80’s Perfume Ads and Camp: Calvin Klein’s Obsession

Calvin Klein's Obsession - magazine ad

In 1964, the literary and art critic Susan Sontag published an essay in Partisan Review entitled “Notes on ‘Camp'” in which she enumerates camp’s evolution as a distinct aesthetic category.  Sontag writes:

The whole point of Camp is to dethrone the serious. Camp is playful, anti-serious. More precisely, Camp involves a new, more complex relation to “the serious.” One can be serious about the frivolous, frivolous about the serious. (1)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjH9YsKZTp0&w=420&h=315]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm11CJIZTsM&w=420&h=315]

Why aren’t perfume ads on television like this anymore?  These Obsession ads are so self-consciously ridiculous, and that’s what makes it great.  It’s pure camp à la John Waters and Liberace.

I leave you with SNL’s Kristen Wiig’s hilarious “Red Flag” skit.  If anyone understands Camp, it’s Kristen.

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