I can still remember the first time I learned that camp has another set of meanings aside from sleeping bags, tents, and bonfires. I was nine years old and convinced that I was going to be a movie star/actress when I was older. I assured myself and others that this was not merely a kid dream, but that it would one day be a reality. As you can tell, the dream didn’t work out, Anyhow, that’s not really the point of the story. So…because I loved singing and performing so much, my mom told me about this movie that she wanted to take me to see, called Camp. We were both under the impression that it was about a bunch of kids who go to a summer camp devoted to the performing arts. This was precisely what the movie was about…and then some. The title took on a double meaning, referring to camp-y performances, as the movie also talked about gay and lesbian issues. Now I don’t really remember the specifics, but I do remember feeling very uncomfortable watching this movie with my mom. I was shocked because I had never before seen gay teens on the big screen, and this is certainly not what I thought the movie was going to be about. I remember looking up the term camp in the dictionary when I got home, and I remember coming away with the idea that it was just another term for gay.
Years later, I can look back on my reaction to this film and my rudimentary understanding of the term camp. As this week’s readings showed, camp does not necessarily mean gay. Not all those who participate in camp are gay, and not all who are gay participate in camp. Rather, camp is a sensibility that some embrace and others do not. I can also now reflect on my reaction to the film. Then I felt incredibly awkward. Did this awkwardness stem from the fact that I was watching gay teens, watching a movie with sex and kissing with my mom, or both? I can’t really say. Maybe the awkwardness came from the fact that I was only nine and I was watching gay people on the big screen. But why is it ok for nine year olds, kids even younger, to watch straight relationships in movies but not gay ones? Why one type of relationship but not another? Heteronormative much? I think that if any child is old enough to see romantic relationships on the big screen, he or she should see both straight and gay relationships portrayed. It’s just more realistic. I also would like to think that, if I were to re-watch this film, I would have both a greater understanding and appreciation of camp. Second time around, I think I would enjoy the film rather than walking away feeling mortified and like I never wanted to go to summer camp again.