Week 4: Masquerade and Camp; She-man and Joan Crawford

There are some parallels between Straayer’s article and theories on Camp aesthetic, especially Paula Robertson’s reading of Johnny Guitar’s camp qualities:

Straayer reiterates Mary Ann Doane’s view of masquerade as distancing from the enforced image of femininity as female identity: “to masquerade is to manufacture a lack in the form of a certain distance between oneself and one’s image” (Straayer 268). We can draw a comparison with Camp aesthetic—especially since masquerade tends to be Camp—in that Camp can be employed to hyperbolize the constructs of (gender) identity and thus expose their rigidness and inadequacy.

Furthermore, Straayer finds strength in the She-man’s performance in the in-betweenness; the “split personality”; the “embraced incongruity.” Robertson similarly identifies Joan Crawford’s unstable identity and gender-bending in Johnny Guitar as liberating and essentially feminist. However, she marks Crawford’s character’s gender-bending as “a parodic form of masquerade” (Robertson 46). Here masquerade means putting on a mask of identity as defined by the ‘feminine mystique.’ If Crawford is parodying the masquerade then she is not only distancing herself from the conventional image of femininity, but also ridiculing the assumed necessity of putting on any sort of mask. Her strength lies in the continuous exchanging of masks/costumes.

Robertson, Pamela. “Camping Under the Stars: Joan Crawford in ‘Johnny Guitar.’” Volume 47, Number 1-3 (1995): 33 – 49.

Straayer, Chris. “Chapter 4: The She-man: Postmodern Bi-sexed Performance in Film and Video.” Deviant Eyes, Deviant Bodies: Sexual Re-orientations in Film and Video. New York: Columbia UP, 1996. 262-80. Print.

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