immiscible camp

Susan Sontag, ‘Notes on “Camp”‘:

Of course, the canon of Camp can change. Time has a great deal to do with it. Time may enhance what seems simply dogged or lacking in fantasy now because we are too close to it, because it resembles too closely our own everyday fantasies, the fantastic nature of which we don’t perceive. We are better able to enjoy a fantasy as fantasy when it is not our own.

As a sometime connoisseur of camp, the fact that the Glee treatment clearly does not work for The Rocky Horror Show — at least, in the songs released in advance — is especially intriguing. Some hypotheses:

The generational effect. The stage version of RHS is as old as me. It evokes the early days of rock’n’roll and B-movies in the context of glam: and yet it seems barely plausible that only 15 years separates Buddy Holly from Marc Bolan, or Del Shannon from David Bowie. But perhaps that kind of distance is perfect for camp. (While Mad Men currently serves as the nostalgic anchor for 1960 and thereabouts, the standard retrofilter for a long time was that of Grease and Happy Days: one is camp, the other not so much.)

You can’t square camp. Or, perhaps, ‘you can’t supersaturate camp.’ It’s clearly possible to give a Glee refinishing to songs that have always had a heavy varnish of camp, and the inherent stone-facedness of the power ballad makes especially potent source material. But RHS is part glam, part deviant doo-wop: there’s little in the way of high seriousness to play off, and the only route for a cover that’s not a bare homage is to strip down those layers, not add additional ones.

Camp and kink. Regardless of amended lyrics or casting, the overtly kink-driven camp of RHS sits uneasily with Glee; perhaps ironically, I think that’s because Glee portrays camp as normalised, to the point of its being incidental.

I can easily imagine crossover fanfic in which the cast take on RHS roles, but I doubt the producers contemplated an ‘Atomic Shakespeare’-style re-enactment, and with good reason. Still, it raises the question of why they went anywhere near RHS at all.