The new camp emoji is looking pretty in pink.
If you haven’t heard yet, the internet is abuzz over fashion’s biggest night, the annual Met Gala. This year’s theme is “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” itself a play on the seminal Susan Sontag essay “Notes on Camp,” which outlined the qualities and aesthetics of the cultural phenomenon known as “camp.” (If you’re thinking this might not lend itself easily to a Met Gala theme, you’re not alone. Page Six reports that stars are freaking out about it.)
As it often does with major cultural events, Twitter appended the official #MetGala hashtag with an emoji, this time being the pink flamingo emoji. Here are some tweets featuring the pink-feathered bird.
So, what’s behind the use of the flamingo emoji for the #MetGala hashtag? The most obvious answer is probably a reference to the John Waters film Pink Flamingos, considered a camp classic. The film, starring drag queen Divine, has the tagline, “An exercise in poor taste” and, though it has a string of notoriously bizarre and sexual scenes, ends with Divine scooping up and eating dog poop. Waters later labelled Pink Flamingos as well as Female Trouble and Desperate Living his “trash trilogy.”
Aside from Pink Flamingos, there’s also the reality that the flamingo is an American kitsch icon due to its tenure as a tacky lawn ornament. And while “kitsch” is not “camp,” there’s no doubt some overlap between the genres. Sontag herself delineates between kitsch and camp in her essay, saying that kitsch can be intentional or unintentional, while camp is often unintentional — making tonight’s Met Gala theme even more complicated.
In an email, however, Twitter said the emoji was actually chosen and designed by Vogue and is not inspired by the flamingo’s long history as a camp/kitsch icon. The exhibit accompanying tonight’s gala, “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” features a flamingo-themed headdress and ensemble designed by Bertrand Guyon for the House of Schiaparelli. The Met recently tweeted out the image.
So, is the pink-plumed flamingo now the official icon of an entire genre of art? And does it join other emojis like trans icon the Lobster Emoji and the anti-pride flag in the halls of ironic queer iconography? For now, we’re flamingo stans. Put your one leg up and balance yourselves, little flamingos!