When is it Camp? by Amanda McAfee

For something to be Camp it must adhere to the Camp taste, which emphasizes the sensory over content. The element of artifice, “nothing in nature can be campy” because camp is the celebration of the exaggerated and things that are what they are not, for example, when they make their escape from the night club and by doing so bond as a family by donning drag makeup and dress together. (Sontag, 279)

The exaggeration of mannerisms, personality and characteristics, things that are often developed to create a predictable character and transform the individual into icon or type. This is particularly true for Barbra’s parents and their predictable conservative disposition.

Characters of Camp are intense and high concentration of specifics traits, the high fructose characters lead to a successful work of Camp. Hence why The Birdcage (Mike Nichols, 1996, USA) is such a successful work of Camp. Barbra’s needy mother and distracted father both take everything with an unfailing degree of severity are high fructose in their banality and conservativeness.

There is an ongoing gag throughout the film the driver is willing to sell information about their private affairs for increasingly larger amounts of money. The build up of the laugh peaks here when the driver has the story of the Senator in full drag in public and unknowingly answers the unspoken question how much would one pay for this story? Perhaps not a million dollars yet this moment embraces Sontag’s understanding of Camp and the naïve. The father, Senator Kevin Keeley, naïveté coupled with his unfailing character even in his state of physical parody has donned both the air quotes while maintains his domineering authority and character and also “dethrones the serious.” (Sontag, 288) The media is made arbitrary, the public is only concerned with the private and the Senator is in drag.


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


One comment

  1. I have not seen Birdcage but from what I understand extravagance and exaggeration are just elements used in the film to fulfill some other purpose within the narrative and as such they are not the main elements that could define the film as camp.

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