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Camp
Holy Cartoon Bomb, Batman!

Derives from the French gay community's slang term se camper, meaning "to pose in an exaggerated fashion". The term "Camp" morphed into referring to a sensibility that revels in artifice, stylization, theatricality, irony, playfulness, and exaggeration rather than content, as Susan Sontag famously defined the term in her short essay "Notes on Camp". Don't expect it to take itself the least bit seriously.

The main debates concerning the term are twofold: 1. How such an aesthetic relates to intentionality: whether camp deliberately cultivated ("high" camp) is the same to that of the unintentional kind ("low" camp), and 2. Whether the term relies too much on the elitist notion that popular culture cannot also be enjoyed by a sophisticated sensibility, except through a condescending or distancing label.

See also Camp Gay, Macho Camp and Camp Straight. Compare So Bad, It's Good, Stylistic Suck and Narm Charm. Related to Large Ham and World of Ham. Not to be confused with the movie Camp.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 

    Film 
  • The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T, especially this number. The movie was written by Dr. Seuss, and it's exactly what you'd expect from him.
  • The Abominable Dr. Phibes
  • The Entire Burton/Schumacher Batman film franchise to varying extents. The first film less so than the succeeding three.
  • The Disney flick Condorman falls squarely into this category. It's pretty entertaining if you don't mind suspending your disbelief a bit (and remember that it was intended for kids).
  • Flash Gordon. The movie's script was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr., script consultant and sometimes episode writer for the Adam West-era Batman. The theme song is done by Queen. Of course it's going to be camp as hell.
    Flash - a-ah - saviour of the universe
    Flash - a-ah - he'll save everyone of us
    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
    Flash - a-ah - he's a miracle
    Flash - a-ah - king of the impossible
    • The campiness was really enhanced by this being one of the first completely self-consciously Raygun Gothic productions made. All the designs for Mongo were completely over the top, and everyone had equipment just lying around that made no sense for them to have but was both cool and convenient. (A slideway from the edge of the deathmatch arena down to a rocketcycle in a city inhabited exclusively by people who can fly? Why not!)
  • The Showa (1955-1975) Godzilla films were just filled with this.
  • Lair of the White Worm is extremely campy. Some of Ken Russell's other films could count as well.
  • Mommie Dearest has Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford gravely overacting while everyone else seems to be sedated. The editing only adds to the strangeness. For example, in one scene, Joan has been fired from her job and the scene ends with her boss turning around to the camera. Then there is an immediate cut to a screaming Joan, decked in an expensive evening dress, cutting apart her rose garden with a pair of hedge clippers and then ordering her daughter to "bring [her] the axe" so she can chop down a tree.
  • Moulin Rouge!. Derivative, archetypal plot? Check. Large Ham villains? Check. Large Ham non-villains in a World of Ham where everyone breaks out into song at regular intervals? Check. Ham-to-Ham Combat? Check. Soundtrack predominantly composed of pop music given a Softer And Slower Cover? Check. Costuming? Lavish. Aesthetics? Fantastic. Music? Amazing. Disney Acid Sequence? Definitely. Also, the director of the film (Baz Luhrman) is a Camp Straight.
  • Phantom of the Paradise, and oh so gloriously, from the music to the casting.
  • The 2000 film Psycho Beach Party is an Affectionate Parody of old camp films and is truely extremely camp itself.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
  • Tommy Wiseau's The Room is one of the more popular examples of low camp. Althought Wisseau made the smart marketing decision to now push it as an ironic comedy, it's clear to everyone that he originally meant it to be completely serious.
  • Snakes on a Plane. Notably, the film started out as low camp and morphed into high camp over the course of its production process, thanks to its internet popularity and the noble efforts of Mr. Samuel L. Jackson to preserve the film's working title.
  • Tank Girl. More regarding the film version, which featured all staples of camp seen above. Bad jokes, bizarre plot, unexplained animation segments, Malcolm McDowell playing late-career Malcolm McDowell, and—of course—a random musical segment.
  • How could Temptation Island not be this? Consider this line by Suzanne/Serafina to Azenith/Cristina: "Good morning. What did you have for breakfast, Eggs Benedict? Did Umberto serve you?"
  • Troll 2 is loved because it is so delightfully camp and not scary at all.
  • Pretty much every film made by cult B-movie producers Troma Film has loads of camp value.
  • Vampire Cop Ricky splices camp with extremely serious scenes.
  • James Whale famously employed this in his 1930s horror films, particularly The Old Dark House (1932) and Bride of Frankenstein.
  • The film version of The Wiz.
  • The infamous The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman may well qualify as one of the worst movies ever, owing to its having been a failed attempt at camp. It is a rip-off of the Adam West TV series, right down to the ludicrous villains and the 60s go-go dancing. The producers of Batman took Jerry Warren to court, which is why he threw in that tacked-on opening about the "synthetic vampire" Batgirls.
  • Xanadu

    Live-Action TV 
  • Probably no TV show had as much intentional camp as its central focus than did the live-action Batman from the 1960s. Notorious for putting the prefix "bat-" in front of everything Batman did or used, and for Adam West's portrayal of Batman as a constantly emoting expositionist who had but one tone of voice no matter the situation. However, many of the people involved with the production debate the label as needlessly denigrating to the hard work they put into the show's elements of farce.
    • In his essay Batman, Deviancy and Camp, Andy Medhurst goes so far as to say the best definition of camp could be "sort of like the Batman TV show." Adam West has apparently made a career out of playing campy superheroes. Occasionally he even plays himself as if he thought he was a superhero.
    • West mentioned during interviews that he deliberately played up some 'campy' aspects of the show — it was, apparently, a necessity, as only part of his face was visible, and he had to find another way to express emotion.
    • Nowadays, the animated Batman: The Brave and the Bold series and its video game adoption has picked up the camp role. Besides its surprising emphasis on more obscure, cheesier villains, the show also gave us the Music Meister, a villain who controls the will of others by singing like Neil Patrick Harris.
  • The original Battlestar Galactica series.
  • Blake's 7. Especially the villains.
  • Burkes Law. A Millionaire Playboy who also happens to be a police captain rides to crime scenes in a chauffeured Rolls Royce. The murders he investigates are almost always rather baroque and sometimes even excessively complex and the suspects are usually members of The Beautiful Elite of Los Angeles.
  • Doctor Who has flirted with camp on-and-off throughout its various incarnations. This was partly out of necessity, due to the low budget. However, camp is, in some ways, inherent in its premise: It's a world where the hero triumphs (usually deflating any attempts at seriousness in the process) by virtue of being gallant, romantic, and stoic in the British tradition. In Whovian circles, this push-pull dynamic between camp and drama is known as "Guns and Frocks", a term taken from one of the New Adventures novels. The Sixth Doctor, when confronted with a choice between fending off the villains with rifles or frocks, sides with frocks. The Doctor will always win in the most outlandish, silly way possible, because the alternative would be to resort to violence, which is against the franchise's philosophy.
    • This is not to say Who doesn't indulge in deconstruction now and again. The aforementioned New Adventures novels turned the Terrence Dicks interpretation of the Doctor ("Neither cruel nor cowardly") on its head: In Love and War, the Doctor still behaves like the children's hero we all know and adore - even parroting the same Dicks catchphrases - while simultaneously doing thoroughly fiendish things. This contradiction later surfaced on the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood, most notably with the flamboyant pansexual immortal child killer Captain Jack — about as schizo a character as you can come up with.
    • The new series, faced with the terrifying prospect of a reasonable budget and cheap and high-quality special effects being widely available by that point, perhaps overcompensated for this by having a Darker and Edgier Doctor - one who was now the Last of His Kind, wore Nazi clothes and a shaved head and had committed double genocide as Back Story - fighting mostly extremely goofy comedy monsters over his short run, with the notable exception being the Daleks, a "serious" but legendarily campy 50s B-Movie-like monster played painfully straight here. The worry was that, with good special effects, the Narm Charm responsible for a lot of the campy appeal would be lost, and so it had to be added by replacing "low camp" with "high camp" - not least to avoid traumatising children (which the original series cared about much less, being by far the goriest show on the BBC at the time). By the second series, the Doctor got more mellow and the monsters got spookier, finding what is generally agreed to be a less mediocre middle ground - and it's still camp as hell.
    • Even some of the Nu-Who music comes under this - composer Murray Gold, when creating a Leitmotif for the Doctor's alien-ness, was deliberately asked to do it as a Cliché Storm, so he went with an operatic One-Woman Wail. This was nicknamed by him "Flavia's Theme", after an extremely campy One-Scene Wonder Time Lady in the story "The Five Doctors", who he could imagine singing it. It's deliberately overly dramatic, but at the same time hits exactly the emotional button it's supposed to push - both Angst and the promise of adventure.
    • The costume designs under John Nathan-Turner's tenure as producer were done this way for merchandising reasons, probably inspired by the Iconic Outfit appeal of the Fourth Doctor's scarf - the Doctors went from dressing in a somewhat bohemian, anachronistic approach to whatever is mainstream fashion of the day, into dressing in blatant costume, with red question-mark motifs and occasionally really hideous colour schemes. Many fans agree this crossed over into What The Hell Costuming Department, especially with the Sixth and Seventh Doctors, though the JN-T Fourth Doctor outfit is generally agreed to be flattering and quite good.
    • Some of the scores in the late 80s. Italo Disco Daleks, anyone?
    • The Rani, a ridiculous Large Ham Mad Scientist character written specifically in a 'gay icon' style.
    • The score of the official "Shada" reconstruction shot for this (alongside Retraux) as it was a late 80s-era Doctor Who scorer doing a very knowing pastiche of the 70s style scores, but it is generally agreed upon to be distracting, inappropriate and just really nasty to listen to.
    • Lampshaded in David Tennant and Catherine Tate's "Let's Do It" video in which Tate's Julie Gardner asked Tennant's Russell T. Davies, "let's revamp - make more camp - a sci-fi show from yesteryear".
  • The video for Sweden's 2007 Eurovision entry, "The Worrying Kind" by The Ark, is three minutes of pure, distilled camp. And who could forget 2006 winners Lordi - a Finnish heavy metal group, adorned in full-body monster costumes, which sings about the "Day of Rockening"? Combine for maximum powah!
  • Giant Robo. Look at the costumes!!
  • Both Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess delved into this with gusto. The latter is a heavily self-aware and unapologetic cult show about scantily-clad sapphic warriors fighting crime. Next item.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus featured an exhibition of Close-Order Swanning About.
    Drill Sergeant: Squad! Camp it... UP!
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a presentation of campy movies lampooned for your enjoyment. The sketches between movie segments tended toward the delightfully campy as well.
    Tom Servo: Well, time to start camping. You dress up as Oscar Wilde, and I'll sing NoŽl Coward songs.
  • Pee-Wee's Playhouse
  • Power Rangers and its parent series Super Sentai. It's a series of people in color-coded spandex fighting rubber-suited monsters, what did you expect?
  • Special Unit 2, an original series on UPN.
  • Tales of the Gold Monkey had more than its share.
  • The bread, butter, and jam of The Aquabats! Super Show!.
  • Sherlock borrows the aesthetics and Mood Lighting of gritty crime drama and uses it as window dressing for incredibly silly, implausible stories that take place in a world of movies and setting-transplanted pulp Victorian fiction rather than in the real world. This is partially demonstrated by how much joy it takes in Painting the Fourth Wall, and also in how much the dialogue implicitly mocks its own premise and characters while at the same time being in no way a Self-Parody. It is mostly able to handle its acute self-exaggeration and ridiculousness through extremely high-quality acting which plays it all exactly as straight as it has to be, making Sherlock himself The Comically Serious. Then there's the individual character Moriarty, who embodies all of this in himself alone.

    Music 
  • Kevin Ayers features in possibly the gayest, most outrageously camp, music videos ever committed to tape. His 1973 hit Carribean Moon has all the gayness buttons deliberately racked up way past eleven. Julian clary would look like a macho straight. The video is also hilarious.
  • David Bowie, especially his stage persona of Ziggy Stardust in The Seventies.
  • Everything Doctor Steel - or his fans - do is done consciously and conspicuously over the top.
  • The artist Gunther embodies camp, mullet and all. Witness the glory that is the Ding Dong Song.
  • Michael Jackson sometimes was intentionally campy, most famously with the song and video for "Thriller". His adult career is otherwise rife with unintentional camp; he and his handlers really thought people would take him seriously as a tough guy/ladykiller with stuff like "Bad", "Smooth Criminal", "Dangerous", and "You Rock My World", for instance.
  • Klaus Nomi, the 80s version of Lady Gaga, with his "postmodern theatricality". Which brings us to...
  • Lady Gaga, who claims inspiration from the above two. "He ate my heart, and then he ate my brain!"
  • Kylie Minogue's career is practically built on this trope. See "Your Disco Needs You" and her Light Years album.
  • Queen. Their sound was essentially this combined with the Epic Riff and/or Epic Rocking. "We Will Rock You" cranks it up to eleven, naturally. Lead singer Freddie Mercury was Camp Gay/Manly Gay note . This should come as no surprise that his songs and videos were extremely camp as well. He loved to dress in fur and leather. Later in his career, he had a moustache.
  • Steps, even by The Nineties pop standard. The three mains traits of the band were exaggerated dance moves, cheesey, happy music and bright colours and costume worn by the members. Like the Batman television series, it was intentionally camp.
  • Rob Zombie. His stage act self-consciously uses every bad cliche ripped from B-Movie Slasher Flicks, and yet he obviously has an affectionate attitude towards the source material and puts genuine effort into using it. For more evidence, see the ''Dragula'' video.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Theatre 
  • Most Broadway musicals, especially those adapted from movies.
  • The entire output of Gilbert and Sullivan is high camp. As ridiculously uppercrust as Sullivan was Gilbert made his living as a parodist. Their operetta Patience is particularly worth noting as being a camp parody of the, also very camp, aestheic movement.
  • Most Richard Strauss operas — especially Salome.
  • The musical of Little Women takes the short and melodramatic play that Jo and her sisters stage in the early chapters, and turns it into a musical number spanning the entire cast (all... six of them), stuffed chock-full of wholesome, affectionate camp.

    Video Games 
  • Bayonetta, spiritual successor to Devil May Cry, begins with the main character, disguised as a nun, presiding over a funeral that is subsequently visited by heavenly beings who rip off her clothes, allowing her to use her suit of magical hair and the handguns (which she wields four at a time, one to each limb) that were hidden in a coffin to beat, shoot, and rip the angels apart gruesomely, all to a cover of Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon." It's as over the top as it sounds.
  • The Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series is mildly campy. Red Alert pushes it Up to Eleven.
  • Contra: Rebirth Seems to be this with the hero dropped into space station from helicopter, robotic llamas, upside-down midboss, a pyramid of running enemies, over-the-top Excuse Plot and generally lighthearted presentation.
  • Deep Fear: Although the game itself is hardly camp (instead falling under So Bad, It's Good), the campiness cranks Up to Eleven whenever the sub designer, Dubois Amalric, opens his mouth to deliver his ridiculously accented lines at a volume as loud as his purple turtleneck sweater.
  • Devil May Cry. In the second game the developers forgot this, but the third game made up for it in spades.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: All three tribes that run the casinos in New Vegas are camp to some degree (The Omertas representing the seamy underbelly and the White Glove Society representing the elegance well, on the surface, anyway of the old Las Vegas, respectively), but the Chairmen crank it Up to Eleven. All of them dress like Rat Pack rejects and say things like "Ring-a-ding, baby" and "What can I do to make your stay the tops?" with completely straight faces. And it's hilarious.
  • Metal Wolf Chaos is about 'AMERICA!!' It takes the Eagleland trope Up to Eleven. Let's just say its campiness rivals Batman.
  • Resident Evil 4 greatly improved the storytelling of the series simply by acknowledging how ridiculous the franchise's premise is at its core (thanks in no small part to the characterization of Leon into a Deadpan Snarker who reacts to the game's ludicrous plot on behalf of the bemused player). Sadly, this was not to last, as the subsequent games all attempt to be taken seriously and are far less highly regarded for it.
  • Space Channel 5. The setting is '60s style psychedelic future. You play as a swingin' news reporter. Colorful aliens start to invade. How do you defeat them? By the power of dancing and copying the moves of the enemies. It also has "space-" inserted to almost every occupation.
  • Team Fortress 2. The characters have exaggerated Rockwell-esque designs, each of them have a different, very much played up accent and traits stereotypically associated with each's respective nationality. Furthermore, it's filled with Ludicrous Gibs (after you get killed, during a freezecam of your murderer the game will gleefully point out where "your pancreas!", "your foot!", "your kidney!" etc. lies, if the body parts appear on the shot). It is largely thanks to that factor that the game was received so well.
  • The Wolfenstein series, especially Wolfenstein 3D. It's hard to get much campier than Mecha Hitler with quadruple Gatling Good yelling in bastardized German/English and exploding into Ludicrous Gibs.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • John Waters (whose guest appearance on The Simpsons provides one of the quotes above) has made a career out of it.
  • Many of the resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. Let's see; Fake Venice, Fake Paris, Fake New York, Fake Ancient Rome, Fake Camelot, Fake Ancient Egypt, Pirates on the Vegas Strip... if "camp" is defined as deliberate bad taste then the Las Vegas Strip is practically the best example out there. It is all incredibly over the top and tacky but it done so incredibly well that one cannot help think it is So Bad, It's Good.
    • The Venetian is the clearest case of Camp on the Strip. Most of the resorts do indeed have an exaggerated and theatrical presentation. However, not all of the resorts have the required derivative substance or hilarious badness or monumental tackiness. For instance, the Bellagio is certainly exaggerated in its theatricality, and presented very well. However, the resort takes itself very seriously and the vast majority of visitors to it consider it So Cool It's Awesome rather than So Bad, It's Good.
    • And let's not forget Macau's own Fake Venice which is not only three times the size of it's Vegas counterpart, but even campier. Picture sitting in a Japanese restaurant, overlooking a fake indoor replica of the Grand Canal, with the gondolier rowing past and singing a (very good) rendition of Sarah Brightman's part in "Time To Say Goodbye". Oh, and the Brazillian steakhouse on the fake St Mark's Square, with street entertainers suddenly bursting out of doors to do rousing renditions of "Feniculi Fenicula". Oh yeah, it's more camp than Rufus Wainright.
    • With regards to the Treasure Island resort, their famous streetside "pirate battle" was originally a straightforward, theme-park like spectacle: pirates vs. the British navy, and the pirates win. When the resort was overhauled to appeal more to adults, this show became The Sirens of TI and became sirens (re: sexy, scantily-clad sea witches) vs. pirates; the sirens win and the pirates join them for a Dance Party Ending. Now THAT'S campy!
    • The bulk of Las Vegas shows qualified as mostly unintentional camp for decades. But then Cirque du Soleil arrived in The Nineties and presented high theatricality and fun alongside elegance, subtlety, and artistic ambition. Audiences found it refreshing, and this triggered a sea change in Vegas entertainment. Nowadays, when you see a campy Vegas show, it's either intentional camp or an older show that didn't get the memo. For the latter, see this review of the last remaining Vegas showgirl show, Jubilee!
  • 19th century dandies, including Oscar Wilde and Lord Byron. Not all of them were necessarily gay, but they were all extremely camp, which is required for being a dandy.
  • Jonathan Ross repeatedly referred to LL Cool J as this during an appearance on "Friday Night with Jonathan Ross." LL had no idea what it meant. When he found out, hilarity ensued.


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