In her 1964 essay–if one can call an enumerated list an essay–“Notes on ‘Camp,’” Susan Sontag delineated what she called the Camp style. Though nearly every example she gives is obscure to me, the essential traits of camp are clear: it’s exaggerated, it’s methods overwhelm its message, and it thereby becomes a parody of itself.
“Raining McCain” (playable at right), is the most delightfully bad music video I’ve seen recently. And is the quintessences of camp.
Taking off on the idea of the the Obama Girl, who herself played with elements of camp, “the McCain Girls” have created a video so campy as to be perceived as parody or satire. I’m rather confident that it was neither, and in that lies it’s brilliance.
The video laden with elements that seem too comical to be true. The effects, especially call out for attention. Of the three McCain girls, the left-most is notable primarily for her outfit. Making the mistake of wearing colors too similar to the green screen on which the after-effects were laid, she regularly and unintentionally fades into and out of the background.
Other special effects are so silly as to require attention. At one point, the disembodied head of Senator McCain bounces around the screen behind the singing girls. At another point, while full-bodied McCains are falling from the sky, the lead singer takes the opportunity to douse her face in her favorite presidential candidate.
The singing too, of a rewritten version of “It’s Raining Men,” is problematic. Not only are the girls not given the benefit of the technology used by professional singers to improve harmonizing, but there are also notable times when they seem to forget the words. The effect is damning in a video that already feels campy.
All of these reasonable mistakes combine to create a video more funny that serious. Whose message is largely lost in the over-wrought and flawed execution of the concept. And which has gotten ever-increasing attention for its flawed execution and not it’s political messages. Unsurprisingly, the commenter seem rather confused as to rather the videos serious or satire. That, then, is perhaps the state of camp today.
As Ms. Sontag said,
One must distinguish between naïve and deliberate Camp. Pure Camp is always naive. Camp which knows itself to be Camp (“camping”) is usually less satisfying.
The commenter’s mistake is made because in the last few decades fake camp has proliferated. One need only remember the recent Snakes on a Plane or the older True Lies to understand the proliferation of intentional camp.
But these are, indeed, less satisfying. Something that sets out to be “campy” is automatically cursed by its self-awareness. It comes across in the reception, which even for the relatively well-executed True Lies was mixed.
This is what makes “Raining McCain” so interesting. In an era where we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be genuine, serious, and deeply flawed, here come three woman to show us the glory of truly naïve camp. I, for one, am very grateful for them.