Eurovision Camp Contest Gay media uses and the ESC as a queer media event
Structure I. The ESC as a queer media event II. LGB media uses and tastes III. Gay culture: camp and the gay sensibility
I. The ESC as a queer media event • Media event (Dayan & Katz) • Directly relayed • Contest • Live, remote, pre-planned ceremony • Queer media event? • Appropriated by gay community • Collective watching • Gay bars (e.g. Popi) 4
Fan sites and parties: gay links • Eurosong.be • Belgovision • Pink nation • Eurovision radio • Gay Eurovision travel
Public comments • EBU • Steven De Foer – Knack • Biggest gay party in the world • Big travelling gay circus • André Vermeulen – VRT • Dana International (1998) • Sweden (2000) • Contestants commenting • Russia (2009): Alexander Rybak & Malena Ernman
Gay & lesbian contestants? Marija Serifovic?
II. LGB media uses and tastes • Why? • Jan Demulder: • Guilty pleasure To me that’s because gays like competitions but they dislike sports. The Song Contest then offers an ideal solution. It’s a competition between countries without the agression. That makes it interesting. And the glitter and glamour, of course. • Not all gays like it
Research project on LGB media uses & tastes • Online survey • 761 respondents • Exclusively (60%) or mostly (22%) lesbian or gay • Gender balance: 57% male, 43% female • Age balance: 57% under 30, 43% over 30 • Gay association: 27% • 50% higher education degree
Media tastes • Marked and statistically significant differences between men and women • Favourite TV channel: women prefer laddish VT4 over girly VijfTV • Favourite TV genre: men prefer talk shows, lifestyle and music more, women crime drama, films and sports • Favourite film genre: men like musical more, women crime and gangster movies • Music tastes: men prefer poppy channels and music, women rock channels and music
Marked need for LGB content • Stronger before and at time of coming out then afterwards • Role in self-definition • Age related differences: TV, books and magazines are (still) more important to older group, younger group relying more on the internet
Appreciation of LGB representation • Importance • Critical but positive changes • Stereotypical news reporting of gay pride • Gay and lesbian related shows on TV • The L Word: 71.8% of the women like it ‘very much’, men 6.1% • Xena: women 20.2% ‘very much’, men 5.9% • Will and Grace: men 50.5%, women 31.9% • Little Britain: men 47.8%, women 30.5% • Queer as Folk: men 45.8%, women 24.2% • Queer eye for the straight guy: 38.4% women don’t like it at all, 25.3% men
In-depth interviews • 60 respondents • ESC: • Negative comments: resisting the cliché • Knowing other avid fans (mostly gay men) • Communal watching: social event • Dress up, sing, have fun: carnival? • Social: shared preference • Gay male (music & party) taste & culture
III. Gay culture: camp and the gay sensibility • Camp: theatrical, affected, exaggerated, homosexual, effeminate • Susan Sontag ‘Notes on camp’ • Sensibility • Love of the unnatural, artifice & exaggeration • Aestheticism: style over content • Way of looking at things: in the eye of the beholder • Preference for the androgynous and exaggerations of sex roles (e.g. Mae West) • Life as theater: playful & ironical • Connected to homosexuality (e.g. Oscar Wilde)
Jack Babuscio ‘Camp and the gay sensibility’ • Gay sensibility a creative energy reflecting a consciousness that is different from the mainstream; a heightened awareness of certain human complications of feeling that spring from the fact of social oppression; in short, a perception of the world which is coloured, shaped, directed and defined by the fact of one’s gayness. • Camp: expresses a gay sensibility Camp is never a thing or person per se, but, rather, a relationship between activities, individuals, situations and gayness.The link with gayness is established when the camp aspect of an individual or thing is identified as such by a gay sensibility.
Aspects of camp • Irony: contrast between thing or person and associations • Aesthetics: importance of arrangement, timing & tone • Style as a means of self-projection, conveyor of meaning and expression or emotional tone • ‘Camp aims to transform the ordinary into something more spectacular.’ • Emphasis on performance rather than existence • Importance of clothes & decor • Often exaggerated: stress on stylization • Not same as kitsch: artistically shallow or vulgar, sensationalism, sentimentalism & slickness vs. fervent involvement, identification
Theatricality • life as theatre, being versus role-playing, reality and appearance If ‘role’ is defined as the appropriate behaviour associated with a given position in society, then gays do not conform to socially expected ways of behaving as men and women. Camp, by focusing on the outward appearances of role, implies that roles, and, in particular, sex roles, are superficial – a matter of style. Indeed, life itself is role and theatre, appearance and impersonation. • passing for straight: playing a role • heightened awareness and appreciation for disguise, impersonation, the projection of personality • exaggerated (usually sexual) role playing • preference for intensity of character rather than content • cf. Judy Garland: relate own sense of oppression to suffering/loneliness/misfortunes of the star • Humour: incongruity between object, person or situation and context
Gay taste? • Shared way of ‘reading’ or interpreting culture, based on shared social experience of marginalisation and discrimination • Cf. Hall (1980): encoding/decoding • Negotiated or oppositional reading • Pick up coded references to homosexuality • Importance of social but also media context • Limited (mainstream) representations • Cf. Hollywood production code (until 1968) • Interpretive community: decoding in similar ways • Larry Gross (1991): reading strategies • Internalising values of mainstream culture (colonisation) • Resistance: ignoring mainstream culture; subvert & appropriate mainstream; create own media
Queer theory • Queer: questioning rigidity and binary, exclusive nature of sexual categorisations • ‘Queer reading’: reading against the grain (Doty) • Cf. active audiences, meanings are not fixed • Deconstructive readings & queer appropriations • Problem: limited empirical support • Green: ‘radical subversion’ is assumed • Gays & lesbians are not necessarily subversive or revolutionary • Still: subversion & appropriation important • Cf. Eurovision song context: artificiality, exaggeration and subversion • Cf. strong female performers & divas: Madonna, Kylie, Lady Gaga or Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand
Dafna Lemish: ‘My kind of campfire’ • ESC and Israeli gay men • Gays as interpretive community • Identity as process of becoming through group socialisation • Social context: social repression, negative and stereotypical portrayals • Resistance: appropriation of mainstream cultural events • Research: interviews with viewers and professionals
Shared experience • Watching together • Celebrating in Tel Aviv pub Evita • Camp sensibility: mocking and challenging mainstream cultural assumptions • Parody, irony, exaggeration, stylization, nostalgia, humor, theatricality and artificiality • Play with gender norms • Elements they like: big voices, sentimentality, subversion, bigger than life women, extroverted expressions of femininity, gender crossing • Also interpretive distance: irony • Media event: cf. sports for straight men, escape • Bonding & brotherhood: campfire feeling • International dimension: bond with European gay community
References • Babuscio, J. (1977) ‘Camp and the gay sensibility’, pp. 40-57 in R. Dyer (ed.), Gays and Film. London : British Film Institute. • Dayan, D. & Katz, E. (1992) Media events: The live broadcasting of history. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. • Doty, A. (1993) Making things perfectly queer: interpreting mass culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. • Green, A. I. (2002) ‘Gay But Not Queer: Toward a Post-Queer Sexuality Studies’, Theory and Society, 31: 521–45. • Gross, L. (1991) ‘Out of the Mainstream: Sexual Minorities and the Mass Media’, pp. 19-46 in M.A. Wolf & A.P. Kielwasser (eds) Gay People, Sex and the Media. New York/London: The Haworth Press. • Hall, S. (1980) ‘Encoding/decoding’, pp. 128-138 in S. Hall et al. (eds.), Culture, Media, Language. Working papers in Cultural Studies, 1972-79. London : Hutchinson. • Hoogland, Renée C. (2000) ‘Fashionably queer: Lesbian and gay cultural studies’, pp. 161-174 in T. Sandfort, J. Schuyf, J.W. Duyvendak & J. Weeks (eds) (2000) Lesbian and gay studies: An introductory, interdisciplinary approach. London: Sage. • Lemish, D. (2004) « My kind of campfire » : The Eurovision Song Contest and Israeli gay men. Popular Communication, 2 (1): 41-63.
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