Green Street Hooligans and Unintentional Camp

In “Notes on ‘Camp’” Susan Sontag acknowledges that the sensibility of ‘camp’ is most readily apparent in works where it is evoked unintentionally – this she calls a ‘pure’ or ‘naïve’ form of camp.[1] Sontag states that works of pure camp aspire to a ‘seriousness which fails’[2] to be taken seriously due to being – in Sontag’s words – just “too much.”[3]

 

While Sontag cites older films such as The Maltese Falcon as examples of the exaggerated style and heightened sense of artifice which leads to unintentional camp – today I’d like to offer a more recent example of a film which proposes itself to be serious, but instead becomes humorous through its exaggerated depictions of reality: 2005’s Green Street Hooligans, directed by Lexi Alexander.

 

The film follows an American student as he becomes engrained in the culture of Football Hooliganism in the UK, and presents this Hooliganism in a similar light to a gang – playing into themes of honour, revenge, and masculinity. However, in attempting to glamorise hooliganism and give it the Gangs of New York treatment the film exposes how distant it’s presentation is from reality and unintentionally highlights its artifice. It is difficult to suspend disbelief when the film presents violent football fans as hyper-masculine, heroic, and grounded in codes of honour. As Sontag would argue, this film is camp in its ‘theatricalisation of experience.’ In this instance – and in many other “Gritty” British films such as the works of Guy Ritchie (an example of purposeful camp), Kidulthood, Rise of the Footsoldier – the experience of British life (particularly lower income England) is theatricalised into a depiction of life where street-fights are commonplace, gangs operate without policing, and everything holds an aesthetic of roughness.

 

Perhaps experiencing all of this as camp is easier coming from a localised British perspective, and perhaps all this glamorisation is intended for foreign audiences, so I’d like to turn to SNL’s parody of gritty British drama – titled Don’ You Go Rounin’ Round the Re Rowhich highlights the generic tropes which make these British dramas come off as camp.

[1] Sontag, Susan. “Notes on ‘Camp’” In Against Interpretation and other essays. London: Penguin Classics, 2009. Pp 282

[2] Sontag, Susan. “Notes on ‘Camp’” In Against Interpretation and other essays. London: Penguin Classics, 2009. Pp 283

[3]Sontag, Susan. “Notes on ‘Camp’” In Against Interpretation and other essays. London: Penguin Classics, 2009. Pp 284

2 comments

  1. I enjoy the use of both clips. It’s interesting how the parody of something can reveal it to be Camp, such as here with this film and the SNL clip. In watching the first clip I am reminded of how Sontag speaks about characters as acting as theatrical stereotypes of themselves, with the men being stereotypical portrayals of young British men.

  2. I found the use of the SNL clip to be very interesting. The clip shows there are stereotypes within British cinema that could become camp. However I believe the SNL clip is parody not camp. SNL is purposely exaggerating stereotypes and doesn’t favour aesthetic over content.

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