Alright, so I know I talked about this in my story a little but I wanted to formally talk about the Met Gala’s theme this year and further explain my opinion on the subject. Now, I know that this event was controversial and I know that some of you truly believe that they were making fun of our faith, and I do not want to belittle those feelings in any way… but in this post, I’m going to speak about what I loved about the Met Gala theme this year.
First and foremost, I absolutely LOOVVVEEEDDD the title, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” How beautiful is that?! I mean it sounds like an essay John Paul II would write if he ever spoke about fashion in Theology of the Body. How much do I talk about how fashion as an outward expression of the heavenly and divine beauty that is within each one of us? Our faith claims that our body is a temple to be adorned with beauty just as any other sacred object which should make fashion and faith inextricably linked. Honestly, I find it shocking that it took the fashion industry this long to come up with this theme. The idea of this theme was to be a “dazzling celebration of the Church’s aesthetic: the splendor of their religious iconography, vestments, paintings, and architecture” (Vogue). The Met Gala chairs even made sure to get the Vatican’s blessings, traveling to Rome to meet with Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi (the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture). This theme was not created lightly and it was definitely not a joke.A huge complaint I’ve heard from a lot of people is that this is cultural appropriation or that, if this was any other religion, people would have been in an uproar. In some cases, I do agree, if they had done an Islamic themed night then people would have gone mad, but here is a simple fact – that is not our faith. Our God and our Church is not belittled or offended by women in beautiful gowns, even if they are a little immodest. In fact, our God is the creator of beauty, goodness, and truth, and if there is anything beautiful about these looks, which there obviously is, then God must be present in it. As for cultural appropriation, there are a couple of factors that just don’t add up. Firstly, cultural appropriation implies lack of consent and participation of the copied group, which was definitely not the case here. The cultural appropriation also draws from reductive stereotypes (like wearing sombreros and mustaches on Cinco de Mayo) which was not the case of any of these costumes. The designers pulled ancient symbols and art from the Catholic faith to inspire every single piece. They were beautifully thought out and created as an expression of the traditions of the Church, not a mocking gesture.
These pieces weren’t made to be laughed at like some cartoon political commentary – they were made to be stared at in awe.Now, to be honest there were two outfits that I wasn’t the biggest fan of, one of which was Rihanna’s. I understand the irony in that Rihanna was hosting the event and therefore was the symbolic, “Pope” or head, of the event but the Pope’s Mitre (his tall white hat) is a very powerful and important symbol within the church that should never be worn by anyone but the standing Pope. I understand people being upset by her wearing it, but also let’s remember that there is a 99% chance that people don’t understand the significance of the Pope’s hat, heck most Catholics probably don’t, and so they couldn’t possibly have known how offensive it actually is.
The final complaint I heard, one which broke my heart and infuriated me at the same time, was that those wearing the outfits are, “anti-Catholic” and should not be representatives of the Church. This broke my heart because this just further puts forward the stereotype that Catholics are judgmental and self-righteous. In a time when our Pope speaks of the importance of mercy for the New Evangelization, as a church we must come together behind that. We do not know the hearts and the sins of those wearing the dresses. We don’t know if these celebrities are anti-Catholic or living sinful lives. Who am I to point out the splinter in someone else’s eye when I can’t see the log in my own?To further clarify my point, I want to point out a specific celebrity whose outfit people have been hating on – Cardi B’s. People have called her outfit attention seeking, scandalous, and they have said she should not represent the Catholic church. Cardi B announced recently that she is pregnant outside of marriage, not the best situation, and yet, despite people telling her she is crazy for not getting an abortion because it will “ruin” her career she decided to keep the baby. And, she is now getting married to the baby’s father. She chose life. She chose life in a world that told her she was crazy and rocks her baby belly for the world to see. That doesn’t sound anti-Catholic to me, in fact, the Catholic church should be applauding her and seeking to help her. If you look at her dress with the knowledge of her pregnancy, and the fact that she chose life, the dress actually looks like it was inspired by a tabernacle. Her dress is a physical representation of the life-giving gift of her femininity. That is the theme Holy Bodies summed up in one outfit.
The Met Gala is an amazing opportunity for Catholics to enter into the fashion world and start a new kind of conversation. It gives us the opportunity to start evangelizing from an offensive position instead of a defensive as we can speak to others about the beauty and traditions of our faith. If Catholics respond to this negatively the world will only see it as “those conservative Catholics who are just old-fashioned,” but if we respond with a positive tone then it may shock people and they might just be willing to listen to what we have to say.
Let’s use this night as a catalyst for evangelization.