In understanding that film The Servant is based on Robin Maughman’s 1948 play production, we now possess additional insight to the intertextuality of the work, specifically the predisposed impulses of the deeper rulings in terms of sex and class, master and servant dynamics, explicit power relationships, battle of the sexes not in matter of gender rather in confrontation; that seem to be implicitly yet explicitly prevalent throughout the film. In respect to Susan Sontag’s, Notes on ‘Camp’ she goes about Camp as a “quality discoverable in objects and the behaviour of person.” (277). More applicable, “the most refined form of sexual attractiveness is going against the grain of one’s sex. What is most beautiful in virile men is something feminine…” (279) in respect to expectations to taste in persons. Camp’s contrary expectations of sexuality, namely the presence of “female” qualities as implied above, can be seen explicitly in the film when discussing Barrett’s remarks towards his master Tony, particularly regarding his clothing and the interior decoration of his home. Elaborating on the presence of homosexuality Sontag continues, “…The Camp insistence on not being “serious,” on playing also with the homosexuals’ desire to remain youthful.” (291). The tendency to remain youthful is ‘forcefully’ imposed upon Tony by Barrett in the inherently youthful endeavour of the two drinking and dining together which begins to eliminate the master-servant power relationship. We see Tony’s initial homophobia is dispelled, as the homoerotic painting suspended on the wall depicting an orgy foreshadows the events that act as a catalyst to this psychoanalytical liberation.
It is said that Camp is most impactful when it is less relatable to us, “We are better able to enjoy a fantasy as fantasy when it is not our own.” (285). At this point it is worth noting that at the time of the film’s release the hints of homosexuality in film were more noticeable regardless of their degree of presentation, this due to the lack of exposure to such content at the time. England having just started to adopt new sexual moral norms, meant that the distinguishing of such underlying themes would be a harder task at the initial presentation of the film. The modern viewer has been desensitized due to increased exposure removing one of the director’s intended layers of fantasy.
Sontag, Susan, Notes on Camp, Against Interpretation and Other Essays. London: Penguin, 2009. Print.