Queer Issues through Camp: “Drag Queens on Trial” and “Paris is Burning”

Alan Corley
13 min readAug 12, 2020

[Camp] is not a natural mode of sensibility, if there be any such. Indeed, the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. And Camp is esoteric — something of a private code, a badge of identity even, among small urban cliques. (Sontag)¹

Camp is a difficult subject to speak about in a way that remains true to its spirit without overly simplifying it to the point that it becomes a cliché. Though many theoretical frameworks have been offered since the term came into use in the 19th century, its first appearance in the 1909 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary encompasses the most common concept: “ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical; effeminate or homosexual; pertaining to, characteristic of, homosexuals” (Bekhrad)². Camp in its most basic form is an aesthetic and style that deals in exaggeration and ridiculousness and often seen as something embarrassing and to be avoided, but camp is more than style and behaviour and is not exclusively the province of the gay community. Camp is a way of redefining roles, of breaking away from a stringent structure and expressing oneself in a way that is more organic and truthful — as well as more fun. Through the expressive nature of camp, one can be more vulnerable and open their inner selves to others, as well as partake in a form of social…

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Alan Corley

Usually writing about old movies — BA English & Drama — MPhil Film Studies