Camp

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Holy camp shenanigans Batman!

Derives from the French gay community's slang term se camper, meaning "to pose in an exaggerated fashion". The term "Camp" morphed into referring to a sensibility that revels in artifice, stylization, theatricality, irony, playfulness, and exaggeration rather than content, as Susan Sontag famously defined the term in her short essay Notes on "Camp". Don't expect it to take itself the least bit seriously.

The main debates concerning the term are twofold: 1. How such an aesthetic relates to intentionality: whether camp deliberately cultivated ("high" camp) is the same to that of the unintentional kind ("low" camp), and 2. Whether the term relies too much on the elitist notion that popular culture cannot also be enjoyed by a sophisticated sensibility, except through a condescending or distancing label.

See also Camp Gay, Macho Camp and Camp Straight. Compare So Bad It's Good and Narm Charm. Not to be confused with the movie Camp

Examples of Camp include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

Film[edit | hide]

  • Tommy Wisseau's The Room is one of the more popular examples of low camp. Althought Wisseau made the smart marketing decision to now push it as an ironic comedy, it's clear to everyone that he originally meant it to be completely serious.
  • The infamous The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman may well qualify as one of the worst movies ever, owing to its having been a failed attempt at camp. It is a rip-off of the Adam West TV series, right down to the ludicrous villains and the 60s go-go dancing. The producers of Batman took Jerry Warren to court, which is why he threw in that tacked-on opening about the "synthetic vampire" Batgirls.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
  • Flash Gordon. The movie's script was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr., script consultant and sometimes episode writer for the Adam West-era Batman. The theme song is done by Queen. Of course it's going to be camp as hell.

Flash - a-ah - saviour of the universe
Flash - a-ah - he'll save everyone of us
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
Flash - a-ah - he's a miracle
Flash - a-ah - king of the impossible

  • The Abominable Dr. Phibes
  • James Whale famously employed this in his 1930s horror films, particularly The Old Dark House and Bride of Frankenstein.
  • The Showa (1955-1975) Godzilla films were just filled with this.
  • Final Wars. "Kid, there are two things you don't know about the Earth..."
  • Xanadu
  • The film version of The Wiz.
  • The Disney flick Condorman falls squarely into this category. It's pretty entertaining if you don't mind suspending your disbelief a bit (and remember that it was intended for kids).
  • Snakes on a Plane. Notably, the film started out as low camp and morphed into high camp over the course of its production process, thanks to its internet popularity and the noble efforts of Mr. Samuel L. Jackson to preserve the film's working title.
  • Troll 2 is loved because it is so delightfully camp and not scary at all.
  • Phantom of the Paradise, and oh so gloriously, from the music to the casting.
  • Tank Girl. More regarding the film version, which featured all staples of camp seen above. Bad jokes, bizarre plot, unexplained animation segments, Malcolm McDowell playing late-career Malcolm McDowell, and—of course—a random musical segment.
  • Vampire Cop Ricky splices camp with extremely serious scenes.
  • The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T, especially this number. The movie was written by Dr. Seuss, and it's exactly what you'd expect from him.
  • Moulin Rouge. Derivative, archetypal plot? Check. Large Ham villains? Check. Large Ham non-villains in a World of Ham where everyone breaks out into song at regular intervals? Check. Ham-to-Ham Combat? Check. Soundtrack predominantly composed of pop music given a Softer and Slower Cover? Check. Costuming? Lavish. Aesthetics? Fantastic. Music? Amazing. Disney Acid Sequence? Definitely. Also, the director of the film (Baz Luhrman) is a Camp Straight.
  • Mommie Dearest has Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford gravely overacting while everyone else seems to be sedated. The editing only adds to the strangeness. For example, in one scene, Joan has been fired from her job and the scene ends with her boss turning around to the camera. Then there is an immediate cut to a screaming Joan, decked in an expensive evening dress, cutting apart her rose garden with a pair of hedge clippers and then ordering her daughter to "bring [her] the axe" so she can chop down a tree.
  • The 2000 film Psycho Beach Party is an Affectionate Parody of old camp films and is truely extremely camp itself.
  • How could Temptation Island not be this? Consider this line by Suzanne/Serafina to Azenith/Cristina: "Good morning. What did you have for breakfast, Eggs Benedict? Did Umberto serve you?"
  • Pretty much every film made by cult B-movie producers Troma Film has loads of camp value.
  • Clearly based on the 1960s-era TV series mentioned below, the upcoming (expected in November 2016) Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders promises high camp from the very first teaser trailer.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Probably no TV show had as much intentional camp as its central focus than did the live-action Batman from the 1960s. Notorious for putting the prefix "bat-" in front of everything Batman did or used, and for Adam West's portrayal of Batman as a constantly emoting expositionist who had but one tone of voice no matter the situation. However, many of the people involved with the production debate the label as needlessly denigrating to the hard work they put into the show's elements of farce.
In his essay Batman, Deviancy and Camp, Andy Medhurst goes so far as to say the best definition of camp could be "sort of like the Batman TV show." Adam West has apparently made a career out of playing campy superheroes. Occasionally he even plays himself as if he thought he was a superhero.
West mentioned during interviews that he deliberately played up some 'campy' aspects of the show—it was, apparently, a necessity, as only part of his face was visible, and he had to find another way to express emotion.
The animated Batman: The Brave And The Bold series and its video game adoption has picked up the camp role. Besides its surprising emphasis on more obscure, cheesier villains, the show also gave us the Music Meister, a villain who controls the will of others by singing like Neil Patrick Harris.

Tom Servo: Well, time to start camping. You dress up as Oscar Wilde, and I'll sing Noel Coward songs.

Music[edit | hide]

  • The artist Gunther embodies camp, mullet and all. Witness the glory that is the Ding Dong Song.
  • Queen. Their sound was essentially this combined with the Epic Riff/Epic Rocking and Mundane Made Awesome. We Will Rock You cranks it up to eleven, naturally. Lead singer Freddie Mercury was Camp Gay.[1] This should come as no surprise that his songs and videos were extremely camp as well. He loved to dress in fur and leather. Later in his career, he had a mustache. FLASH! AH-ah! Savior of the universe!
  • Rob Zombie. His stage act self-consciously uses every bad cliche ripped from B-Movie Slasher Flicks, and yet he obviously has an affectionate attitude towards the source material and puts genuine effort into using it. For more evidence, see the Dragula video.
  • David Bowie, especially Ziggy Stardust.
  • Everything Doctor Steel - or his fans - do is done consciously and conspicuously over the top.
  • Klaus Nomi, the 80s version of Lady Gaga, with his "postmodern theatricality". Which brings us to...
  • Lady Gaga, who claims inspiration from Doctor Steel and Klaus Nomi. "He ate my heart, and then he ate my brain!"
  • Steps, even by The Nineties pop standard. The three mains traits of the band were exaggerated dance moves, cheesey, happy music and bright colours and costume worn by the members. Like the Batman television series, it was intentionally camp.

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • Titanes en el Ring, from Argentina. Every bit of it.[context?]

Theatre[edit | hide]

  • Most Richard Strauss operas—especially Salome.
  • The musical of Little Women takes the short and melodramatic play that Jo and her sisters stage in the early chapters, and turns it into a musical number spanning the entire cast (all... six of them), stuffed chock-full of wholesome, affectionate camp.
  • The entire output of Gilbert and Sullivan is high camp. As ridiculously uppercrust as Sullivan was Gilbert made his living as a parodist. Their operetta Patience is particularly worth noting as being a camp parody of the, also very camp, aestheic movement.
  • Most Broadway musicals, especially those adapted from movies.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Devil May Cry. In the second game the developers forgot this, but the third game made up for it in spades.
  • Bayonetta, spiritual successor to Devil May Cry, begins with the main character, disguised as a nun, presiding over a funeral that is subsequently visited by heavenly beings who rip off her clothes, allowing her to use her suit of magical hair and the handguns (which she wields four at a time, one to each limb) that were hidden in a coffin to beat, shoot, and rip the angels apart gruesomely, all to a cover of Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon." It's as over the top as it sounds.
    • To elaborate for the uninformed: Bayonetta is a game about a sexy witch who brutally kills angels by basically stripping naked and breakdancing with handguns on her quest to find a gemstone in an Expy of the Vatican whilst making thousands of references to Clover Studios and SEGA. It's Better Than It Sounds.
  • Space Channel 5. The setting is 60s style psychedelic future. You play as a swingin' news reporter. Colorful aliens start to invade. How do you defeat them? By the power of dancing and copying the moves of the enemies. It also has "space-" inserted to almost every occupation.
  • The Tiberium series of Command & Conquer games is mildly campy. Red Alert pushes it Up to Eleven.
  • The Wolfenstein series, especially Wolfenstein 3-D. It's hard to get much campier than Mecha Hitler with quadruple Gatling Good yelling in bastardized German/English and exploding into Ludicrous Gibs.
  • Contra:Rebirth Seems to be this with the hero dropped into space station from helicopter, robotic llamas, upside-down midboss, a pyramid of running enemies, over-the-top Excuse Plot and generally lighthearted presentation.
  • Team Fortress 2. The characters have exaggerated Rockwell-esque designs, each of them have a different, very much played up accent and traits stereotypically associated with each's respective nationality. Furthermore, it's filled with Ludicrous Gibs (after you get killed, during a freezecam of your murderer the game will gleefully point out where "your pancreas!", "your foot!", "your kidney!" etc. lies, if the body parts appear on the shot). It is largely thanks to that factor that the game was received so well.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: All three tribes that run the casinos in New Vegas are camp to some degree (The Omertas representing the seamy underbelly and the White Glove Society representing the elegance well, on the surface, anyway of the old Las Vegas, respectively), but the Chairmen crank it up to 11. All of them dress like Rat Pack rejects and say things like "Ring-a-ding, baby" and "What can I do to make your stay the tops?" with completely straight faces. It's hilarious.
  • Metal Wolf Chaos is about 'AMERICA!!' It takes the Eagle Land trope Up to Eleven. Let's just say its campiness rivals Batman.
  • Deep Fear: Although the game itself is hardly camp, the campiness cranks Up to Eleven whenever the sub designer, Dubois Amalric opens his mouth to deliver his lines at a volume as loud as his purple turtleneck sweater.

Web Original[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • John Waters (whose guest appearance on The Simpsons provides one of the quotes above) has made a career out of it.
  • Many of the resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. Let's see; Fake Venice, Fake Paris, Fake New York, Fake Ancient Rome, Fake Camelot, Fake Ancient Egypt, Pirates on the Vegas Strip... if "camp" is defined as deliberate bad taste then the Las Vegas Strip is practically the best example out there. It is all incredibly over the top and tacky but it done so incredibly well that one cannot help think it is So Bad It's Good.
    • The Venetian is the clearest case of Camp on the Strip. Most of the resorts do indeed have an exaggerated and theatrical presentation. However, not all of the resorts have the required derivative substance or hilarious badness or monumental tackiness. For instance, the Bellagio is certainly exaggerated in its theatricality, and presented very well. However, the resort takes itself very seriously and the vast majority of visitors to it consider it So Cool Its Awesome rather than So Bad It's Good.
    • And let's not forget Macau's own Fake Venice which is not only three times the size of it's Vegas counterpart, but even campier. Picture sitting in a Japanese restaurant, overlooking a fake indoor replica of the Grand Canal, with the gondolier rowing past and singing a (very good) rendition of Sarah Brightman's part in "Time To Say Goodbye." Oh, and the Brazillian steakhouse on the fake St Mark's Square, with street entertainers suddenly bursting out of doors to do rousing renditions of "Feniculi Fenicula." Oh yeah, it's more camp than Rufus Wainright.
    • With regards to the Treasure Island resort, their famous streetside "pirate battle" was originally a straightforward, theme-park like spectacle: pirates vs. the British navy, and the pirates win. When the resort was overhauled to appeal more to adults, this show became The Sirens of TI and became sirens (re: sexy, scantily-clad sea witches) vs. pirates; the sirens win and the pirates join them for a Dance Party Ending. Now THAT'S campy!
    • The bulk of Las Vegas shows qualified as mostly unintentional camp for decades. But then Cirque Du Soleil arrived in The Nineties and presented high theatricality and fun alongside elegance, subtlety, and artistic ambition. Audiences found it refreshing, and this triggered a sea change in Vegas entertainment. Nowadays, when you see a campy Vegas show, it's either partially intentional or an older show. For the latter, see this review of the last of the Vegas showgirl shows, Jubilee!
  • 19th century dandies, including Oscar Wilde and Lord Byron. Not all of them were necessarily gay, but they were all extremely camp, which is required for being a dandy.
  1. bisexual, actually.