Camp seen through The Rocky Horror Picture Show – Taylor Holliday

In Notes on “Camp” [1], Susan Sontag discusses what Camp truly embodies. She believes that “the essence of camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration”. She then goes on to talk about how “Camp is the triumph of the epicene style. (The convertibility of ‘man’ and ‘woman,’ ‘person’ and ‘thing’)”. I believe that this can be seen in The Rocky Horror Picture Show  (Jim Sharman, 1975). Tim Curry plays the wildly flamboyant Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a transvestite scientist, who I believe fully epitomizes what Camp is. Everything about him and his mansion is unnatural and exaggerated, including all of his guests and staff. 

In the clip above Brad and Janet meet the doctor after entering his home to look for a phone. When he appears behind the two of them, Janet promptly faints. This shows us how to her (the conservative damsel in distress) this entire situation is unfathomable and unnatural. He then breaks out into the song “Sweet Transvestite”, setting the tone for the rest of the film. As the song and dance goes on we see that the doctor is dressed in women’s lingerie, high heels, pearls, and is wearing makeup. This goes along with what Sontag says about the “convertibility of ‘man’ and ‘woman’”, as well as that “Camp sees everything in quotation marks”. I believe that the doctor’s persona exemplifies this, as he is perfectly displaying how easy it is for one to switch between the traditional roles of a man and the traditional roles of a woman. Everything about this scene is fully over the top, yet fits in perfectly with the aesthetic of the film. Overall, Camp shows us greatly exaggerated situations that can evoke humor, as well as seeing things in a different light. 

 

[1] Susan Sontag, “Notes on Camp,” Against Interpretation (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1966), 275-292.

3 comments

  1. I think this is a very good example of intentional Camp. All elements of the film come together as a celebration of the Camp taste and aesthetic. In contrast to many of the examples provided this week, the film does not take itself too seriously and operates with a strong sense of self-awareness. The flamboyant costumes and sets, the musical numbers, and the contrasting gender reinforcing/subverting characters are all deliberate demonstrations of Camp.

  2. Would Rocky Horror still be a successful Camp work if Brad and Janet were not there to serve as the backdrop of innocence to the self aware flamboyance of Frank-N-Furter? I think the character Frank-N-Furter in his “man” “women” state is a Camp character but the entire film is Camp because of the play on Brad and Janet’s naïveté and eventual corruption.

  3. This is what, I too, would define as classic camp. This entire production is completely over-the-top and out-of-place. An interesting point of discussion that I am curious about is the element of humor combined with this exaggeration; are we enjoying it because of the ridiculousness or in-spite of it?

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