A new bill introduced in the Florida state legislature, if passed, would make performances of The Rocky Horror Picture Show illegal for anyone under 18.
The state of Florida has introduced a bill aimed at prohibiting anyone under the age of 18 from attending drag performances. As reported by the New Republic, lawmakers in the state confirmed that the restrictions would make it illegal for high school students to attend live performances of popular musicals like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hair.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show, according to the proposed Florida legislation, classifies as an “adult live performance.” The umbrella term used in the bill applies to “any show, exhibition or other presentation in front of a live audience,” that “depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities,” including “lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.”
The bill is far-reaching and, despite its attempt at clarification, vague. What the state of Florida deems offensive is not entirely clear, as the term is inherently subjective, but, according to lawmakers, The Rocky Horror Picture Show fits the bill. The punishments associated with a violation of the bill, however, are quite clear.
Any official who approves a permit for a performance that violates the statute could be charged with a misdemeanor. Establishments that violate the law could also be charged with a misdemeanor, incur hefty fines, and have licenses suspended or revoked.
Limiting who can attend live performances of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not the major aim of the bill. The legislation would make it nearly impossible for anyone to obtain permits for Pride parades, which often include sexually suggestive material and drag performances.
Florida routinely makes headlines for its politically divisive decisions. Its increased efforts at censorship spark mixed reactions. Many rolled their eyes at the state’s efforts to censor images of the statue of David, the masterpiece sculpture by Renaissance artist Michelangelo.
The new bill is predicated on Florida’s alleged effort to protect its youth from corruptive ideas. But some question the constitutionality of outlawing a minor’s right to experience culture, be it the statue of David or The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Disney, which has a large presence in Florida thanks to Disney World, has publicly raised its voice against the state’s government. Disney CEO Bob Iger went as far as to call Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, “anti-business and anti-Florida.”
Disney continues its operations in Orlando, but the state’s attempted limits on free speech have riled up the entertainment giant. The latest effort will likely increase the tension between the state and many of the people and businesses that live and operate in it.
Critics have pointed out that the state seems more concerned with protecting kids from The Rocky Horror Picture Show than from school shootings. During a deeply troubling time for the United States, Florida has continued to loosen its restrictions on guns. For critics of the Florida legislature, the priorities of the state come off as tone-deaf.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show began as a small stage production in London. After it was adapted into a film, it slowly grew into a cult sensation. Midnight screenings of the movie accompanied by a live fan performance have been a tradition for decades.
The schlocky send-up to old B-movies is a cultural touchstone for generations of people. The new Florida legislation may prove to be a cultural step backward, not just for future fans of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but anyone in the state of Florida who may be more directly impacted by the proposed restrictions.