DEFINITION OF HIGH CAMP

There is no one definition of camp. I've been arguing with my gay friends for days about this and we can't agree on a singular definition. My definition is up top, fun examples on the bottom.
  1. Camp is a lens, a way of seeing the world. Camp holds a mirror up to conventional society and says "this is how you look - you look ridiculous." Camp is a clique that is in on the joke.
  2. Camp is an "alienated, ironic perspective on socially authorized (or 'serious') values" according to David Halperin in his fantastic book HOW TO BE GAY, to which I owe much of my research on this topic.
  3. Camp is exaggerated. Camp is many things but it is NOT subtle. It is extravagant. "Camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers," says Susan Sontag. Everything is dialed up to 11 in camp. Think of the finale of XANADU.
  4. Camp is gay. The original term referred to the effeminate and homosexual. With no media made explicitly for us, gays were forced to re-appropriate moments in straight media that spoke to us - the fabulous and melodramatic. We re-coded those moments as queer, though that was not the original intent.
  5. "Camp is not only a mode of cultural appropriation, a way of recycling bits of mainstream culture; it is also productive, a creative impulse in its own right, a strategy for dealing with social domination." - David Halperin
  6. Camp does not equal simply "bad." Campy movies of the "so bad it's good" variety are frequently PERFECT aesthetically but failing in another major way (acting, writing, etc.)
  7. "When something is just bad (rather than Camp) it's often because it is too mediocre in its ambition. The artist hasn't attempted to do anything really outlandish. ('It's too much,' 'It's too fantastic,' 'It's not to be believed,' are standard phrases of Camp enthusiasm)" - Susan Sontag
  8. Camp relies on artifice. Camp does not feel like the real world. Nature is the opposite of camp. There is nothing campy about a tree.
  9. Camp is "extravagance feigning a tie to a reason" - Louis Virtel. Think of DEATH BECOMES HER. Think of the fashion montage in MAHOGANY.
  10. Susan Sontag cited "failed seriousness" as a defining feature of camp. While this misses the mark on a lot of camp, it is certainly true of camp masterpieces like MOMMIE DEAREST and VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.
  11. Camp can be intentional, although the best camp is usually unintentional. The works of John Waters are intentional camp. Usually the camp mirror is held up by the audience, but a director can also hold the camp mirror up to society. That's what Waters did with small town America.
  12. "High camp" as opposed to simply "camp" is camp that DEEPLY fits the definition of camp so as to be held up as a paragon of the form. High camp is usually well-executed in aesthetics if not in content.
  13. Camp is ENJOYABLE! Camp doesn't make you go "ugh," it makes you go "YAAASSS KWEEN!" Even when something is campy because it's bad, it's delightful in its badness. "The ultimate Camp statement: It's good because it's awful." - Sontag
  14. "Unlike kitsch-attribution... camp-recognition doesn't ask, 'What kind of debased creature could possibly be the right audience for this spectacle?' Instead, it asks what if: What if the right audience for this were exactly me?" - Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
  15. Now I will just list some great examples of camp. Feel free to suggest more!
  16. MOMMIE DEAREST
  17. SHOWGIRLS
  18. DEATH BECOMES HER
  19. The works of John Waters (HAIRSPRAY, POLYESTER, etc.)
  20. The final apotheosis scene of XANADU
  21. VALLEY OF THE DOLLS
  22. PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT
  23. CLUE. Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn, and Lesley Ann Warren raised a GENERATION of gay men.
  24. Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in BATMAN RETURNS. Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy in BATMAN & ROBIN. Pretty much everything from the Adam West BATMAN TV series. Batman was camp central before Christopher Nolan ruined it.
  25. The fashion montage in MAHOGANY
  26. Bette Midler's stage act. Delores Delago, the toast of Chicago!
  27. Barbra Streisand's book MY PASSION FOR DESIGN
  28. Anything Carmen Miranda ever did
  29. Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother in the 1997 TV movie version of CINDERELLA
  30. PARIS IS BURNING, aside from being the best documentary ever made, shows the drag balls of the 90s that truly exemplify the values of camp culture. "O-P-U-L-E-N-C-E. Opulence! You own everything! Everything is yours!"
  31. DYNASTY
  32. Raquel Welch dancing on top of Teotihuacan to "Aquarius / Let the Sunshine In" in her TV special RAQUEL!
  33. MYRA BRECKINRIDGE
  34. Mae West in anything she ever did (but she's in on the joke)
  35. BARBARELLA
  36. GLEE is frequently just bad and not camp but at least a couple times a season it nails me right in my camp prostate. See their mashup of "Let's Have a Kiki" and "Turkey Lurkey Time" or Gwyneth Paltrow's cover of "Party All The Time."
  37. "The Merry Old Land of Oz" sequence in THE WIZARD OF OZ. Specifically when Dorothy sings, "Can you EVEN dye my eyes to match my gown?! Jolly old town!"
  38. Lucille Ball's version of MAME
  39. So so many numbers on DONNY & MARIE but perhaps the best example is when they re-interpreted STAR WARS through disco hits
  40. Quentin Tarantino frequently pulls off a version of camp for straight people by re-appropriating pop culture with an alienated, ironic perspective. Think Uma Thurman's fight with Vivica A. Fox in KILL BILL.
  41. THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW
  42. BURLESQUE
  43. That time Cher performed a 12-minute WEST SIDE STORY medley in which she played ALL the parts.
  44. BEWITCHED
  45. THE PAUL LYNDE HALLOWEEN SPECIAL
  46. THE FLYING NUN, GIDGET, early Sally Field was serving some serious camp.
  47. The opening of THE PATTY DUKE SHOW
  48. Celine Dion's emotional interview with Larry King after Hurricane Katrina. She ends it by flawlessly singing "The Prayer."