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All the counselors hate the waiters,

And the lake has alligators,

And the head coach wants no sissies,

So he reads to us from something called Ulysses.
Allan Sherman, Hello Muddah Hello Faddah (A Letter from Camp)

Summer camps in fiction are usually run like the company from Dilbert. The enviornment seems to be sentient and out to get you (mosquitos chase you across camp, perfectly timed inconvenient rain, etc.) The food is as bad as cafeteria food. In sports, there's a handful of super-jocks who treat it as Serious Business and reduce everyone else to terror. Arts and crafts are so boring you want to be back in school. The bathrooms are outhouses that require a full nature hike to reach. The teenage counselors are awesomely stupid and actually take the "camp spirit" and "camp traditions" seriously, often bordering on Pointy-Haired Boss.

Usually, boredom drives all the campers to insanity (if they weren't that way to begin with, as the hero's bunk-mate always seems to be). The only fun they have is messing with each other, leading to an Escalating War in no time (and brutal hazing if some of the kids are new). If the camp is co-ed, the kids will all wind up with crushes on each other that serve as object lesson in how Love Makes You Dumb (and nobody ever manages to hook up).

In older stories, the camp was always some outdoorsy place with a fake-Indian name. Modern stories are more likely to have a specialized camp (like weight-loss camp), which is just as awful as the old camps.

Unlike the Boarding School of Horrors, these places tend to be played for laughs. Compare Horrible Camping Trip. See Fat Camp for a more specialized type of summer camp.

Examples of Summer Campy include:


Film

  • Camp Nowhere is about a gang of kids who will do anything to avoid being sent to summer camp, up to and including their own fake camp.
  • The Meatballs films are all over this trope.
  • Parodied in the film Wet Hot American Summer.
  • The 1961 film The Parent Trap starts out at a semi-utopian version of one of these. Fortunately for the audience, It Got Worse.
  • Pugsly and Wednesday are sent to camp against their will in Addams Family Values.
  • The whole movie Daddy Day Camp.
  • Friday the 13 th popularized the Summer Camp settings among the Slasher Movies in the early 80's, with such examples as The Burning, Sleepaway Camp, Madman and Bodycount following the suite.
  • The 1985 made-for-TV film Poison Ivy starred Michael J. Fox and was set in one of these.
    • Camp Cucamonga (1990) is another made-for-TV example.
  • Little Darlings involves two teenage girls making a bet as to which of them will be the first to lose her virginity at a summer camp.
  • Indian Summer has a group of adults returning to the summer camp of their childhoods at the invitation of the camp's retiring director.
  • Camp Rock is set at a summer music camp.
  • A classic theme in France:
    • Nos jours heureux (2006) is a comedy about a group of kids and the adults who try to keep them in line for a whole summer.
    • C'est pas ma faute! (1999): in this one the main character isn't in summer camp but fights against the children who are during his holidays. Summer camp life, though, is still the same.
    • Scout Toujours... (1985): a group of unruly scouts manage to break their crazy scoutmaster's leg just before summer camp, so they end up with a guy who has no experience with children. Of course it's played for laugh and everything works out fine in the end.
    • Although most Summer camp movies are comedies, La meilleure façon de marcher (1976) is the exception. It's a very screwed-up movie about bullying in a closed environment, in which one camp counselor accidentally sees another dress up as a woman and leverages the information to psychologically torture him for months. The children, of course, notice nothing.

Literature

  • The novel I Want To Go Home by Gordon Korman is about a Heroic Sociopath who we root for because he's the only smart person in his comic-opera summer camp. The entire place is flooded on visiting day because of a beaver's dam. When the waters subside, the Pointy-Haired Boss says "and so, another successful visiting day draws to a close." One of the counselors can't believe he's hearing this, and the head counselor explains, "that's his visiting day speech. He only has one, and it doesn't cover floods."
  • Jean Shepherd wrote a wonderful short story about two weeks in a summer camp Revenge of the Mole People.
  • Too many Goosebumps books to list.
  • In Spells and Sleeping Bags, Rachel goes to one of these, though the camp's problem is not so much with the camp as it is the fact that her witch cousin wants to switch bodies with her.

Live-Action TV

  • The entire premise of Salute Your Shorts.
  • Psych combines Summer Campy with a Serial Killer plot that also makes fun of horror movie tropes.
  • Camp Runamuck, a short-lived '60s sitcom.
  • Hi-De-Hi, was a not so short-lived sitcom set in a English holiday camp.
  • Sesame Street:
    • The Season 14 (1982) opening week of episodes, where Big Bird goes to Camp Echo Rock for a week of fun and life lessons. Each episode opens with video of the camp bus on the way to camp, and sound cues of a cheesy, kiddie camp-type song ("Pean-a budda, jelly!") interspersing a banjo-mixed version of the main theme. The scenes themselves represent the traditional summer camp: A wooded area where Big Bird and his new friends – including an Anything Muppet named Rusty – engage in the requisite swimming, hiking, trying new foods, dealing with homesickness, etc. It is implied that Big Bird spends two weeks at camp (as one of the scenes deals with him writing a letter and wondering what's going on back home), although just three full episodes and parts of the other two – Big Bird leaving in Monday's opener, saying goodbye to his new friends on Friday – are devoted to his time at camp. Camp Echo Rock, by the way, was actually Bear Mountain in upstate New York, and it is presumed that Echo Rock is in that same vicinity.
      • A children's record, "Camp Oonie Koonie Cha," was released in 1981, featuring Big Bird and Oscar at camp. Also, a photo spread and a summary of the "Camp Echo Rock" episodes were published in the June 1983 issue of Sesame Street Magazine.
    • Camp Wannagohoma, a series of skits starring Grover that aired starting in the early 1980s. Here, Grover is a camp counselor who attempts to teach his campers about nature, survival tips and the like, but always gets his facts wrong, leading his more knowledgeable charges to correct him.

Magazines

  • Mad Magazine has also done this every summer. One old piece from the 70s had a camp where the only medical supplies are aspirin and calamine lotion, so every sick and injured camper goes untreated...until we meet a lucky boy who's "got poison ivy, and a terrible headache from worrying about it." A more recent strip had Butt Monkey Monroe sent to a camp that made him long for the Crapsack World back home.

Music

  • The classic novelty/comedy song "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)", by Allan Sherman, is a boy's letter to his parents where he complains about his stay at Camp Granada, sung to Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours.
    • Ultimately subverted. Once the rain and hail end, the boy ends the letter with, "Muddah, Fadduh, kindly disregard this letter!"
  • "Les jolies colonies de vacances" is basically the summer camp anthem, in which a child writes home to explain how AWESOME summer camp is (the food sucks, the counselors are drunkards, they all swim in the river where industrial waste is being dumped...)
  • The titular boy-scout camp of the Homer and Jethro song "The Battle of Kookamonga" may have been of this type. A boy was mad at being sent to camp, but changes his mind at the events of the song, chasing a troop of girl scouts.

Newspaper Comics

  • Peanuts did this every summer, sometimes with insane specialized camps like Sally's "Beanbag Camp" (where all you do is lie in a beanbag, watch TV, and eat junk food) and even a fundamentalist Bible camp. The biggest example may be when all the gang are filling out applications for not going to camp. Everyone's application is accepted. Except, of course, for Charle's Brown's. He gets the letter saying that since his application has been turned down, "therefore, you are to report to the bus stop at 0800 hours."
    • The TV special It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown takes place at summer camp.
    • The feature film Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown has the gang attending camp and getting involved in a river raft race against a gang of Jerk Jocks.

Theatre

  • An obscure example: the off-off-Broadway kids musical Everything About Camp (Almost) is a Troperiffic look at everything that can go wrong at camp. In a typical scene, the new kids are sent on a Snipe Hunt, and one of the kids is suspicious. He discovers that not only is he required to go anyway, but he's required to pay for the privilege of going. As with most examples of Summer Campy, it's played entirely for comedy.

Video Games

  • Camp Whispering Rock in Psychonauts has the bad food (Ford really can't cook), cheesy arts-and-crafts, the Jerk Jock bully, and more preteen hormones running rampant than you can shake a stick at... But since the counselors are frackin' super spies out to teach the children how to utilize their psychic powers, that pretty much makes up for everything. Including the pyrokinetic cougars in the woods.
  • Friday the 13th's Camp setting is revisited in the NES Game.

Web Original

  • One issue of Teen Girl Squad had three of the girls going to "Camp Firstbassawassa", which had recently installed "working toilet paper" ("I'm gonna miss the oak leaves"). Whats-Her-Face's bunkmate turns out to be an emaciated, diabetic raccoon girl, the boys' camp across the lake turns out to be a "Cosplayover Camp" inhabited by nerds like Sci-Fi Greg, and Whats-Her-Face and the Ugly One get killed by a chainsaw-wielding "Maniac in a Speedo!"

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons has a darker-than-usual example in Camp Krusty, where the kids are used as slave labor. The tie-in video game Escape From Camp Deadly featured, among other things, a hide-and-seek game where Bart is Team A and Team B consists of everybody else (that, as well as a very lethal Food Fight).
    • Also Homer and Marge met each other for the first time as kid on two neighbouring summer camps, but because of mistaken identity, didn't realize it until later.
  • The entire premise of Camp Lazlo, where most of the humor comes from the happy-go-lucky main character actually enjoying the place.
  • South Park has a weight-loss camp where Cartman is the Only Sane Man who isn't impressed by the dancing mascot and his perky teenage sidekicks. Unusually, the ending suggests that even though the camp is stupidly run, they mean well and should be supported.
    • They revisit the trope in a later episode called Crippled Summer. The camp is for handicapped children, a boy cheats at all of the tournament events, and oh yeah, Towelie is employed there.
  • Camp Wannaweep in Kim Possible is a Summer Campy in flashbacks (and is responsible for pretty much every one of Ron's neuroses and phobias). By the time of the show, it's no longer Summer Campy and has become an abandoned camp of horrors.
    • In a later episode we see Camp Wannaweep reopened and is back to it's Summer Campy status, this time as a cheerleading camp which Ron discovers is still a camp of horrors.
  • "Flappy Bob's Happy Camp Learnatorium" from The Fairly Odd Parents is this, with two overly-eager counselors that are obsessed with making normally fun things as boring as possible.
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