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.

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