All the counselors hate the waiters
And the lake has alligators
And the head coach wants no sissies
So he reads to us from something called Ulysses
— Allan Sherman
, "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! (A Letter from Camp)"
Summer camps in fiction are usually run like the company from Dilbert
. The environment seems to be sentient and out to get you (mosquitoes chase you across camp, perfectly timed inconvenient rain, etc.) The food is as bad as cafeteria food. In sports, there's a handful of super-jocks who treat it as Serious Business
and reduce everyone else to terror. Arts and crafts are so boring you want to be back in school. The bathrooms are outhouses that require a full nature hike to reach. The teenage counselors are awesomely stupid and actually take the "camp spirit" and "camp traditions" seriously, often bordering on Pointy-Haired Boss
Usually, boredom drives all the campers to insanity (if they weren't that way to begin with, as the hero's bunk-mate always seems to be). The only fun they have is messing with each other, leading to an Escalating War
in no time (and brutal hazing if some of the kids are new). If the camp is co-ed, the kids will all wind up with crushes on each other that serve as object lesson in how Love Makes You Dumb
(and nobody ever manages to hook up).
In older stories, the camp was always some outdoorsy place with a fake-Indian name. Modern stories are more likely to have a specialized camp (like weight-loss camp), which is just as awful as the old camps.
Unlike the Boarding School of Horrors
, these places tend to be played for laughs. Compare Horrible Camping Trip
. See Fat Camp
for a more specialized type of summer camp.
- Camp Nowhere is about a gang of kids who will do anything to avoid being sent to summer camp, up to and including their own fake camp.
- The Meatballs films are all over this trope.
- Parodied in the film Wet Hot American Summer.
- The 1961 film The Parent Trap starts out at a semi-utopian version of one of these. Fortunately for the audience, things get more amusing.
- Pugsley and Wednesday are sent to camp against their will in Addams Family Values. The novelization of the film exposes the exaggeratedly perky camp's dark side: the counselors seem to be covering up campers' accidental deaths.
- The whole movie Daddy Day Camp.
- Gorp (1980) is set at a Jewish summer camp in the Catskills.
- Friday the 13th (1980) popularized the summer camp settings among the Slasher Movies in the early 80's, with such examples as The Burning, Sleepaway Camp, Madman and Bodycount following suit.
- The 1985 made-for-TV film Poison Ivy starred Michael J. Fox and was set in one of these.
- Camp Cucamonga (1990) is another made-for-TV example.
- Little Darlings involves two teenage girls making a bet as to which of them will be the first to lose her virginity at a summer camp.
- Indian Summer has a group of adults returning to the summer camp of their childhoods at the invitation of the camp's retiring director.
- Camp Rock is set at a summer music camp.
- A classic theme in France:
- Nos jours heureux (2006) is a comedy about a group of kids and the adults who try to keep them in line for a whole summer.
- C'est pas ma faute! (1999): in this one the main character isn't in summer camp but fights against the children who are during his holidays. Summer camp life, though, is still the same.
- Scout Toujours... (1985): a group of unruly scouts manage to break their crazy scoutmaster's leg just before summer camp, so they end up with a guy who has no experience with children. Of course it's played for laugh and everything works out fine in the end.
- Although most Summer camp movies are comedies, La meilleure façon de marcher (1976) is the exception. It's a very screwed-up movie about bullying in a closed environment, in which one camp counselor accidentally sees another dress up as a woman and leverages the information to psychologically torture him for months. The children, of course, notice nothing.
- Nudist Colony of the Dead has a Christian bible camp, complete with silly songs. Camp Cutchagutsout happens to be built over the remains of a cursed nudist colony retreat.
- In Fred 3, Fred goes to a camp called Camp Iwannapeepee.
- The novel I Want to Go Home! by Gordon Korman is about a Sociopathic Hero who we root for because he's the only smart person in his comic-opera summer camp. The entire place is flooded on visiting day because of a beaver's dam. When the waters subside, the Pointy-Haired Boss says "and so, another successful visiting day draws to a close." One of the counselors can't believe he's hearing this, and the head counselor explains, "that's his visiting day speech. He only has one, and it doesn't cover floods."
- Jean Shepherd wrote a wonderful short story about two weeks in a summer camp Revenge of the Mole People.
- Too many Goosebumps books to list.
- In Spells and Sleeping Bags, Rachel goes to one of these, though the camp's problem is not so much with the camp as it is the fact that her witch cousin wants to switch bodies with her.
- The whole point of How To Survive Summer Camp by Jacqueline Wilson. Stella actually ends up semi-enjoying her holiday - not that she'll admit to it.
- The book Camp Camp: Where Fantasy Island Meets Lord of the Flies by Roger Bennett features hundreds of pages of campy photos taken at various Jewish summer camps within the past several decades.
- The Magickers is set at one of these crossed with a Wizarding School. The camp counselors actually want to set up a proper Wizarding School, but with their current budget and location, a summer camp is the best they can do. It's actually a fairly fun place, though not above some of the usual camp issues (like wild animal problems).
- Mr. Belvedere: Although not played comically in the very least in "The Counselor," due to Wesley's frightening encounter with one of the counselors who touches him inappropriately. Wesley reveals his encounter in front of his parents, and it's curtains for the counselor.
- The entire premise of Salute Your Shorts.
- Psych combines Summer Campy with a Serial Killer plot that also makes fun of horror movie tropes.
- Camp Runamuck, a short-lived '60s sitcom.
- Hi-de-Hi!, was a not so short-lived sitcom set in a English holiday camp.
- Sesame Street:
- The Season 14 (1982) opening week of episodes, where Big Bird goes to Camp Echo Rock for a week of fun and life lessons. Each episode opens with video of the camp bus on the way to camp, and sound cues of a cheesy, kiddie camp-type song ("Pean-a budda, jelly!") interspersing a banjo-mixed version of the main theme. The scenes themselves represent the traditional summer camp: A wooded area where Big Bird and his new friends – including an Anything Muppet named Rusty – engage in the requisite swimming, hiking, trying new foods, dealing with homesickness, etc. It is implied that Big Bird spends two weeks at camp (as one of the scenes deals with him writing a letter and wondering what's going on back home), although just three full episodes and parts of the other two – Big Bird leaving in Monday's opener, saying goodbye to his new friends on Friday – are devoted to his time at camp. Camp Echo Rock, by the way, was actually Bear Mountain in upstate New York, and it is presumed that Echo Rock is in that same vicinity.
- A children's record, "Camp Oonie Koonie Cha," was released in 1981, featuring Big Bird and Oscar at camp. Also, a photo spread and a summary of the "Camp Echo Rock" episodes were published in the June 1983 issue of Sesame Street Magazine.
- Camp Wannagohoma, a series of skits starring Grover that aired starting in the early 1980s. Here, Grover is a camp counselor who attempts to teach his campers about nature, survival tips and the like, but always gets his facts wrong, leading his more knowledgeable charges to correct him.
- MAD has also done this every summer. One old piece from the 70s had a camp where the only medical supplies are aspirin and calamine lotion, so every sick and injured camper goes untreated...until we meet a lucky boy who's "got poison ivy, and a terrible headache from worrying about it." A more recent strip had Butt Monkey Monroe sent to a camp that made him long for the Crapsack World back home.
- The classic novelty/comedy song "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! (A Letter from Camp)", by Allan Sherman, is a boy's letter to his parents where he complains about his stay at one Camp Granada, sung to Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours.
- Ultimately subverted. Once the rain and hail end, the boy ends the letter with, "Muddah, Fadduh, kindly disregard this letter!"
- "Les jolies colonies de vacances" is basically the summer camp anthem, in which a child writes home to explain how AWESOME summer camp is (the food sucks, the counselors are drunkards, they all swim in the river where industrial waste is being dumped...)
- The titular boy-scout camp of the Homer and Jethro song "The Battle of Kookamonga" may have been of this type. A boy was mad at being sent to camp, but changes his mind at the events of the song, chasing a troop of girl scouts.
- Peanuts did this every summer, sometimes with insane specialized camps like Sally's "Beanbag Camp" (where all you do is lie in a beanbag, watch TV, and eat junk food) and even a fundamentalist Bible camp.
- One year's storyline has all the gang filling out applications to get out of going to camp. Everyone has their application is accepted, except (naturally) Charlie Brown, who gets a letter informing him his request has been turned down, and "therefore, you are to report to the bus stop at 0800 hours."
- The TV special It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown takes place at summer camp.
- The feature film Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown has the gang attending camp and getting involved in a river raft race against a gang of Jerk Jocks.
- Surprisingly averted in Calvin and Hobbes; an arc where he goes to a Boy Scout camp features none of the usual disasters that plague his family's yearly Horrible Camping Trips.
- Foxtrot: An extended arc of strips dealt with Jason and Marcus attending the science camp Camp Bohrmore. While several of the usual disasters occur, most of them were brought on by Jason's own actions.
- An obscure example: the off-off-Broadway kids musical Everything About Camp (Almost) is a Troperiffic look at everything that can go wrong at camp. In a typical scene, the new kids are sent on a Snipe Hunt, and one of the kids is suspicious. He discovers that not only is he required to go anyway, but he's required to pay for the privilege of going. As with most examples of Summer Campy, it's played entirely for comedy.
- Camp Whispering Rock in Psychonauts has the bad food (Ford really can't cook), cheesy arts-and-crafts, the Jerk Jock bully, and more preteen hormones running rampant than you can shake a stick at... But since the counselors are frackin' super spies out to teach the children how to utilize their psychic powers, that pretty much makes up for everything. Including the pyrokinetic cougars in the woods.
- Friday the 13th's Camp setting is revisited in the NES Game.
- Taken Up to Eleven in Camp Weedonwantcha, as There Are No Adults and all supplies (which vary from feral cats to whistles) are air dropped into the camp. The name is also meaningful, as all of the "campers" have been literally abandoned by their families. Also, several deaths are implied to have occurred.
- One issue of Teen Girl Squad had three of the girls going to "Camp Firstbassawassa", which had recently installed "working toilet paper" ("I'm gonna miss the oak leaves"). Whats-Her-Face's bunkmate turns out to be an emaciated, diabetic raccoon girl, the boys' camp across the lake turns out to be a "Cosplayover Camp" inhabited by nerds like Sci-Fi Greg, and Whats-Her-Face and the Ugly One get killed by a chainsaw-wielding "Maniac in a Speedo!"
- In the The Simpsons:
- A darker-than-usual example in Camp Krusty, where the kids are used as slave labor. The tie-in video game Escape From Camp Deadly featured, among other things, a hide-and-seek game where Bart is Team A and Team B consists of everybody else (that, as well as a very lethal Food Fight).
- Homer and Marge met each other for the first time as kids on two neighbouring summer campsnote , but because of mistaken identity, didn't realize it until later.
- The entire premise of Camp Lazlo, where most of the humor comes from the happy-go-lucky main character actually enjoying the place.
- South Park has a weight-loss camp where Cartman is the Only Sane Man who isn't impressed by the dancing mascot and his perky teenage sidekicks. Unusually, the ending suggests that even though the camp is stupidly run, they mean well and should be supported.
- They revisit the trope in a later episode called Crippled Summer. The camp is for handicapped children, a boy cheats at all of the tournament events, and oh yeah, Towelie is employed there.
- Camp Wannaweep in Kim Possible is a Summer Campy in flashbacks (and is responsible for pretty much every one of Ron's neuroses and phobias). By the time of the show, it's no longer Summer Campy and has become an abandoned camp of horrors.
- In a later episode we see Camp Wannaweep reopened and is back to it's Summer Campy status, this time as a cheerleading camp which Ron discovers is still a camp of horrors.
- "Flappy Bob's Happy Camp Learnatorium" from The Fairly Oddparents is this, with two overly-eager counselors that are obsessed with making normally fun things as boring as possible.
- In As Told by Ginger, the special Summer of Camp Caprice (sometimes split up into 2 episodes for TV airings) is about Ginger, Dodie, and Macie's annual trip to Camp Caprice, an all-girls camp. Problems arise when Courtney decides to go to prove that she isn't high maintenance. Meanwhile, Darren and Miranda are at a military camp run by Miranda's father. Camp Caprice subverts this trope, but the military camp does not.
- In Dan Vs., Dan and Chris met at Camp Atrocious ("It's even worse than it sounds!"). The sole counselor is a Social Darwinist who believes Misery Builds Character to an utterly insane degree. The campers are divided into two cabins based on how strong he thinks they are, with whichever holds the "spirit stick" essentially being in charge and allowed to do anything (even steal from the other and eat all the food). Even when Dan and Chris manage to get the stick for their cabin he decides they "cheated" because they outsmarted them instead of taking it by force, so he locked the entire cabin in a tennis court for the remainder of their stay. Dan and Chris break everyone out, their cabin takes over the camp entirely, and as Dan and Chris leave it's implied the other campers murdered the counselor by making him the target for William Telling by campers who never used a bow before.
- Camp Campingston Falls in Home Movies. Dear Gawd. A vile place in the middle of nowhere where two embittered, sadistic failed drama coaches divide their time between setting monotonous, wearying tasks for their unlucky charges ("Braid the twine in the hot Summer's dirt! Braid the hard, unmalleable twine!") and deliberately encouraging the victimization of selected outsiders ("RABBIT TROOP SUCKS!"). Small wonder that when Brendon, Jason and Melissa decide to "burn some bridges", we're 100% on their side. Let There Be Devil Music!!!
- The Daria episode "Camp Fear" features a reunion of campers from Daria and Quinn's previous trip to Camp Grizzly. Daria has several poor memories of the experience, including having a horse run off with her on it, tossing her into the river. (Nine stitches were required.)
- The titular Camp Lakebottom is this. Two of the three counselors are a zombie and a sasquatch, even.