Many famous people from the fashion, film, artistic and musical fields came together at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for The Costume Institute Gala. This is an annual event and in honour of raising money for the Met’s Costume Institute and to celebrate the grand opening of their latest exhibition, with the theme Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.
What should have just been a wonderful event filled with beauty and amazing famous faces like Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Blake Lively, Lily Collins, Zendaya and Kim Kardashian (also my Queen, Emma Stone), showing off grand, extraordinary outfits, actually caused a rise of conflict and controversy.
I was first alerted by this controversy by my cousin, who is a Catholic. She’s now started her own blog called Uitwaaien, which she hasn’t yet posted on but will soon, so please go check her out and support her! She’s an intelligent mind with a lot of opinions and thoughts. Anyways, I digress.
When I first heard about the conflict and offence, on the internet and amongst religious people, this caused, it got me thinking about both sides of this debate.
A poll on Harper’s Bazar showed that about 88% of people knew that this would cause backlash even before the event took place. The Vatican had approved of the theme of the exhibit but a lot of Catholics were upset, stating “my religion is not your f*cking #MetGala dress” and “the Met Gala has no shame for disrespecting my religion”.
However, it wasn’t just Catholics and religious people, who were annoyed and angered by this. People, who are against Catholics and the church, were also angered by “glorifying a religion notorious of rape, child abuse and molestation”.
The Met Gala and this year’s theme was said to be a form of cultural appropriation, using the religion as decoration. It’s similar to using the religion of Islam as the theme, where these famous people would be dressed with aspects of the religion and hijabs, which has a much broader meaning and purpose than using it as a decoration and fashion piece.
The costumes were also perceived as sexualising the religion. As much as I love Rihanna, a lot of people described her Pope inspired dress as “disgusting” and “offensive”. Other celebrities like Katy Perry wore a set of angel wings and others wore crucifixes, which also caused a bit of a stir.
Despite all this, with the Met Gala sexualising the religion, using aspects of it as decoration and to “spice” up their outfits, Catholicism has been in art for decades. Fashion is a form of art, too. I understand that the art produced years and years and years ago, with aspects of Catholicism isn’t sexualising the religion and represents it in association with the bible but Catholicism is such a prominent theme in art and, agree or not, the Met Gala could be a way of representing Catholicism in this modern day and age. The Vatican did approve of it and their intentions weren’t to completely rip out the meaning and purpose of the religion. It could be their way of shedding light and positivity on a religion, that, actually, a lot of people perceive as dark and old-fashioned. As well as this, a big proportion of the celebrities that took part in this event are also a member of Christianity, Catholicism, or were raised Catholic, for example, Selena Gomez, Rihanna and even Kylie Jenner.
I do think it’s wrong to say that “Rihanna is now the new God and Pope” and to compare all Catholics to what the Romans did as a way to argue with people using Catholicism as a theme but I personally do not think it was cultural appropriation. Maybe I’m biased because I’m not religious but I think the Met Gala was a way to celebrate the church. What happened actually doesn’t really fit into the definition of cultural appropriation, even though it’s wrong for people to adopt part of the religion as if it’s their identity, as Catholicism is not the ‘minority culture’ (also why you can’t compare it to Islam). In addition, the Met Gala was not an example of a dominant group of people adopting aspects of the religion.
I think the Met Gala was definitely a misrepresentation of what it means to be a Catholic and could have been approached differently. I think the Vatican could have thought twice about approving the theme but at the same time, this event also created a lot of discussions about Catholicism, the dark sides of it, yes, but also the good.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your opinions, both from the point of view of a religious person and non-religious.