and ingrained from their younger years, due to what they were bought up with, along with the generations before them. I believe the issues were tackled in a very comedic, but poignant manner, showing how the issues tackled affect people, and giving insight into the consequences of these actions.

Reference List


Reflection of Festival

For this module in Contextualising and Theorising Practise, we have been asked to reflect on the role we have worked on for the Riverside Theatre Festival. I took on the role of Head of Technical for this show. This is because, as I mentioned in my job description, I feel that I had more knowledge in this area than any other head of department roles that were available, and also I would like to expand on this area, as sound is one of my weaker areas. I figured that this would be a confidence boost for me and give me a chance to prove to myself that I am capable in this area. My first thoughts when I took on this role was “Am I going to be ok with taking on this workload?”, “Am I going to fall behind?”, and “Have I taken too much on?” I had no self confidence and feel that this is exactly what I needed to bring myself up. Before, I was always questioning and second guessing myself and being pessimistic, however I wouldn’t do much about it. I picked myself up and began being optimistic. There was a new way of looking at the course, and this time I was going to take it, as I felt like it was the right opportunity. I first started by stating to myself that I would meet each deadline and provide work as professionally as possible.

At first, I was able to plan ahead and take control of situations. For instance, within the first three weeks of this new project, I carried out maintenance and a full inventory of the lighting, sound and AV. I was able to keep my team on track with huge success. At times I had to come down hard but it just made people work harder. An example of this would be when I asked two people to sort out the cables, make sure they had made piles of what was DMX and which ones were audio. After a few minutes I went out and there were approximately five people sat in the Theatre.  I explained that the job I had given, was to be completed by the two people I had asked, and that there was far too much to be done elsewhere for five people to be doing one task. With this I was able to pass on knowledge that I had to help with the tasks ahead and gain respect from my team. The first years that I took charge of began to look to me for guidance, and they have since commented that I helped them a great deal, both with their knowledge base, and their confidence. This made me feel like I knew what I was doing and gave me the drive to achieve future tasks. My own levels of confidence had increased which I feel made me a better team player.

The next few weeks passed, and I could feel myself dwindling again. I was struggling with paperwork which led to sleepless nights  which made my stress levels rise. I started being grumpy and ended up disliking what I was doing. At this point I felt like giving up. This is mainly because the team morale had gone down. People were turning on each other and passing blame. Personally, I believe the pressure was getting on top of everybody. However, I persevered and managed to complete a small amount of paperwork to the highest possible standard I could, to the deadline specified. I did feel a little downhearted that day, when people weren’t handing in paperwork to deadlines which were set. This pushed everything back. I am a person who likes organisation and for work to be handed in on time, so this pulled me back down a little, the fact that deadlines were forever changing. I tried not to let it bother me but one day I just snapped. I broke out in a rage and told everybody what I thought about how the project was going. The deadlines, the lack of help I was receiving and that I just wanted to quit. Looking back now, I could’ve done it more calmly, rather than in a menacing manner. I should’ve specified what I needed help with rather than just saying I needed help. In hindsight, I think I just expected the help. This was not in my character but now reevaluating the situation, I realise that I said I need help, but not saying what with probably didn’t help other people in my team with regards to actually giving me the help I needed.

Further along the line, the paperwork I needed to complete was getting out of hand. I was procrastinating until the last minute which just made me feel more stressed. I could’ve made a list to help me complete the work but I didn’t. Instead I just moaned and complained which obviously wasn’t getting the work done. The paperwork that needed completing mostly was the lighting. Due to one of the lighting designers only completing the plan the day before the get in did not help as none of my paperwork could be completed until the plan was finished and finalised. This is not blaming anybody in particular as I did have the opportunity to get on top of it, asking when will it be completed, do you need help etc. Instead I sat getting frustrated and annoyed until it finally got finished. I could’ve been more assertive, but by this point I felt mentally and physically drained. This is no excuse for my actions as I know they were wrong and I could have gone about it in a different way, but as it is now in the past there is nothing I can do about it but learn from my mistakes.

I also managed to diffuse situations from the production team and performers. I showed that we were able to work together through extreme situations and even when tensions were running high. This was the first time I was able to mediate my way through confrontations between other members of the full company. It felt good knowing that this was through my doing. There are always breakdowns of communication during productions, nevertheless I think I proved to myself that my mediation skills are better than I thought they were. I’m generally not good verbally as I tend to misplace where words should be and articulating my emotions and those of others is something I often struggle with. This made the barriers to my confidence come down and was able to start enjoying myself again. The tension from the production team and performers put me on edge a little but I managed to maintain an excellent relationship with the performers, despite the communication error.

In closing, I had some conflicting emotions on this project. Some positive and some negative. However, as I always do, I concentrated on the negatives which I need to prevent myself from doing, as this stops me from being proud of what I have accomplished. I learned a lot. Not only on the head of departmental role, but how to use different programs such as LXFree. It was very trying at times but I feel like I succeeded in the end. I also feel that I let myself down in certain areas, but I have vowed to learn from my mistakes and prevent the same problems from affecting me in the future. I also overcame fears such as leading a team, delegating jobs and taking charge. This was a big step for me as generally I do not speak up and I’m afraid to say how I feel. With that, I will take with me the confidence, drive and passion that I started with at the beginning of this project and take it with me in the rest of my education and future professional work. I have realised that this is something that I should be happy and proud of doing as you get to see brilliant performances and be able to see your ideas come to life. Now, I am certain I have the passion back, it may have gone for a couple of months but I now know that this is what I’m meant to do in life. It may not be a head technician, it could just be being an operator, but I know that this is what I love doing.

I also think that my ability to defuse the potentially explosive situation that arose between some members of the production team, and performers, will help me on my end of year work, as I am due to be Production Manager for Acting. I have a fantastic relationship with the entire acting team now, because of the role I played in the Festival, and the role I played in mediating between our two teams. I am really proud to say that my rapport with the acting crew is down to the level of professionalism I managed to maintain throughout this entire project.

My negative experiences may have held me back, but I got myself back on track. As it is always mentioned we learn from our mistakes. I have taken so much from this, even the little things like writing lists to help myself be more organised, and to prioritise my time and commitments. I hope to get another chance at this, as I now know what the work consists of and how to maintain a healthy workflow. This will stay with me with doing paperwork for University and in the industry. Again I know I need to carry on working on my confidence but I’m taking it a step at a time. I’m proud of my progress so far and will not let anything prevent me from coming further than I already have.