“The Campiest of them all, Myra Breckinridge” by Jessy Stanley

If you want to talk about “camp”, go no farther than the film adaption of Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge directed by Mike Sarne. This film is the has the stylistic presence of Queer Eye times 100 that was then edited to look like 3 avante gaurde film students had complete control. In other words it is “the love of the exaggerated, the “off,” of things-being-what they are not” [1] Everything about this film is “camp” from the character depictions that make each character one sided exaggerated, to the artifice of Myra Breckinridge by literally being an artificial female (she is male to female transgender).

The only thing about Myra Breckinridge that doesn’t hit the mark of being apolitical. Susan Sontag writes, “To emphasize style is to slight content, or to introduce an attitude which is neutral with respect to content. It goes without saying that the Camp sensibility is disengaged, depoliticized – or at least apolitical” [2]. While this may be true for the most part, Myra Breckinridge argues the opposite. The whole film is using the Camp style to argue points about gender equality, and the film industry in general. Take for example it’s hard stance of masculinity. In the trailer you hear Myra ask “how should a man act?” and the response “he should ball chicks that’s how.” which is later followed by a clip of the “most sensational scene in the history of the screen” which is Myra “reforming” a the same man’s behavior by raping him. This is an extreme, but it is meant to be. The writer Gore Vidal knew that for reform to happen for anything there had to be an extreme for the moderate position to make change. Myra’s over the top camp extremism served as the the extreme so that more moderate ideologies could reform the hollywood casting system in a more feminist manner.

 

 

[1] Sontag, Susan. “Notes on “Camp”” in Against interpretation and other essays. (London: Penguin Classics, 2009) 279.

[2] ibid. 277.

Leave a Reply