Let's talk about camp. . .
This year's Met Gala "Fashion: Notes on Camp," celebrates uniqueness, this time on a mainstream level. Camp is a stance against normality and a victory over tragedy. Above all else, camp is an elusive concept. Susan Sontag, the woman behind the essay, Notes on "Camp," once wrote that "to talk about camp is to betray it." Is the Met Gala making "camp" its theme, not going against everything camp stands for?
Some people argue that camp originated with Louis XIV, the Sun King, and his extravagant Versailles.
Everything was that of a performance: elaborate dress codes and lavish standards for living. This set the stage for what camp would soon become. If this is true, camp was founded in elitism and nobility, but in reality, camp is rooted in marginalized culture.
Queer and trans people of color pioneered camp. Camp became a tool to challenge norms and find a community of like-minded individuals. Drag is a huge part of camp culture. It emphasizes an exaggerated version of femininity, corresponding to Sontag's definition number 10: "Camp sees everything in quotation marks. It's not a lamp, but a 'lamp'; not a woman, but a 'woman .' To perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role. It is the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater."
Yes, the Met Gala is mainstreaming queer culture, but at the same time it's seemingly glamorizing marginalization as something "fun" and "trendy." Queer culture is entrenched in a history of resistance. If we don't acknowledge that struggle, we are doing a disservice to camp, and the community that created it. With the Met Gala promoting camp, and the general public having a lack of understanding for what camp is, it minimizes camp's roots. You can't have camp without queer culture, but queer fashion is diverse and shouldn't be flattened into a one dimensional concept that everything queer is camp.
If you take away anything from this year's Met Gala, it should be a respect for QTPOC, their struggle, and their triumph.