Summer Brennan channels the Susan Sontag of “Notes on Camp” in an over-the-top essay occasioned by Meatloaf’s recent passing, celebrating his MTV video of “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).”
I’m not any regular viewer of MTV videos. It’s an artistic? genre that emerged really after my time of personal engagement with popular music, but I watched this one, and feel obliged to agree: this one’s a hoot.
Meat Loaf looking as grotesque as Quasimodo, in a setting as Gothic as the Phantom’s Opera House, singing nonetheless passionately about love, bizarrely enough, works on a variety of levels.
When I saw Meat Loaf’s iconic I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) for the first time on MTV, I had just finished eighth grade. It was… I mean… oh my god. This music video had everything: revving engine sounds; a mausoleum; a Michael Bay-directed helicopter, car, and motorcycle chase; a foggy blue forest; angst; a sexy fat man in Halloween makeup smashing a literal hall of mirrors; flashlights; dorky lyrics; sexual longing; an opulent bi-curious bedroom set, lesbian succubi absolutely included; and so, so many candles. It was a power ballad missile of queasy erotic awakening aimed straight at my 14-year-old heart.
I was powerless to resist it.
The pure old-fashioned melodrama of it all. The absolute cheesiness. The passion. It was glorious. It was ridiculous. It was histrionic. It was camp as fuck. It was a music video that asked, what if Quasimodo was an over-the-top bombastic 70s rock star and also sang like the Phantom of the Opera? What if a floor-length white dress could also show your whole underwear? What if you followed a fugitive hunchback through the dark woods and then bathed in your clothes by the light of a thousand burning tapers? What if backup singers? What if lightning? What if chandeliers?
If you were unmoved by this kind of thing, even in middle school, then fine, but you are not my people.