Macbeth's three Weird Sisters meet Dr. Frankenfurter (Rocky Horror Picture Show)
|The Leather Jacket Society
Chromatic blurs of life swirl about, yet aside the commotion stands a figure armored in a leather jacket. From society it retracts to shadows, keeping the loose threads from lingering. Each of the jacket’s fibers is unknown to love, life and liberty. Unbeknownst to the figure, Shakespeare’s unraveling the leather of ambiguity to the flesh beneath. He sculpts the characters in Macbeth, in particular, the three weird sisters, to encompass the idea of flesh, humanity in all its humility, underneath the protective leathery jacket of rebels past. Transcending time, the leather jacket passes to the twentieth century’s iconic transvestite: Dr. Frank-N-Furter of Rocky Horror Picture Show. In the midst of society’s warped environment of sugar-coated loveliness, thrives the leather jacket clad minority exemplified by the characters of the weird sisters and Dr. Frank-N-Furter.
As a pure being simply existing in the grey matter of the womb, the environment stealthily begins to sculpt one. Fed substances from reality, the fetus becomes something otherworldly: a human being. Born into the world, expectations are already high. Reality blossoms in the conscious mind as years set in. The environment in which one is born weaves the threads society wishes in order to create the perfect monochromatic jacket. Breaching the years of adolescence, a miniscule minority writhe in the uncomfortable, itchy fabric of society’s jacket. The social threads of the environment indirectly affect the way each acts, reacts and comprehends. Religious teachings, in particular the seven deadly sins, swiftly slither into the subconscious of youth at one point or another. Introduced by Pope Gregory I, the infamous sins curtail all worldly experience and knowledge (1). The perfect monochromatic jacket of society protects against the experience of these sins. With the shedding of the jacket for another, simultaneously society ostracizes those who discard their perception of life. Both the weird sisters and Dr. Frank-N-Furter symbolize the metamorphosis from monochromatic to sleek black leather jackets. An ambiguous mist surrounds the sisters’ upbringing, yet there lingers a scent of rebellion in their wake. Reactionary to the medieval religious movement away from paganism to Christianity, the three sisters represent the leather clad rebels as they partake in the deadly sins. An anecdote shared by the first sister exemplifies the sins of envy and avarice: “A sailor’s wife sat with chestnuts in her lap. ‘Give me’ quoth I. ‘Aroint thee, witch,’ the rump-fed runnion cries…I’ll drain him dry as hay’” the sister states in relation to the sailor (Shakespeare 14-15). Due to dappling in sin, the sister vows to carry out the resentment of the wife onto the sailor, which envy and avarice catalyzed. Nonchalantly displaying deeds steeped in sin, the three sisters steadfastly defy majority’s acceptable standards.
Too, Dr. Frank-N-Furter dapples in sin. Unlike the weird sisters, Frank-N-Furter’s past is lucidly presented with the mention of his ostracization from ordinary earth societies. Caught in the crossroads between Transylvania and ordinary society, the doctor wraps himself in the leather jacket of his flamboyant castle. His isolation from the earthen world slips a cape of deprivation upon his shoulders. Humanity operates as a machine. Each individual knows his or her place identity. This provides comfort, serenity and solidification of one’s existence and role. Frank-N-Furter floats in uncertainty of his place identity, while his leather jacket comrades find their existence within the tightly bound iconic material. Lust and gluttony, in which Frank actively participates, allow him to find his niche in the leathery shield of Transylvania. “I'm not much of a man by the light of day, But by night I’m one hell of a lover,” (Sharman). Societies that expelled Frank-N-Furter from their starched community did so in fear of the unknown. Intolerant and ignorant of the seven deadly sins, the people sought out a way to deal with a force such as Frank-N-Furter. By isolating him, their society kept its starched, Clorox-clean image. Retreating ever more into the comfort zone of the sins, Frank-N-Furter creates his salvation of Transylvania. The creative escape that the leather jacket image provides to Frank-N-Furter is that to Shakespeare’s weird sisters. The seven unscrupulous sins, exemplified by the weird sisters and Dr. Frank-N-Furter, reveal the darker, ‘unacceptable’ facets of humanity. Shakespeare’s acute awareness of the flesh and humanity beneath shields of leathery ambiguity manifests itself in the characters of the weird sisters, yet transcends to the modern character of Dr. Frank-N-Furter too.
Within the tender flesh beneath the impermeable leather, lie apparent courage, pride and indulgence. Yet sewn with nearly invisible thread are the wounds of years past. Brimming red with infection, the weird sisters ignore the signs. Hustling the grief into a further crack with each reemergence, the sisters continue on controlling, contorting and ceaselessly playing with mortal lives. Manipulating marionettes, such as Macbeth, the sisters unconsciously let their grief and frustration flow willingly into the actions demanded of their subjects. It is hinted from the manipulated actions of Macbeth, that the sisters have parental issues. The complex of guilt, as stated by Sigmund Freud, initially stems from the child’s ‘acceptance of the standards imposed by parents, which are enforced by their reward-or-punishment approach’ (2). Through Shakespeare’s genius, the ordinary society is the parent to the weird sisters. As the child grows, gathers individual experiences and knowledge, the child begins to behave in his or her own standards of behavior. The behavior, which digresses from these self-imposed standards arouses feelings of guilt and failure: at times, under certain circumstances, these feelings may be at an unconscious level, and like other unconscious and repressed ideas, can give rise to abnormal behavior’ (2). Fully knowledgeable of the devastating consequences to Macbeth becoming King of Scotland, the sisters still fan the fire that catch on and burn down the world of Macbeth (Shakespeare 17). Habits of indirectly inflicting pain, like the emotional pain suffered by Macbeth, may be the result of guilt plunged deep into the quagmires of the sisters’ minds. The guilt lingering in the catacombs of the sisters’ and Frank-N-Furter’s mind unknowingly add volatile volume to their rebellious minority.
Shaken, not stirred…at first that is. Forging a path through the rumble of a faux-happy, socially acceptable life stirred emotions like a tempest within Frank-N-Furter. The guilt of achieving what the parent society wishes yet defying the true self any satisfaction shook him to recede into the black jacket of rebels past. Through an existential lens, Frank-N-Furter, like the weird sisters, left the monochromatic, static life of society to experience life as he wishes. To exist mechanically is not to live life, which is a horrifying thought to all existentialists. Frank-N-Furter obviously felt the same way. “Living” life within the ill-fitting, constricting sleeves of society offered naught but intolerance to Frank while he existed in guilt. The internal struggle of whether to know his place identity in the ill-fitting society or become an expatriate and fulfilled racks Frank-N-Furter with guilt and anxiety. Slicing off his extension of the itchy sweater, Frank pursues the existential perspective and shoves the guilt into the crevices of his cranium. Depicted in the merciless scene of Eddie’s death by ice pique, Frank-N-Furter justifies his death by saying “He got in the way” (Sharman). Instability becomes a clear characteristic of Frank. His murdering Eddie simply because he obstructed his convention of Transylvanians instigates the conclusion that Frank has unresolved issues with his parent society. No longer is the guilt packed away in the corners of his mind, but brought forth with the swift downward motion of ice pique into flesh. As with the weird sisters, Frank-N-Furter’s guilt manifests itself in his manipulation and murdering of human life. Symbolizing the internal guilt or unresolved issues within each iconic leather jacket, both the weird sisters and Frank lose their footing on the already unstable ground only to fall into the heap of guilt.
Huddled safe inside the comfortable monochromatic tweed threads of society’s jacket, the majority feels the need to eradicate any unsightly minority threads. With a simple snip those who fit the color scheme originally yet darkened with age are left lying on the floor waiting to be swept up. The straggly, separate threads band together creating the image of the leather jacket. Shakespeare’s symbolism of this minority of straggly threads through the medium of the weird sisters allows a portal into the minority. With perspective into the minority, the majority may widen their horizons to accept the differences each possesses. The iconic leather jacket not only applies to the weird sisters, but also to the world’s modern transvestites. Dr. Frank-N-Furter of Sharman’s Rocky Horror Picture Show defines what it means to wrap oneself in the protective leather of rebels past. Although James Dean seems to have been the originator of the image, the weird sisters of Shakespeare were beyond their time by proudly displaying their leather jackets in an intolerant society.