Week 3: Johnny Guitar

Although I haven’t seen the film, the reading of the characters in Johnny Guitar formulate particularly two distinct readings. These two interpretations of the dynamics between the characters appear to differ because of a misunderstanding or inability to define camp. Robertson’s essay on Johnny Guitar incorporated Sontag’s analysis on what exactly defines camp. Robertson claims that the film is indeed camp because it is “a fundamentally incoherent text, both a failed western and an awkward star vehicle,” (42). This correlates with Sontag’s ultimate statement regarding camp – “it’s good because it’s awful,” (292). I found both Robertson’s and Peterson’s analysis of the film and its female characters not only pertaining to Sontag’s last conclusion about camp, but also its aesthetics as described through Sontag’s examination of camp. Sontag stresses that camp representation is anti-serious; it is a playful way of experiencing artifice and theatricality. Camp is never tragic, and if it is indeed depicted as a tragedy, it should be read as an irony. Furthermore, the less a character is developed, the more camp it appears. These qualities correlate with many of the critics who claimed that the movie is indeed lacking in its character development as it confuses the spectator between psychoanalytic representations and a failed genre film. Through this failure, Johnny Guitar underscores not only the misunderstanding of the depicted characters, but also a misunderstanding of camp itself. It is the realization of the female characters’ second reading which Robertson and Peterson highlight as a demonstration of gender construction and sexual identity that allows Johnny Guitar to be analyzed under a mode of aesthetic categorized by camp.

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