"Camp always intends to be serious, but fails."
Last night played host to the annual Met Gala, the most prestigious fashion event of the year. The new for this year's event was "Camp", as in Susan Sontag, not summer, which evidently left a loft open for interpretation. Some people didn't get it at all, Karlie Kloss. Some figured it out at the very last minute, Céline Dion, and some were clearly born for this theme, Billy Porter.
For almost all of the attendees, the working definition of "camp" seemed to be interpreted as "extravagant". Except, that is, for Frank Ocean, who wore an incredibly "boring" outfit and, in the process, nailed the theme better than almost anyone else in attendance.
Arriving on the pink carpet, Ocean kept things quiet in black and white. White shirt and black tie, black work pants - cropped to show off big clunky black work boots, a black nylon Prada anorak worn on top. All of which came complete with a dour expression. Nothing Camp there. Right?
"Camp is either completely naive or else wholly conscious."
Frank Ocean, dressed like a security guard, turning his own Contax T3 35mm film camera on red carpet photographers while shyly posing in Prada is the perfect metaphor for one of the most difficult tenets from Susan Sontag's Notes on Camp. Deliberate, self-aware camp only exists thanks to pure, naive camp, which is unintentional. Pure camp is "dead serious", or at least likes to think that it is. Because it comes from a place of naivete, it "always intends to be serious, but fails." which is the very essence of Ocean's Met Gala look.
"Camp is the attempt to do something extraordinary. But extraordinary in the sense, often, of being special, glamourous...Not extraordinary merely in the sense of effort. Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not items are rarely campy."
What could be more camp than an outfit extraordinary only in its ordinariness? In a sea of outfits that could be found in Ripley's exhibit, what's more striking than an outfit you can truly, definitely believe? If you wear all black to just about any other event, you won't be camp. However, wearing all black to the Met Gala, camp. Ocean's all black red carpet look makes a statement even louder than the one Katy Perry thinks she's making by wearing a chandelier.
Whether deemed boring or genius, showing up to the Met Gala in a hoodie is far more exciting than whatever the thought process was that led the rest of male attendees to interpret 'camp' as yet another black tuxedo. We're looking at you, Rami Malek.