The Transgender Defense of Angela Baker and ‘Sleepaway Camp’
Of the many negative stereotypes that exist for trans people, perhaps none is more damning in the court of public opinion than the belief that we are dangerous. Whether physically or sexually, many people believe that trans folks, especially trans women, are predators out to harm the good-natured straight, cisgender people of the world. This mentality is what sparked the legal panic surrounding trans people using the bathrooms they identify with is rooted in, as well as the nearly infinite examples in all forms of fiction of trans women bamboozling men into having sex with them (i.e. “traps”).
With how misguided these ideas of the trans community are, how can a film about a young, trans woman going on a murderous rampage at summer camp be one of the most gender affirming films ever released? Well, let’s take a trip down to Camp Arawak and talk about Sleepaway Camp.
Sleepaway Camp opens with John Baker and his two kids, Angela and Peter, swimming together when a boat driven by a reckless teen accidentally hits the family and kills John and one of the kids. Years later, in the summer of 1983, we see Angela has been taken in by her Aunt Martha and is being sent to camp with her cousin Ricky.
At Camp Arawak, Angela (played by the one and only Felissa Rose) is teased by the other kids for being timid and shy, most notably by her bunkmate Judy and counselor Meg. Ricky, being protective of his cousin, lashes out at any other campers who bullies Angela, even swearing that he won’t let them get away with throwing her in the lake since she has an intense fear of the water. Throughout their time at camp, a string of murders occur and camp owner Mel does his best to keep it all under wraps. However, after seeing Ricky’s outbursts, he begins to blame him for the accidents and deaths happening at camp.
All hell breaks loose one night as nearly a dozen murders are committed across camp, including Meg being stabbed in the shower, Judy being smothered with a pillow while being penetrated with a hot curling iron, and Mel being shot through the throat with an arrow after he attacked Ricky thinking he was stopping the killer.