Halloween: Ranking the Characters in ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’

Screenshot of Nell Campbell, Patricia Quinn, Tim Curry, and Richard O’Brien from ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’. Copyright goes to Twentieth Century Fox.

Hey! Hallie here!

I’m back! This past week has been really hectic but, at least for now, it seems like we’ll be going back to a regular posting schedule! To start this regular schedule up again I’m going straight into talking about Halloween. It feels like this month just started but Halloween is just a few days away! As part of my regular watch-list for this time of year, I recently rewatched ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’. Rocky Horror is one of those things that you have to watch a few times to really absorb. The first time you watch it, especially if you go in blind, it’s completely insane. And the plot only seems to get weirder with every song. But that weirdness and unpredictability is exactly what makes the film so likable. The characters are just as unpredictable as the plot. Between major character developing moments and crazy reveals, you can’t really fully understand any of the characters until the very last moment of the film. Including the extra scenes in the stage production, there’s even more characterization to explore here. So with all that in mind, let’s go through this cast of miscreants and see which characters prove themselves most interesting and most entertaining! (SPOILERS if you haven’t seen this movie. Go fix that immediately.)

11. The Usherette. The Usherette is a pretty obvious pick for last place. She isn’t even in the movie, instead being replaced by the lips of our Magenta, Patricia Quinn. Interestingly, the voice isn’t even Patricia Quinn’s. It belongs to Rocky Horror creator and Riff Raff actor, Richard O’Brien. The Usherette is traditionally played by the same actress that plays Magenta. Patricia Quinn played Magenta and the Usherette in the stage production of Rocky Horror and evidently she wanted to do the same for the movie. However, Richard O’Brien didn’t feel the Usherette was necessary to introduce the audiences to the film and decided to drop the character all together. It’s hard to argue with the creator on this one. While the Usherette is a delight to watch on stage, she doesn’t have a character and ultimately isn’t important.

10. Dr. Everett Scott. Dr. Scott gets to go on the bottom of this list for being one of the most immoral characters on screen while being surrounded by characters who have murdered another person within the last 24 hours. Dr. Scott is first introduced as an upstanding guy. He was a former teacher of our heroes Brad and Janet, and left such a lasting impression on them that they maintain their friendship with him. He’s the person they’re going to visit when they wind up breaking down in front of Frank-N-Furter’s mansion. He’s also studying UFO’s, putting him in the unique position of being Frank-N-Furter’s rival as Frank’s both another doctor and an alien. About halfway through the movie Dr. Scott shows up to come to Brad and Janet’s aid as well as reveal that Eddie, the rock singer who Frank-N-Furter experimented on, is his nephew. Not that it’s that big of a deal because he doesn’t apparently think very highly of Eddie and his life decisions. None of this really shows his true colors as much as his reaction to Riff Raff going on a killing spree at the end of the stories events, though. He lacks any empathy for Frank-N-Furter, Columbia, or Rocky when they die, and even praises Riff Raff for killing them. They might not be the best people, but condoning murder isn’t cool.

9. Narrator. The Narrator doesn’t have much of a character or a personality. However, the Narrator gets a leg up over the Usherette because the Narrator sticks around longer, and in most stage productions, is a celebrity cameo. Richard O’Brien himself has been a narrator for the show. You can’t really beat that.

8. Eddie. Eddie only makes a short appearance in the film and in the stage production. His background is extremely interesting, however. The film doesn’t state much of his story, but we do get plenty from the stage production. From what we know, Frank-N-Furter kidnapped Eddie at some point because he found him attractive. Eddie wasn’t all that interested though, instead taking the attention of Columbia whom he did find attractive. Frank-N-Furter became enraged at Eddie for both taking Columbia’s attention away from him and for choosing Columbia over him. As a result, he took out half of Eddie’s brain and used it to create Rocky in the hopes of creating a being that would actually like him. When Eddie appears in the story he emerges from a freezer with a large scar on his head, proof that he was being kept to serve a purpose in the creation of Rocky. Eddie does sing “Hot Patootie”, which is one of the best songs in the entire musical, but his appearance doesn’t last long. The attention he gets from his dynamic performance during the song makes Frank-N-Furter so jealous that he hacks him up with a chainsaw immediately afterwards. Then Frank-N-Furter feeds him to his dinner guests. Poor Eddie.

7. Rocky. Here we start getting controversial. The rest of the characters are so heavily featured and so widely loved that it’s hard to rank them. But I’m placing Rocky here because, once again, we see a lack of personality here. It isn’t really his fault. He’s born during the events of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and isn’t allowed to do much other than have sex with various characters. He even sings about this dilemma in “Rose Tint My World”. It doesn’t help that he was portrayed by a model who couldn’t act in the film. In the stage production we get to see a little bit more of a personality. He seems to connect with Eddie immediately after he wakes up, which is a nice nod to the fact that he shares Eddie’s brain. He also develops a bit more of a petulant attitude towards Frank-N-Furter. But ultimately he still isn’t allowed to do much. His best moment occurs during his death, which is a lot more heart-wrenching in the stage adaptation. In the film he dies while trying to carry Frank-N-Furter’s body to safety, which is sad enough. In the stage production he attempts to attack Riff Raff in order to avenge Frank-N-Furter’s death, is shot before he can make it over to him, and uses the last of his strength to crawl over to Frank-N-Furter before he dies. Regardless of how controlled Rocky felt, he still cared about Frank-N-Furter.

6. Magenta. I like Magenta a lot, but she’s pretty much the ultimate background character. She’s one of the main aliens from Transylvania, one of Frank-N-Furter’s closest confidants, and Riff Raff’s sister. All of that means she gets to get in on a lot of the major plot points. She’s also extremely charismatic. In every single version of Rocky Horror, it’s very hard to tear your eyes away from her when she’s on screen. She still doesn’t get much plot or time to herself, though. She’s just there to be another crazy member of Frank-N-Furter’s team until the big alien reveal at the end. I do very much like that she’s shown to be more moral than her brother. She doesn’t help him kill Rocky, Frank-N-Furter, or Columbia at the end of the story’s events. She even seems confused and slightly disappointed in Riff Raff for doing so. Unfortunately, this is the biggest character moment we get for her.

5. Janet. One of our main characters and one of the characters with the largest amount of character development in the show. The only reason why she’s here is because I like all of the other characters more than her by a very slight margin. Janet is introduced as boring. That’s kind of the point. She’s a goody two shoes who is content to get married and live a normal, predictable life. It’s her time at Frank-N-Furter’s mansion that changes her mind on all this. At first she’s extremely wary of the mansion’s inhabitants and she’s even more eager to run away than Brad is. However, by the end of it, she seems to appreciate her time there even more than Brad does. It is a bit hard to ignore the fact that she spends most of her time during ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ cheating on Brad. Not that Brad doesn’t do the same, but I’ll get back to that in a second. But Janet has a kind heart that she extends to everyone, even Frank-N-Furter after he becomes angry at her for sleeping with Rocky. Where parts of her personality come off as unbearable when she’s first introduced, you grow to appreciate them as the movie goes on.

4. Brad. I placed Brad above Janet mostly because of the stage production. Brad is similar to Janet in a lot of ways. He starts out the show as boring and his positive attitude comes off as obnoxious. In fact, it’s even more positive than Janet’s. Of the two of them, he’s the one that tries to remain pleasant and optimistic when they are first introduced to the rest of the characters. However, just like Janet, his boring nature and obliviousness is quickly done away with in Frank-N-Furter’s mansion. What I like specifically about Brad, though, is that he shows a little more conflict about the situation. In the stage production he gets an entire solo song to himself after he discovers that Janet slept with Rocky. In the song he contemplates the fact that he and Janet might already be growing apart after just being engaged. And yet, somehow, he comes to the conclusion that the fact that he still cares for her means that there is hope for their relationship. Just like Janet, his bright personality turns into a character strength by the end of the story. However, unlike Janet, it feels very satisfying to see it tested before he prevails at the end.

3. Riff Raff. Riff Raff serves as a background character for much of the film, but his persistent appearances are even more prominent than Magentas. Part of his commanding presence in the movie has everything to do with Richard O’Brien and his tremendous voice. But really, every production of Rocky Horror seems to cast someone amazing as Riff Raff. If you need proof, just look up Riff Raff’s final song in the show. The notes some of these actors hit are insane. Like Magenta, Riff Raff isn’t much more than simply obedient to Frank-N-Furter for most of the story. (He is brutally whipped at points in the stage production though, so you can’t really blame him for hating his situation.) But later it’s revealed that, evidently, Riff Raff is the second in command amongst the alien group. When their planet discovers what Frank-N-Furter has been doing, likely because Riff Raff told on him, they make Riff Raff the new commander. He uses that power to send all of the aliens back to Transylvania. But not before killing Frank-N-Furter, along with Columbia and Rocky who are completely innocent. When Magenta asks him why he does this he very defensively protests that they never liked him, betraying his frustration at his treatment and his overall insecurities. But he does let everyone else go and even apologizes to Dr. Scott about Eddie’s death. He’s more complex than he seems.

2. Columbia. I’ve just recently developed an appreciation for Columbia. At first glance she seemed uninterestingly straightforward. Columbia is the stereotypical groupie. She finds someone that she likes and she becomes so obsessed with them that she devotes her life to them. But Columbia isn’t stupid and she doesn’t blindly follow Frank-N-Furter either. She first followed Frank-N-Furter because she was in love with him and she felt betrayed when he abandoned her for Eddie. Then she became infatuated with Eddie and started what she believed to be a much more serious relationship with him. She remains faithful to Eddie after he’s frozen, and even mourns him after his death. She’s also clear that she can’t forgive Frank-N-Furter for killing Eddie, though she can’t let Frank-N-Furter go either. As he continues to go on harming others, Columbia is the only one of his followers to speak up. She chastises him for using the people around him and finally breaks the stereotype by coming to realize that her obsession has become unhealthy and that she needs to leave. It’s an empowering moment for her character that’s only dampened by the fact that she gets frozen for it. At the end of the movie she’s the first casualty, putting herself in front of Riff Raff to try to save Frank-N-Furter. Not only does it prove her love for him and her selflessness, but Frank-N-Furter’s reaction in the stage production proves he cared for her too. Columbia is deceptively less straightforward than most of the characters in Rocky Horror.

1.Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Obviously. Frank’s easily the most eye-catching character. In the movie he’s played by Tim Curry. Just try to take your eyes off of Tim Curry in that corset. But other productions have proved that, while Tim Curry is the gold standard, it’s the character himself who really draws the eye. The character is seductive, confident, complicated, and contradictory. He’s supposed to be leading a legion of aliens in a project of some sort, but Frank really only wants to make some mischief and have fun. All of it is seeped in a desire to feel wanted. He invites loyalty because it makes him feel important. This is why he becomes angry at Eddie for dating Columbia even though he never loved her. The fact that Columbia’s affections could change indicates to him that he’s perhaps not as likable as he intended. Similarly, Eddie’s betrayal deeply hurts him. So much so that it results in his decision to create a man who will truly care about him. All of this makes his anger towards Rocky and Janet halfway through the story much more understandable. Rocky’s betrayal is just another betrayal that makes him feel insecure. He never truly realizes that the reason why he experiences so many betrayals is because he never does anything to win anyone’s trust or devotion in the first place. However, despite the fact that he doesn’t care so much about doing things for others as long as things are done for him, he still cares for those around him. He even grows to care for Brad and Janet by the end of the story, growing from his experience with them as they have grown from their experience with him. There’s a lot to like about the complexities in this character. But let’s be honest, Frank won the minute Tim Curry performed “Sweet Transvestite”.

And that’s my list! A lot of this was really close. ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ has a small cast of characters, but each character is a pretty strong one. A lot of my decisions ended up coming down to extra information from the stage production simply because of how entertaining all of the characters are to watch. But Tim Curry wins. As he always does. We’ll probably have one more post before Halloween so be sure to stay tuned for that!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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