Extremes. I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective, as well as where you are on the cultural timeline. What used to be viewed at insipid and grotesque can now be seen as tongue-in-cheek acceptable. Only currently, it’s called “campy”. From my professional orientation, “campy” indicated an intestinal bacteria that caused, well, things generally not printable except in medical contexts. I see we also have an alternate definition:
Camp (n.) and Campy (adj.): Being so extreme that it has an amusing and sometimes perversely sophisticated appeal. Over the top and farcical, intentionally exaggerated so as not to be taken seriously. Found primarily in television, theatre and motion pictures, camp endeavors for satire and, for those who fully understand and appreciate the risible nature of its material, it’s not surprising when it develops a cult following.
by Lisa Pease January 01, 2015 from “The Urban Dictionary”
The Urban Dictionary is a new one to me. The Collegiate or the Oxford, or even the tome of Funk and Wagnalls, these I’m familiar with, but the Urban?
Anyway, here’s a smattering of movies that have been showing on a particular cable TV channel as of this writing, that probably illustrate the above definition:
- Sharknado (1, 2, and 3…with a promise that #4 is in the making, oh joy)
- Sharktopus versus Whalewolf
- Mega-shark versus Crocosaurus
- and my favorite title thus far: Big Ass Spider (not kidding…)
Here’s the thought: what was once considered extreme can become the norm very quickly, especially when we give it a more acceptable moniker. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop wrote of this concept in his brilliant essay called “The Slide to Auschwitz”, in that our collective conscience becomes slippery as we gradually give way, even in our figures of speech. Gross becomes “campy”, unacceptable becomes “novel”, false reasoning becomes “tolerance”, and sin becomes “relative”.
Our culture is certainly not the first to redefine things, albeit our technological access has thrown considerable oil on our already combustable moral fire. Here’s what the Old Testament prophet Isaiah said back in his day (and they weren’t the most popular people in society, either):
“What sorrow for those who say
that evil is good and good is evil,
that dark is light and light is dark,
that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.”
A campy cult following? It’s all around us.
And my parents thought long-haired musicians from Liverpool were extreme….