Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Incongruous Entertainment: Camp, Cultural Value, and the MGM Musical

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Incongruous Entertainment: Camp, Cultural Value, and the MGM Musical

Article excerpt

GENERAL NONFICTION Incongruous Entertainment: Camp, Cultural Value, and the MCM Musical, by Steven Cohan. Duke, November 2005. $23.95

A pun on the title of the 1974 musical franchise That's Entertainment! and its sequels, incongruous Entertainment is an equally serviceable metaphor for Steven Cohan's approach in this lively homage and critique of camp in the MGM musical. For as "entertainment" is not exactly the word one would typically use to describe academic writing, Cohan proves to be an exception, as his scholarship, like any good musical, smoothly blends theory and fandom, camp and culture, into a fascinating, elegant composition. Chapters on Hollywood's gay workforce and the marketing machinery behind such iconic productions as Meet Me in St. Louis and Singin in the Rain, stars like Esther Williams, Judy Garland, Debbie Reynolds, and Lena Home, Gene Kelly's contested masculinity and choreography, and Garland's internet afterlife, illuminate Cohan's thesis that camp, which he defines as "the ensemble of strategies used to enact a queer recognition of the incongruities arising from the cultural regulation of gender and sexuality," and mainstream heteronormativity are not mutually exclusive but rather are essential elements that find robust, vibrant life in this popular genre. …

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