Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Camp and Culture in America


Of Camp in High Culture 

I have been reading Van Leer's The Queening of America Gay Culture in Straight Society (Routledge,  1995;   and available @    It is an interesting analysis regarding the way queer culture and high camp inserted itself  -  through closeted gay writers  -  into the culture in the '40s,  '50s,  and beyond.  It is common knowledge that Tennessee Williams used his character,  Blanche DuBois,  from his A Streetcar Named Desire ,  as a mouthpiece for his own gay male thoughts and experiences ( "  It was despair that drove me,  drove me from one man to another";  "I must keep my hands off of children")  .   

Van Leer points out the manner in which "rhetoric and references specific to gay culture"  were silently and stealthily inserted into "normal"  discourse as though "culturally neutral".  Most interesting and ends on an optimistic note in terms of the advantages of minorites to the general culture.   It is certainly true that gay culture has been able to enrich and inform straight society,  and often in a manner which goes unnoticed,  and is the more effective for it. 

( At top:    Gay icon Lance Loud;  the first openly gay male on American telivison,  the oldest son of Pat and Bill Loud in An American Family,  which aired on PBS in 1971-73.  He died of AIDS at the age of 50,  in 2001.  Above;   Heath Ledgers "high camp"  Joker;  one of the finest examples of subtle camp that I have seen.  ) 


Hurlyburly said...

Susan. Have you seen the rather well known "Gay culture" film to use such a sloppy term - "Party Animal" - Starring Maculay Culkin and Seth Green? Also, I'm sure you are a big fan of "My own private Idaho" ??

The documentaries on James Dean had their stories to tell also.

SM Kovalinsky said...

Oh, yes. James Dean. No, I have not seen either, and have seen many "gay culture" films. Will check them out; thanks, Hurly!

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