What Is Camp?

If you’re into that kind of thing, you may have watched the Met Gala this week with a mix of horror, fascination, and one nudging complaint: That’s not camp! There have been about a million articles published on the subject since then, so here are just a few: For The Guardian, Jon Savage provides a brief(-ish) history of camp; for LARB, Alex Weintraub reviews the Met’s Costume Institute catalog; for Refinery29, Channing Hargrove delves into the history of black camp, and notes its exclusion from the Met’s camp exhibit.

But maybe you’ve never fully understood what camp is, even if you’ve read that oft-cited Sontag essay. In that case, Kelly Connaboy helpfully offers this explanation, over at The Cut: “The Met Gala, which is not the Mets Gala, is camp-themed this year, which is not camp, like, going camping, but camp like the aesthetic style “camp,” which is somewhat difficult to define but includes elements of irony, humor, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality, and exaggeration; it makes you at once laugh and say oooahhhh, yikes! Lady Gaga is one of the Met Gala’s co-chairs. The B-52’s rule.” Does that help?

Photo credit: ©Lynn Gilbert

is a staff writer for The Millions. Born and raised in New York, she now lives in the Midwest, where she is a PhD student in American literature.

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