The Guardian has published two critical letters from readers about gay camp comedians, in response to columnist Owen Jones’s article on Alan Carr’s advert for animal charity PETA.
Jones said: “Carr’s defiant response forced me to examine prejudices I share with all too many other gay men.”
He added: “Gay men have a big problem with camp. Gay dating websites abound with profiles specifying ‘straight-acting men only’. Despite the widespread myth that campness is affected – that it’s all for show – most gay men think camp is deeply unsexy.
“Graham Norton – another screamingly camp comedian – has said that campness is ‘a much harder thing to accept than being gay’, because it ‘comes with judgment all round’.
“This anti-camp hostility partly comes from a desire to conform to traditional gender roles, which gay men have already subverted whether they want to or not. But Carr has a point: some anti-camp bashing is driven by the homophobia of gay men.”
In the letters section of its website, The Guardian published two critical responses from readers under the title, “Damage done by high-camp comedians”.
John Inman and Larry Grayson, two of the most prolific high-camp comics of the 1970s and 1980s, were condemned as “grotesque pantomimic creatures”, whilst Alan Carr was branded as playing to a “tired, lazy stereotype”, making it harder for gay people to be “treated with respect”.
Alan Clark, of London, wrote: “In his perceptive analysis of gay men’s attitudes to camp Owen Jones suggests that an aversion to it is a form of self-loathing. But for many of us struggling to come out in the 1970s and 80s, it was camp itself which represented self-hatred.
“Comedians such as John Inman and Larry Grayson personified everything that I did not want to be.
“They were almost a third sex: grotesque pantomimic creatures, willingly collusive in the mocking laughter of the TV audience.
“My generation of activists wanted to show people that we weren’t all hairdressers or ballet dancers, just ordinary blokes who worked in factories and offices and drove trains and buses.
“Times have thankfully changed, and many of these high-camp relics can now seem almost endearing, but they did huge damage to many young gay people trying to find an image of themselves they could respect.
“That these young people nevertheless succeeded in doing so, openly and proudly, laid the foundation for the more tolerant society that this gay generation takes for granted.
“I truly admire Alan Carr for being himself and not caring what people think when he dresses up as a fairy, but please forgive me if I still flinch a little.
“That’s not prejudice, lack of humour or self-loathing; it’s actually self-love.”
Matthew Handy, of Harrogate, wrote: “I dislike Alan Carr, not because I suffer from internalised homophobia but because I think he’s about as funny and relevant as The Black and White Minstrel Show.
“He plays to a tired, lazy stereotype that historically portrayed gay people as, literally, different and inhuman and made it so much harder for them to be treated with respect and as equals by their straight peers.
“This is why I had to wait until I was 44 to see the first gay weddings. Owen Jones won’t remember any of this. After all, he only had to wait until he was 29.”