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Eric Sofer
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Joined: 31 January 2014
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Posted: 28 August 2018 at 7:42am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Michael P. - purely to set the time context, when I was growing up, gay was used either to describe a type of flower, or a somewhat archaic adjective to describe something that was bright, fun, and happy. Would that those days were back... just so that the word could be used in any context to imply NO anguish, suffering, or persecution for anyone. 'Cept them damned flowers...

When I think of "camp", I think of a work that has a loose, light, and somewhat funny tone. It doesn't have to be a mockery... just a piece that isn't taken as serious as it might be. For instance...

The Monkees - a great TV series about four guys living in a house and trying to be a successful music group. But it was fun, funny, and there were never any dire consequences. (In the past decade plus, we've seen a lot of shows about music groups trying to succeed that are deadly serious.)

Gilligan's Island - I'm not a boating expert, but a ship like the Minnow should have been able to be tracked, and to call for help - at least, if it were stocked and equipped according to legal standards. And if one of the richest couples in America went missing, the search for them would be pretty intense - more than they described on the show. And that was obvious - G.I. was just for fun.

Get Smart - an obvious attempt at a camp treatment of the spy craze in the U.S. at the time. There were a lot of shows of such nature; one attempt that couldn't make up its mind, as I recall, was "Man from U.N.C.L.E." and its distaff spin-off. Season 1 was kinda serious; season 2 was kinda campy; and season 3 was some of each.

Maybe the best differentiation between camp and non-camp came from the same studio. Batman has long been referred to as camp, and while it wasn't a comedy, there were light moments and even an occasional slightly funny element... the Bat-Tusi, or the hive of Deadly African Honeybees, or everyone's favorite - Bat-Shark repellent. Compare this to The Green Hornet, which had a lot of similar plots and elements - but absolutely serious. No sign of camp in any direction, but I loved that show. Realistically, it was almost as good as Batman - it only lasted one season less.

Referring to Planet of the Apes as camp might be the way one or two modern reviewers see the film... but as far as I'm concerned, it would be hard for them to be farther off the mark.
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 28 August 2018 at 8:08am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

I'm in my 50s, Eric, so I certainly recall never blinking an eye at the Flintstones having "a gay old time." But even back then "gay" in the street-parlance of boys had other connotations. The problem with the usage of "camp" today is, like JB noted, applying it in a way that betrays a lack of understanding the object of critique. I would add that these so-called reviewers don't seem to grasp what the word "camp" itself means.
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Ed Aycock
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Posted: 30 August 2018 at 10:23am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

As Susan Sontag says in her 1964 essay, "Notes on Camp," :

"The whole point of Camp is to dethrone the serious. Camp is playful, anti-serious. More precisely, Camp involves a new, more complex relation to "the serious." One can be serious about the frivolous, frivolous about the serious."

It does not apply here.  "POTA" isn't even the more naive "pure Camp" which doesn't know it's Camp but thinks it's a higher form of art.  That's reserved for the film from the previous year, "Valley of the Dolls."
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