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Op-Ed Analysis: Frank N Furter Is An LGBTQ+, BPD Icon

Dr. Frank N Furter is an LGBTQ+ icon who also has borderline personality disorder. Here’s why.

Hi, I’m Tess, and I watched Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time. And, Tim Curry’s Dr. Frank N Furter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show is officially my favorite, misunderstood, LGBTQ+ icon; in this analysis, I will…

All jokes aside, it’s true. Frank N. Furter caused fear amongst the straight and cis world in 1975. Rocky Horror Picture Show was confusing – and it still kinda is, don’t get me wrong – but the LGBTQ+ controversy stemmed from a male actor wearing, gasp, women’s clothes and makeup, singing about being a proud transsexual. The HORROR. (Pun fully intended.)

frank n furter on throne fully dressed up

Frank N Furter is a flawed character, to put it lightly. In fact, many argue that he is the problem in the movie. And he did indeed cause problems.

But in my humble opinion, Frank N. Furter was a misunderstood LGBTQ+ person who hid behind a manipulative ego and a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. And as an LGBTQ+ person with borderline personality disorder, I will grab this hot take with everything in me. 

Here’s how I got to this conclusion that is totally speculative, because I am not a doctor and am just having fun. Don’t take it too seriously, k? (Frank’s face below says it all about even needing this disclaimer.)

frank n furter looking curious and frustrated

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The Obvious LGBTQ+ Affiliations

frank n furter and rocky, which added to the lgbtq controversy

The controversy behind Rocky Horror Picture Show laid in many elements, but none more than in the appearance of Tim Curry as Dr Frank N Furter — aka, LGBTQ+ representation. Keep in mind that, in 1975, LGBTQ+ rights were up in the air. In some places, like Washington and California, as well as in the media, homosexuality was becoming the new norm. Yet murder was still prevalent, and the AIDS epidemic was about to explode.

Frank N. Furter is depicted as having sex with both Janet and Brad in the film, as well as having “creations” of different genders: Rocky and Columbia. Frank’s bisexuality is on full display – in fact, there’s ego in convincing Brad and Janet to sleep with him. But I’m here to say: I believe Frank was ashamed of his bisexuality.

For example, none of us know Columbia was one of his creations until she screams at him about how he creates and uses them for his own pleasure. It is craftily kept a secret the entire time – instead, we focus on Rocky, the muscular, blonde-haired-blue-eyed baby face.

frank n furter in rocky in rocky horror picture show

There’s also a moment where Janet and Rocky are portrayed as bonding over Brad. But later, he sleeps with Janet – and promises to keep it a secret. Add in Columbia as a secret as well, and it seems like the transsexual Frank N Furter is actually a fan of multiple genders – not just one.

For someone who owns being a “Sweet Transvestite,” as his opening song introduces him (reminding you that it’s 1975), you’d think being bisexual would be bottom of the worry list. But I think, for Frank, it was just another thing to deal with. That’s why he always put emphasis on transsexuality, and not once mentioned bisexuality – because he’d be expected to own that, too, and to carry both titles would be heavy. 

I relate to this as someone with many chronic and mental illnesses. You’re not necessarily ashamed of the symptoms (or you are, which is valid!), but when you have so many, it’s a lot to carry – even if they’re well managed and you’re doing perfectly okay! And that can bring shame. I make myself the face of bipolar disorder, but being epilepsy just creates another “problem,” and the fact that I have two “ailments” is more shameful than actually having epilepy.

I believe the same goes for Frank N. Furter’s bisexuality and transsexuality – why openly carry two when you already spotlight one?


Frank N Furter’s Borderline Personality Disorder Traits

If you scour the Internet, most people say Frank N Furter is a narcissist. And, yeah, he definitely has the ego of one.

photo of frank n furter in fur

But I am more inclined to believe he has a form of borderline personality disorder. While we don’t know what the trigger, abuse, or trauma was in his childhood that would cause this, could it be that his bisexuality on a transsexual planet was part of it? Perhaps – and that would explain his shame of it to this day.

Now, let’s go through the DSM-V’s nine diagnostic symptoms. Keep in mind: you only need five to be diagnosed.

Chronic feelings of emptiness. Frank N. Furter absolutely feels this – why else is he actively creating play things? Because they make him feel less alone. And why does he actively seek out pleasure? Because it’s a feeling other than that emptiness. Think of Frank N Furter as a car, and pleasure as the gas. Fill the tank before it’s empty, and you never run out. Find more pleasure before he gets bored or runs out, and he never feels empty.

Emotional instability in day-to-day events. While he seems to keep a cool demeanor most of the time, if not outright egotistical, there’s clearly instability. Who else goes from thrilled about a creation to murdering someone to feeding him to the guests, you know? Last I checked, that was not considered being emotionally stable.

 

Efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Uhhh, hi, play things. Hi, not letting Brad or Janet escape. Basically: hi, needing to be a master in control so no one can leave.

Unstable self image. This also goes back to Frank’s feelings of shame toward his bisexuality – if he’s both transsexual and bisexual, he has a lot to carry. While he owns his transsexuality, again: that bisexuality lives somewhere, as does the shame that comes with carrying it.

Impulsive behavior. Let’s talk about that sex with both Brad AND Janet! Or killing Eddie and feeding him to his guests!

Intense anger. Again: killing Eddie. Turning everyone to stone when they begin criticizing him. Anger at Janet and Rocky when they’re caught having sex. Anger at Dr. Scott, who has come looking for Eddie post-murder. Anger again at Rocky and Janet (seriously, am I smelling a little jealousy, too?) when Janet runs to Rocky post-edible-Eddie-realization. He is almost always angry, and while some may say that’s the “mad” genius in him, I say it’s a symptom.

 

Unstable, intense relationships. Does Frank N Furter actually stay close to anyone? Do we sense any form of connection between him and his surroundings? No. He is rude to those around him, keeping them at a distance, yet using them for his own personal gain. I also believe his Favorite Person is the current creation that has his attention, until it lets him down and he splits on them.

Suicidal behavior. We don’t see this, so we’ll mark it as a no.

Paranoid ideation or dissociative symptoms. Again, not much of this, unless you consider feeding someone you’ve murdered to your dinner guests as going through the motions after a traumatic event.

So, is it BPD? Kind of seems like it now, doesn’t it?


Hiding Behind Manipulation And Ego

So, all of the above – the shame and the BPD – is… a lot, to say the least. And what do you do when you’re ashamed of something, or some things? You hide. Frank N. Furter, thank god for him, is a mad scientist – a total genius. So, he can hide behind that ego of being the smartest person in the room.

And when you have the smarts and the ego, manipulation comes easily. You get what you want because you know how to get it, and you get it because you don’t want anyone else to see what’s hiding behind the curtain. Essentially, Frank N Furter is the Wizard of Oz of Rocky Horror – just more brazen and comfortable in his identity (though not his sexuality, perhaps). 


My Final Thoughts On The Misunderstood Icon, Dr. Frank N. Furter

 

 

So, how do I put all of the above points into the general title of “misunderstood icon?” It’s easy: the film was made in 1975, and people were terrified of what they didn’t understand then. And guess what? It hasn’t changed almost 50 years later. LGBTQ+ rights are being rolled back and threatened, bisexuality still means you just “can’t choose,” and mental illness means something is “wrong” with you – especially if you show symptoms.

So, yes. Frank N. Furter is entirely misunderstood. I can’t say that his flaws come from a good place – in fact, I genuinely don’t believe he was doing things for the greater good and simply fucking them up on accident. I think he was coming at them from a confused, lost, and ashamed place, and used his manipulation to hopefully create a narrative for himself that didn’t end in self-hatred. Did it work up until the very end? Was it worth it all? I personally don’t think so, but only Frank could tell you the truth. 

All I know is that, watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time, I finally feel like I’ve found an LGBTQ+, BPD icon who embodies and represents my flaws (in a to-the-max way). So, next Halloween? You can bet I’ll be sitting in the audience of a live Rocky Horror Picture Show, a virgin, ready to call back lines as she watches the spectacle for her first time.

Plus, Brad is kind of a total asshole, and I’d like him to know it.

frank n furter, magenta, and columbia


What did you think about Rocky Horror Picture Show’s icon, the Frank N Furter? Do you agree with any of my points? Tell me in the comments!


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Editor-in-Chief 👑 tess@quillmedia.co

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