On May 7, 2018, photos from the annual Met Gala flooded our social media streams. You may have seen photos of Rihanna dressed as the Pope and Lilly Collins in an outfit inspired by Our Lady of Sorrows. And, like me, you may have been wondering: what the heck is going on?
For this year's Met Gala, the theme was "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination." Like a multitude of things on the internet, this theme was quite controversial.
Before I go into detail about some of the responses to The Met Gala, I'd like to clarify something first. This is actually something I did not know until recently. I was under the impression that the theme itself was Catholicism; however, after learning more about the theme and the inspiration behind it, I learned that the theme was based on Catholic art, not Catholicism itself. This made my response to the theme a little bit better.
The theme was inspired by the Met's next Costume Institute exhibit, which will "examine the influence of Catholicism on clothing." Even the Vatican approved the exhibit and Gala's theme. The Vatican also lent the museum around 50 garments for the show.
However, some believed that theme itself, despite its approval from the Vatican, was offensive. Some Catholics believed that celebrities, many of whom were not Catholic, were appropriating their religion. And some, like myself, thought the theme itself could have been a lot better.
I personally found the theme to be rather distasteful. Although celebrities were technically referencing Catholic art, I felt that the theme itself was too risky; I think that anything involving religion should be off-limits. What if this was about how Hinduism has inspired clothing? How would people have reacted to that?
Also, the Met Gala itself has the ability to influence thousands; for an event that is highly coveted by the fashion industry, I feel as though many do not want to think about subjective themes, such as religion, while making and wearing the elaborate outfits.
I thought this theme was especially insensitive to those who were raised in Catholic backgrounds; what if someone was oppressed because of their Catholic upbringing, because of say, their sexuality, for instance? I don't know how keen they would be attending an event without being able to escape Catholic themes and undertones.
In other words, this backlash and controversy could have been avoided all together with a different theme.
However, there is something to be said about the elaborate outfits the celebrities wore.I thought many of the outfits were technically stunning, despite the theme. I appreciated outfits such as Gigi's Versace stained-glass dress—it was a safe and sensitive way of fitting the theme.
Here are some of the examples of some of the outfits from the Gala, in case you missed it:
Gigi Hadid in a stained glass-inspired gown.
Rihanna in a Pope-inspired outfit.
Zendaya dressed in an outfit that resembles Saint Joan of Arc.
Lilly Collins in an outfit inspired by Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow.
I took to our listeners and readers on Instagram and asked them what they thought about the theme. Here's what some of them said.
"Grew up Catholic and went to a Catholic high school. I thought it was crazy disrespectful. If it was any other religion, I totally feel like it would have been front page news for being cultural appropriation or something similar. Catholicism is a very strict and serious religion (just like any other religion) and it's just kinda bs that they turned it into a fashion statement. it's a major part of so many people's lives, including mine. Dressing up in papal garments and stuff is just disrespectful."
--Megan Crabb, IG: @megancrabb23
"I'm catholic and I didn't find it offensive at all. I thought people used the icons and symbols appropriately and without any disrespect. What would have been disrespectful would be if the theme had been any world religion that has been oppressed in any way (which is a lot of them). Plus, apparently the Vatican approved the theme and there were even catholic priests in attendance. I think if the theme had been Islam or Hinduism that would have been different [because] those are religions that are very deeply rooted in a cultural/ethnic identity."
--Natalie Sopyla, IG: @natalie.sopyla
"I'm not Catholic, but I think some things should remain untouched. I felt like the religion was mocked for trends or fashion to glorify oneself. And that's so not cool."
--Lauren Phariss, IG:@pharisswheel
"I agree, I loved every outfit I saw from the night but the religion theme was real weird to me. I don't see how it's perceived as less offensive because it's Catholic—using traditional Native American tribal prints and 'costumes' based off of ideas that are important to other cultures/religions is mostly believed to be offensive & wrong. I don't see how this theme was different. I'm not Catholic either, but to me creating any 'theme' that directly plays off of sacred practices or beliefs of any religion or culture is short-sighted and inconsiderate to the people that belong to it."
--Lyndsey Fokes, IG: @lyndsey.fokes
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Until next time,