Susan Sontag Camp Sensibility Analysis

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According to Susan Sontag, the ‘essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration (53). “Camp” is ‘a certain mode of aestheticism…not in terms of beauty but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization’ (54). The ‘Camp sensibility’, she argues, ‘is alive to a double sense in which some things can be taken’, but it is not ‘the familiar split-level construction’ of literal and symbolic meaning; ‘It is the difference, rather, between the thing as meaning something, anything, and the thing as pure artifice’ (57). While Jack Babuscio’s article shares numerous similarities with Sontag in his discussion of the various characteristics of “camp”, he differs in his explicit highlight of the need to acknowledge “camp” ‘as…show more content…
Its significance is highlighted by Sontag, who posits that ‘nothing in nature can be campy’, and that ‘all Camp objects, and persons, contain a large element of artifice’ (55). To her, “camp” as a sensibility ‘sees everything in quotation mark’, and ‘to perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role’ (Sontag, 56). It can thus even be said that “camp” ‘is the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater’ (Sontag, 56). Sontag’s opinion is echoed by Babuscio, who states that ‘to appreciate camp in things or persons is to perceive the notion of life-as-theatre, being versus role-playing, reality and appearance’ (123). Babuscio, in his examination of “camp” from the gay perspective, however, argues that seeing as gays ‘do not conform to socially expected ways of behaving as men and women’, it implies that ‘roles, and in particular, sex roles, are superficial – a matter of style’ (Babuscio, 123). This is especially in light of the gay ‘experience of passing’ which often leads to ‘a heightened awareness and appreciation for disguise…and the distinctions to be made between instinctive and theatrical behaviour’ (Babuscio, 124). As such, while it is undeniable that artificiality is intrinsic to “camp”, there is a clear difference between the two writers in their interpretations of “camp” and its inherent artificiality – Sontag adopts a more theoretical and general approach, while…show more content…
In “All About Eve”, Mankiewicz’s depiction of female characters who act blurs the line between theater and life by exploring the notion of reality and appearances – Eve Harrington, for example, in her act of deceit, pretended to be (and therefore played the role of) a young widow to gain the sympathy of the other characters. In “All About My Mother”, however, we see an additional gendered layer to this theatricality – while the film has a female protagonist who is involved with acting and the theater as well, what was more obviously “camp” in the film is arguably the presence of transsexual characters such as Agrado. Not only does the presence of Agrado amongst the ‘real’ women reveal the everyday performance of ‘gender’, his assertion that “you are more authentic the more you resemble what you’ve dreamed of being” further emphasizes on the artificiality of life in the specific context of being a member of the LGBT community. In light of the aforementioned discussion and analysis of the two movies, it is clear that while artificiality can be said to be one of the “camp” sensibility’s most basic form, an additional layer of creation and interpretation can be produced from the LGBT viewpoint to include the specific topic of gender as
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