Fashion: Inspiration or Mockery?

I notice a mix of opinions in social media on the Met Gala’s 2018 iteration themed, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” Many of my Catholic facebook friends and their friends seem to inhabit the mockery corner. The National Review backs them up, here, getting in their dig at Pope Francis as they go:

As for the real pope? Indirectly, he abetted this calculated mockery.

I think Cardinal Dolan was an appointee of another pope, but oh well.

Others see the gala’s theme as a neutral or even a good thing. The choir was a hit, by all reports.

Nationalist China Gallery ViewFrom what I read on the wiki, this annual event is a costume party for a subdivision of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Costume Institute (image from their web site, above). It appears to me to be less a charitable endeavor and more a patronage thing. As an objective thing, I have no problem with art museums raising money. The question, “Could the money not have been spent on the poor?” may resonate in some quarters, but I don’t see the arts and the poor as mutually exclusive. If I did, I might advocate even more strongly that a dollar spent on military parades is a dollar stolen from America’s veterans in need. Same tax-sliced budget there, after all. If critics are on that bandwagon and others advocating for other needy people, then I have less of a problem with their complaint on the Met Gala. Anybody can disagree on a matter of personal taste, after all.

That said, I wonder if the celebrities involved have enough information at hand to be mocking the Catholic Church. If this is a simple costume party on which you drop thousands for an outfit and then tens of thousands for a donation, I doubt people are really researching beyond the looks. And to be sure, Katy Perry didn’t sew feathers on her own angel wings. I suspect New York designers had constructed these dresses and props ahead of time, and the upper crust fashion-conscious just picked from what struck their fancy. Or what fit. Or maybe this kind of thing operates on a custom-designed thing and Rihanna was really out to stick it to the clericalists–I don’t know. If I were on the guest list, I might opt for a black suit, white shirt and Sacramentary-red tie.

It seems easy these days for people to go in search of an insult to self. That’s not to say we don’t also have a problem with boorish behavior. No question that’s happening from the US president on up. But most Catholics did not attend the Met Gala, had never heard of it before this week, and actually had to look at somebody else’s pictures to get mad about it.

My own view is that of the Angelic Doctor:

To bear with patience wrongs done to oneself is a mark of perfection, but to bear with patience wrongs done to someone else is a mark of imperfection and even of actual sin.

If people are going on regular crusades against internet gurus, politicians, celebrities, and other bullies to protest bad-mouthing other people, then perhaps they have a say if they feel actors, musicians, politicians, and an archbishop and pope have mocked them. Personally, I take Thomas’ view that if we perceive mockery, perhaps it is best to take the high road and wait to speak out when migrants, Black persons, victims of assault, Muslims, high school gun control advocates, and others are being subjected to fakery in the public discourse.



About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to Fashion: Inspiration or Mockery?

  1. Reede says:

    I find Father James Martin SJ more objectionable for attending, commenting and lending credibility to an intended mockery of the Catholic faith. Additionally, it is no coincidence that Fr. Martin was there. He has become the grand dame of Catholicism to the entertainment industry.

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