0 04 2007

Camp Cures (the Stigma of Illness). Escaping the Tyranny of Caring, Charity, and Positive Thinking in Adam Mars-Jones' "Slim"

Christian Lassen

Abstract


In the slang of the caring profession, there is an enduring use of the personal pronoun "we" whose infantilising effect – and I am sure "we" all share this view - is indeed hard to endure. Pronoun it may be, personal it surely isn't. On a larger scale, the inadequacy of this pathetic, in fact pseudo-empathetic, babble becomes increasingly apparent, especially for two reasons whose incompatibility exposes the true dimension of the dilemma. Firstly, this sort of talk excruciatingly extends into an overkill of compassion, well-meaning, and good advice, whose self-righteousness in time results in normative stereotypes of healthy living: positive thinking, creative visualisations, and not least, physical exercise. Secondly and simultaneously, though, this tyranny of caring can barely conceal the fact that illness is still widely viewed as a stigma. Entering the present discourse of HIV and AIDS at this point, one can hardly fail to notice that it is this very stigma that increasingly forces gay men into normative spectacles of health, even though, as Dollimore accurately contends, "contesting these negative representations (homosexuality = pathology = death) could never be just a question of substituting positive ones (homosexuality = health = life)" (Dollimore, Death, Desire and Loss xi). Put simply, there is urgent need for a cure against the stigma of illness, a cure that successfully counters both the debilitating, indeed incapacitating, treatment of the patient and his called-for charade of healthy living. One such cure is camp.

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ISSN 1749-9771