Six Damn Fine Degrees #27: Fear of a Camp Planet

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

Camp, adj. - Ostentatiously and extravagantly effeminate (typically used of a man or his manner); ... deliberately exaggerated and theatrical in style. (Definitions from Oxford Languages)

For the longest time, I would shy away from a lot of media that I associated with camp. From what little I could see, I thought it was tacky, in poor taste and attention-grabbing: “Look at me! I’m in your face! I’m different – and I’m unafraid to be different!”

I’m still not automatically a fan of things that I consider ostentatious and in-your-face, and I guess there is a lot of camp that leaves me non-plussed. But that’s true for a lot of art – and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. If I’m entirely honest: looking back, I wonder how much of my negative reaction to it was that, as little as I like to acknowledge it, young Matt was a teensy bit of a homophobe.

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It’s about cats. Singing and dancing cats. You’ll love it.

Years ago, I went to see the stage version of The Lion King in London. As the lights went down and people stopped talking, knowing that the show was about to begin, a kid one or two rows in front of me piped up. “I don’t like lions!” Well, tough, kid, you’re going to get lions, whether you like them or not.

Most people like lions, if they keep their distance and don’t attempt to eat you or your loved ones. What many people don’t like? Musicals. Some people don’t like action films, others aren’t really into horror movies, but I don’t think there’s a single genre that as many people claim not to like as musicals. To be honest, though: until a few years ago, I would have said the same, though I may have qualified it a bit more – I don’t like the Platonic ideal (i.e. the pretentiously formulated stereotype) of a musical that people may think of when the genre comes up. At the same time, some of the films I liked best growing up were musicals, such as Hair or Jesus Christ Superstar. I’ve even rewatched some musicals that didn’t click for me when I was growing up, like West Side Story, and I’ve come to greatly enjoy them. Similarly, “Once More With Feeling” is one of my favourite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Killer, and I’d defend its artistic merits as much as I would those of my favourite less jazz-handy episodes.

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