This year was the first year I actually watched the Met Gala. As I watched the celebrities flaunt their outfits on the red carpet, I asked my friend, "Is there a theme?" Having never watched the event before, I had no clue how orchestrated the whole process is. A pattern I began to notice of the outfits worn was flamboyance, bright colors, and in some cases, tackiness. When my friend told me the theme was "Camp," I was slightly confused. When I hear the word camp, I think of overnight trips in the wilderness, not the outfits I was seeing at the Met Gala. She explained the idea of Camp as "extra," or unnecessarily over-the-top. After seeing all of the unique takes on the Camp theme, I decided to research the origins of the trend myself.
Camp originates back to the 1700s in France, where royalty like Louis XVI prized opulence and extravagance. The French court expressed playfulness and exuberance through their fashion and attitudes towards life. This attitude can be displayed by the words of Louis XVI's queen, Marie Antoinette upon learning that the impoverished French people had no bread. Her famous line was "let them eat cake!" This attitude displays the more naive origin of camp. Susan Sontag believed that Camp is either completely naive or completely conscious of its extravagance, there is no in between.
The Swing, Jean-Honore Fragonard, 1767
In a more modern sense, Camp has permeated media and pop culture through art, film, and fashion. Some examples of Camp that you may know are artists of the Pop Art movement like Andy Warhol, the film Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the iconic Meat Dress worn by Lady Gaga at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. Camp is something we are all familiar with, although we might not all know the name. The whole point of Camp, in the words of Susan Sontag, is to "dethrone the serious." Camp has made a resurgence in our culture, almost as a coping mechanism to the seriousness and fear surrounding our world today. With a rough global political atmosphere, as well as the looming dangers of climate change, Camp is an outlet of pop culture that can distract from the heaviness of our world today.
Lady Gaga at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards