Tuesday, 3 November 2009

313: Hewison's People - Camp Follower

by William Hewison
from “Punch” 8 March 1978

If the “Great Bores of Today” from 1977 was about changes in contemporary lifestyles, this is just a faintly hackneyed joke about a certain sort of gay obsessive fan. These sort of assumptions were used merely as background detail in Heath’s illustration, with the Dietrich and Garland books. Here it’s foregrounded as the only joke. Twenty years later you could run a variation on it making appropriate changes for Madonna or Kylie. So you could argue that it has some truth to it. But as far as attitudes and understanding of gay life go, it’s barely any advance on the Gorer / Searle piece from the late ‘50s, almost 20 years earlier. “Great Bores” was explicit in making the joke about homosexuality and its place in contemporary society. Hewison dodges any hint of contemporary relevance. This caricature is detached from the real world, in more ways than Hewison intends.

For the joke to work, though, it does assume knowledge on the reader’s part that there is a certain sort of obsessive gay super-fan, and what their idols of choice are. Hewison makes the gay aspect explicit through the fey camp manner of expression. The joke can’t work any other way than through the monologue, since the character that Hewison has drawn doesn’t work at all. The limp-wrist may be a crass give-away, and it’s a little imprecise as to whether the other hand is engaged in some sort of hair-primping manoeuvre . But otherwise the figure as drawn has no correlation with what such a fan might be like. At best, this is somebody’s uncle in his late ‘40s.

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