It is true that one if the main themes of Angels in America is the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. However, the tone that Tony Kushner uses to introduce the issue is neither tragic nor serious in every scene. The seventh scene from the first act of Millennium approaches is a good example of an existing alternative point of view, heavily influenced by Camp sensibility. This scene is Camp because of various reasons : Prior gives tremendous importance to aesthetics and style, he acts in an exaggerated way and he is aware of his own lack of originality.
As he states, the hallucination starts when he is getting ready : ‘I was in the process of applying the face, trying to make myself feel better— I swiped the new fall colors at the Clinique counter at Macy’s’ (32). Prior pays a lot of attention to aesthetics, even if his physical features are not conventionally feminine. He reinvents himself starting by his own image, because it is the territory where he has power and he is able to make his own decisions. Drag is seen as a means to transform himself. Make-up and clothes make Prior artificial. Hence, campy : ‘the way of Camp, is not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization’ (Sontag, 1).
Moreover, Prior focuses on sumptuous decorative elements, but he combines them with other that are not considered elegant at all, like the stretch pants that he mentions on page 34. These luxurious dresses usually give the play an over the top feeling, emphasized by the self- deprecating jokes that Prior tells. For example, when he looks at his own reflection, he states : ‘I look like a corpse. A . . . corpsette ! […] Oh my queen; you know you’ve hit rock-bottom when even drag is a drag’ (30). He does not take himself seriously, and he acknowledges the ways in which his demeanor is laughable. He is a parody of himself.
In this vision, Prior is terribly dramatic and dramatic : ‘He looks in his mirror, SCREAMS!, mimes slashing his throat with his lipstick and dies, fabulously tragic’ (31). However, there is still a hint of self-awareness : ‘It’s something you learn after your second theme party: It’s All Been Done Before’ (35). He knows that even if he tries to change himself, he will not be completely original because of the inspiration that he gets from others.
In conclusion, Kushner uses these Camp elements to make the theme of death and loss less grave and more approachable. However, this campiness does not equal frivolity, since including elements of gay and drag culture gives the community more visibility. Showing an alternative point of view is important because it contributes to take the stigma away from the AIDS crisis, and it proves that the characters affected by HIV are much more than sick people.