British theatre, TV and film have always leant towards camp. What people think of as British humour is actually camp. The Brits and our comedy are inseparable and thoroughly camp. Consequently, society has embraced and tolerated camp culture across all walks of life. Hence the makeup waring cross dressing David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, Marc Bolan, Elton John and even Mick Jagger during that period were adored by the youth of the day. They were theatrical, extrovert and British, ut their sexuality was not in question, gay or straight, they were just camp and we loved them for it.
credits: Stephen Webster, Gallery View, Outrageous Aestheticism, Image courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Zach Hilty
Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s British fashion lead the way in camp counter culture. Punk encouraged us to do it for ourselves. We were encouraged to buy the basics, rip them up and start again and to celebrate the imperfections. At the time most of the music exported well, but not the lifestyle surrounding the sounds, with the exception of Andy Warhol’s New York and possibly a San Francisco scene who each had their own camp core, the greater US was not ready to openly embrace camp.
credits: Gallery View, Part2, Image courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Zach Hilty
Since those pioneering days, attitudes across most of the western world have changed drastically, now more than ever ready to accept people’s lifestyle choices much of this is driven by the LBGT and pride movements. Both have lobbied for toleration and acceptance of alternative and ultimately all lifestyle choices. This does not imply that all such choices are a form of camp, however, a pride march does demonstrate pretty much everything that could be termed “camp”.
Gallery View, Failed Seriousness, Image courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Zach Hilty
Camp does not feel threatening. As entire generations are finally finding the freedom to identify with themselves and who they are rather than a society which can still harbor illogical prejudices, in a desperate attempt to protect a way of life that either no longer exists or shouldn’t. Camp culture is here to stay, this is not a fashion, it’s a movement , we are all impacted by the effects, whether we realize it or not. Once people no longer distinguish between camp or playing it straight, the lines become blurred and before you know it we can all live the midsummer night’s dream.