Fashion 11 October 2018 | 6:16

The Met Gala’s ‘Camp’ theme might go horribly wrong

11 October 2018 06:16

From the moment I left the womb, people have referred to me as a camp – at least it feels that way. As a child, I was effeminate, flamboyant, and I surrounded myself with a close-knit group of girls – and, for some reason, this kind of lifestyle is associated with ‘campness’. The word ‘camp’ never used to have those connotations, but it does today. To me, it used to be a negative world, one that felt like a jeer. It made me feel shameful and I came to resent it. I’d even go as far as to say that it seemed to be a pre-cursor for a sexuality I’d not yet recognised in myself – I don’t even think I knew what sexuality was at that point.

Yesterday, I was surprised (dumbfounded, really) to read that the theme for next year’s Met Gala is ‘camp’. No, seriously… camp. I was on a bus when I read the announcement, and I felt myself involuntarily clam up. The idea is based upon Susan Sontag’s seminal essay, Notes On ‘Camp’, which was instrumental in making the ‘camp aesthetic’ mainstream and ensuring it was recognised as an artform. But, with each generation that has passed, the more that the term camp has been associated with queerness – and I can only assume that most of the attendees will equate the theme with queerness, rather than with the opinions promoted by Sontag. I couldn’t help but picture the likes of Brad Pitt and Kanye West feigning flamboyance and being overly eccentric, like the stereotypical depictions of gay characters you might see in soap operas or ill-advised comedies. The clothes they’ll wear will be bright and bold, like something pulled from the costume department of an Austin Powers movie.

Basically, all I can envisage is a load of cis-gendered straight men dressing up as a caricature of homosexuality, because that’s what they perceive campness to be. I won’t lie, it does make me feel a little bit uncomfortable; the appropriation of queerness being so openly accepted, and taking place on a rolled-out red carpet (actually, I bet it’s either pink or sparkling) for all the world to see.

Of course, I’ve already read a diversity of opinions on the topic; some love it, while others loathe it. But one thing I’m certain of is that fashion’s top tier will defend the decision by saying that it’s not about queerness, it’s about the essay that created a movement and internationalised the aesthetic. They won’t take note of the connotations of campness today, and what it is has come to mean to so many young boys who are just like the younger me. Let this be a warning to all stylists and managers of men attending the Met Gala in 2019: DO YOUR RESEARCH.