Sunday, April 2, 2017

"Melodrama" and "Camp"

While reading Jane Feuer's piece on some of the gendered elements in melodrama, I was reminded of an article by Anjelica Jade Bastien about a similar recent proliferation of female-led projects being described/dismissed as "camp." As she writes, "Being labeled as camp can turn the boldest works about the interior lives of complex women into a curiosity, a joke, a punch line."

Here is a link to the full piece:

Do you agree that the labels of "melodrama" and/or "camp" might be unfairly distributed along gender lines?


  1. I'm interested in this question. While I think I do agree with Feuer about the term "melodrama" being unfairly gendered, I find the term "camp" a little less gendered (strictly speaking of the gender binary here). In another class I'm taking on queer theory, we read a book about the construction of campiness (here, thinking both of what appears on screen and the labor of campiness) and its relation to gay, male culture. This article points to the Crawford/Davis Feud and the new show coming out, but I think it's important also to note that Bette Davis, while a camp icon, certainly had and still has a strong, almost cult-like following in many gay male communities. Moreover, I think that there are more male performances that are considered campy than there are that are considered "melodramatic" (think Johnny Depp in Cry Baby). That said, I think when thinking of "camp" and its association to the female, I think it's equally important to consider its relation to the gay male culture as well.

  2. I think camp often has a certain association with female driven narratives. There's something about witty females subverting mainstream norms that often becomes classified as camp. The label of camp can soften the impact of the underlying drama in stories like Feud, bringing it into the realm of chuckle-worthy, but easy to dismiss. I think this is a fault in the historical definition of camp, not in the genre itself. Perhaps people have been taught to see camp as something that one can dismiss, but it should be taught as something that's subverts the mainstream in, not only those chuckle-worthy moments, but the more dramatic moments in between that delve into something real and more tangible.