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Campy stereotypes

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I had a gay uncle back in the sixties and seventies who was a hairdresser and very campy. I loved him and thought he was the funniest person I knew. He passed away before I had the courage to come out to my family, although, apparently, they all knew about me before I made my grand and dramatic declaration. I seemed to have a lot of stereotypical mannerisms. When I started going out to bars in the late seventies, which was one of the few ways for safely meeting other gays back then, I noticed that a lot of men and boys acted very campy. I don't see campy, stereotypically gay behavior as much now as I did back then and I began wondering about this after reading the thread I started about Nolan Gould in Modern Family with the comments about gay stereotypes.

Does it seem the stereotypes are more alive on TV and in movies than in real life? Are older gay men (I hate to say this, but- my age in their fifties- more likely to exhibit this behavior? I don't do the bar scene anymore and I would be scared to death to visit a dance club now. I wonder if, perhaps, coming out during the "Golden Age of gay bars- during disco but before HIV, the first time that gay men could really be free with others, have fostered this behavior? The generation before mine simply got married, had kids, and went to a lot of conventions in other cities. The generations since mine have been more free and may not feel the need to act this way. Or am I wrong? Interesting sociological question. And, does it vary from country to country? (Wasn't it Shaw who said there is no such thing as a heterosexual Englishman?)

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't flame, but it usually takes people about 5 or 10 seconds to figure out that I'm different. Is campy behavior a generational thing? What are you thoughts about "Gay" or "Queer" behavior? What constitutes that? Is there something behind the stereotypes?

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Free Thinker asks, " Is campy behavior a generational thing?"

I wouldn't say that it is, except that if you happen to be exposed to a campy environment during the formative years, you may well adopt it as a means of acceptance within that group, and thus it becomes part of your persona.

It's important to state that effeminacy is observable in historical societies. Ancient Greek society where homosexual bonding was part of the culture, still made jokes about effeminate men. If we consider gay cave-dwellers, it's really unlikely that they acted campy, but they may have been, like many people today, sensitive and overly caring and gentle towards each other. One may not be born campy, but may certainly be born, sensitive. This should not be confused with sexual orientation.

The form of the campiness can thus be seen as a social, or cultural phenomenon, varying in degree from one culture or group to another.

The adopted lisp in some groups, is an example, but the adopted macho persona is also an exaggeration; this time, of the male masculine image.

The expectation of campiness in gay men, back in the sixties, was certainly prominent in the gay community, but the 'flower children' of that period also began the questioning of applying mannerisms to identify themselves. This has been extended by today's youth in their dislike of labelling themselves, which seems to me to be a healthy attitude.

The pure-form "straight acting" is nothing more than an unexaggerated masculinity without the culturally derived camp affectations.

The pretended "straight-acting" persona is rarely successful at fooling anyone.

I think too that we shouldn't confuse the naturally, shy retiring sensitive personality with the adopted protection of the camp 'rules' of social interaction for the sake of acceptance.

Avoiding a longer and more in-depth psychological discussion, the stereotypes are almost always cultural in origin, but the archetypes are derived from Man's gentler side of his nature; a mixture, if you like, of anthropology and the innate personality of the individual. How that is expressed in any given social group will determine the sub-groups in that society.

It must also be stated that neither campiness, nor being gay are dependant on each other. You can be gay without being campy, and you can be campy without being gay, as many of my friends have discovered to their surprise.

As for TV and movies, the stereotypes presented are for the consumption of the masses. This is the one thing about Brokeback Mountain I found appealing; the guys were very much presented as unaffected human beings.

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I cannot comment without further thought and investigation upon the concept of generational differences in gay behavior, although the notion of it is a very compelling topic that deserves thorough discussion. I do have an opinion about how various media have depicted character types, however, and these techniques are born of necessity.

Theatre, film, and especially television productions must more often than not depend upon exaggerated behaviors and stereotyped characters to quickly establish plot issues and invite audience reactions. The months that it takes to realize that my next-door neighbor is a crook, or the semester I needed to discover a best friend, is a span of time hardly available within the scope of a ten minute staged scene or a two hour long film, and so certain culturally established shorthands must prevail, however crude and artificial. Thankfully these stereotypes evolve and change over time as audiences become more aware. The exaggerated queer of yesteryear is much less necessary to today's staged production, just as bad guy cowboys no longer all wear black hats and gangsters don't talk out of the corners of their mouths.

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Campy behavior is something a lot of gay Southerners just don't do. It can trigger sudden and intense violence or ugly confrontations so we are conditioned against it like Pavlov's dog.

We are more likely to be quiet, cynical and sarcastic than openly campy.

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There are still, definitely gay men who have always been on the campy side, even today. I like the way Peter Paige's character, Emmett, put it on the show Queer as Folk: "some of us have a flame that burns brighter than others."

Me personally, I kind of wince at the whole over-the-top effeminate thing, but I don't have a problem with people who are naturally that way. Several friends of mine have always been that way, and they tell me they spoke and acted the same way at 5 years old or 10 years old. I 100% believe it's part of their biology. But that's gotta be tough on a kid, especially during adolescence.

And I've also known Lesbians who were fairly butch -- some to the extent that they wore flannel shirts, jeans, short hair, and no makeup. Same deal. People are who they are. If they're comfortable with it, they shouldn't be expected to conform to anybody else's expectations or stereotypes.

But I also concede there are situations -- particularly in business, or in, shall we say, stressful situations -- where maybe coming on as a Nelly queen might be unsafe or unwise. I seem to recall a whole QAF episode where this character made an attempt to act "straighter" for a period of time... unsuccessfully.

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