How would people be, without oppression?
Here are Julian and Sandy, camp gay comedians when “gross indecency” was a criminal offence, making jokes with gay single entendres, speaking Polari, from which terms like “Cottaging” have entered the general language, but which was dying out in gay subculture in the 60s. Camp self-mockery is self-defence: I become a figure of fun so as not to get beaten up. Or a form of attack, being too clever for the homophobe.
Then it becomes a way of being gay. Those who would tolerate gays say “I don’t mind if they are homosexual as long as they don’t shove it in our faces” to which the camp say, “What, you mean, like this?” Then the gay small ads before Grindr was a thing, before mobile phones were smart, ask for men who are “straight-acting”. As if it is an act, or as if gay is camp.
Camp is tolerated. Just. It is not complete protection, and there will still be homophobic assaults, but it is a way of living which is not straight-acting. Different people have different personalities, and some will be more able to conform- because they are more straight-acting in reality, or because of a more naturally straight appearance.
Now when we recognise diversity as a positive good, camp can be a game of supreme flamboyance, as in the drag queen, but people can be ourselves, with a range of ways of being with others. We still have different registers of speech for work, socialising, partners, strangers- but they can be less defensive, because we are not under constant threat.
I went to Wikipedia, and read that Julian and Sandy were a standing ridicule of effeminacy. Were people laughing at or with them? I like to think that they were normalising: straights would hear them on the radio, like them, and be more inclined to tolerate similar behaviour elsewhere. They would be in on the joke, where if they came upon it for the first time at work they would not be, and might be offended.
The “ladies” of Little Britain might be normalising. Are you laughing at us, or with us? I found the way they were so ridiculous offensive; yet there was one sketch I found touching. A radiologist insists on using a lead sheet to protect Emily’s testicles, which she denies having- “maybe little lady’s testiclays”. I could pity her. Or him.
If you are straight, how do you react to such comedy?