Feminization of Camp

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I had to do a little more reading on this quote because I wanted to know where it was coming from. I found an interview with Babbit where she explains her own quote:

You've used the phrase, "the feminization of camp" to describe a combination of "hyper-real" setting with "real feelings of the characters." What exactly do you mean?

Babbit: I guess that statement came out of a lot of people saying, "Oh, she wishes she was John Waters. Ooh, she wishes she was as bitter and biting as John Waters." I can't tell you how many times I heard that and how irritated I am by it. That was a response. I think it's true. Let's think about camp: Who made camp an aesthetic? Gay men. Okay, let's think about what I wanted to do. I didn't want to make an entirely camp film. I also wanted straightforward emotional scenes. I wanted a counterpoint. I really fought for those scenes. I also wanted a romance. I believe in love at first sight and true love forever. That's just the way I am. I'm not cynical.

And in another interview she says:

CF: And how are you using camp in the film?

JB: The history of camp has pretty much been defined by gay men, so I wanted to be sure that the film, while using camp, also had real emotional moments, that it was a romance. John Waters hates romantic comedies; he thinks they're cheesy. But there's a certain part of me that is cheesy. I'm a small town girl when it comes to relationships, and I wanted to tell a conventionally romantic story. So while there are scenes of high camp, there are also scenes of the girls sitting on a hill, talking about their lives. Some people say that I'm trying to be John Waters but the film doesn't have that bite; I don't want it to have that bite. What's important to me is to have an emotional center for the comedy. If I were writing a paper about it, I'd say it's feminization of the camp aesthetic, bringing emotion to something that's hyperrealized.

I think that her explanation of the quote creates a gender binary because, to me, it sounds like she is attributing real emotion and true love and anti-cynicalism to females only. She is saying that she used camp, a gay male dominated genre, to create certain scenes and to convey a certain message at specific points in the movie. But overall she wanted her movie to be a conventional romantic comedy, and she had to use female romance to create those scenes. The idea here is that she uses gay male camp for certain scenes and female romanticism for other scenes and that itself is a gender binary.

It seems she can't get away from ideas that she was raised with, such as "I'm a small town girl when it comes to relationships." Here she is saying that romance and love are conventional and are not camp, and these ideas are what sets her movies apart from John Waters' movies.

Having said that, I do appreciate this "form" of camp. I think she does have a point because this movie is extremely campy but in a different way than standard camp films. It is more in line with movies like "Saved", "Pleasantville", etc. And although I do feel it creates gender binaries, I think the attempt at creating a different form of camp or using camp in a new way is important to queer cinema as a whole. As we discussed earlier in the year, this kind of goes along the lines of "exposure at any cost". While she may have relied on gender binaries instead of breaking them down, this film is a step in the right direction.

3 Comments

I think it's interesting that overall she wanted her movie to be a conventional, romantic comedy. I never thought that it was a conventional romantic comedy, but after thinking about it I think her genre was achieved. I think this is one of the few films where queer stereotypes actually come off as comical and not demeaning. The main romance in the plot was cute and seeing the other characters sneak off into their own same-sex hook ups was also funny. I wonder if the main romance would have been switched to two of the boys if it woud have the same effect?

while I didn't that the original quote "feminization of camp" did not create a gender binary I do see how you think so from the explanation that Babbit gives in interviews. She does seem fixated on the ways in which she and Waters differs and how he being more cynical than she is is due to her view on romance is more important than the movie being queer. And it comes off as if romance is not something that are part of gay male culture since its not portrayed in camp films, which originally where dominated by gay men. I just don't think that it's in line with exposure at any cost. Although it somewhat creates a gender binary from implying that emotion and romance are feminine things it does bring this important element of queer relationships to the surface as something that can't be mocked. To me exposure at any cost have more negative conotations. Like in the Celluloid Closet when queers where being made fun of, bullied or killed.

These are some really great connections to our class context, especially the references to other camp films. Thank you all for bringing even more of these elements to light and generating such interesting perspectives on these different but similar works.

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This page contains a single entry by jacksavvy_ccs published on March 31, 2012 12:01 PM.

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