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Camp. You know it when you see it. But just what are the elusive elements that transform an otherwise bad movie, show, song, or performance into something which can be enjoyed for its ironic value? In other words, what makes something unintentionally hysterical? Let’s explore!

Naïve Camp vs. Deliberate Camp

In her essay Notes on “Camp,” writer and filmmaker Susan Sontag distinguishes between what she calls Naïve Camp and Deliberate Camp: “Pure Camp is always naive. Camp which knows itself to be Camp ("camping") is usually less satisfying.” Basically, Camp is failed seriousness. Where a movie like Birdemic seems to be in on the joke, Pure Camp tickles your brain noodle because it is so oblivious to its own ostentatiousness!

Why Do We Like Bad Things?

Widely considered to be the worst movie ever made, The Room enjoys a cult following of fans who have watched the film tens or even hundreds of times, gets endlessly memed online, and is the subject of a Golden Globe Award winning movie. But why? What’s this obsession with such a celluloid atrocity?

As Vox explains, The Room is a trash film. Finding pleasure in trash movies is potentially linked to higher levels of intelligence. People are drawn to the genre due to “its transgressive nature and its subversion” of the mainstream. If you ironically appreciate all things cheesetastic, scientists have concluded you’re 1,000% more likely to be a genius art snob!

Good Bad Taste

Camp and trash aren’t exactly the same thing – trash films by definition are low budget, while campy films can cost big movie studios millions of dollars – enjoyment of both stems from the viewer’s understanding of and twisted sense of humor regarding what is commonly accepted as good taste. Legendary filmmaker and “Pope of Trash” John Waters has echoed similar sentiments: “One must remember that there is such a thing as good bad taste and bad bad taste … To understand bad taste one must have very good taste.”

Where to Get Started

Looking to enjoy some Camp for yourself? Check out this list of so-bad-they’re-good movies, and become a certified scholar of Trash! For more on entertainment, lifestyle advice, and local tips, visit the Wimberly at Deerwood blog.