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CHAT: Camp (was: Re: Shelta, Polari...)

From:J Matthew Pearson <pearson@...>
Date:Monday, July 17, 2000, 7:02
Roger Mills wrote:

> >"camp" is pretty universal here on the East Coast (due, no doubt, to > >Baltimore's favorite son John Waters),> > Actually I think "camp" entered (at least) the academic lexicon with Susan > Sontag's "Notes on Camp", sometime in the 60s. Have to confess I've not > read it; but I recall it was pooh-poohed when it appeared. There were a > host of "underground" films in the early 60s, some them quite interesting, > while others were pure camp and occasionally hilarious. "Flaming Creatures" > for one (I wonder if a print still survives; it got seized by Lily Law a > lot), and almost anything by Warhol. SNL did a wicked sketch (early 80s?), > a send up of "Deliverance", with Burt Reynolds guesting as an undercover cop > sent to investigate "camping" in the Georgia woods. > That may have introduced the word to a wider audience more than Ms. Sontag. > The problem with camp is, it's hard to define, but you know it when you see > it.
Paul Roen (author of "High Camp") defines camp as "any brazen triumph of theatrical artifice over dramatic substance"--whether intentional and ironic, or unintentional and just plain bad/funny. The association of camp with gays derives no doubt from its reliance on 'deviant' sexuality (aggressive women, aestheticised and eroticised men, kinkiness, etc.), as well as on a thorough knowledge of melodramatic conventions, a strong sense of taste (good, bad, or otherwise), and a lively appreciation for in-jokes--elements which form an integral part of many (though not all) gay subcultures. Matt.