The thing about that most well-chronicled of American pop traditions, the Met Gala, or the Met Ball, is I used to write about it on my Movie Martin blog, filing under “Fashion” because, in my estimation, the soirée was and remains a fashion event about fashion. It exists for fashion, in the service of fashion, because of fashion, and celebrates nothing but fashion.
And what is fashion if not history. Fashion is culture.
A year ago today, when I last thought about the Met Gala (the fête usually takes place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on the first Monday of May), it kinda struck me how the entire media construct around the exclusive shindig – the whole thing, really – seemed to have gotten a bit out of control. I wondered if, perhaps, the party had gotten too big for its own britches and like, gone on for far too long, in a way. I remember thinking this hootenanny is one expensive fundraiser, and such a bucket-list item for so many people.
It is a cultural milestone, alright, considering the setting and the purpose of the gathering; tonight, the Met was to unveil its latest Costume Institute exhibit, “About Time: Fashion and Duration.” (As of now, the show is rescheduled to open on Oct. 29 and run through the fall and into next winter.) But anyone who avidly discovered the good, bad, and ugly of social media while watching The CW’s Gossip Girl and Blake Lively’s rise on the Met red carpet will attest, tonight was about getting your ticket punched.
For pre-pandemic marketing thinking purposes, tonight was about feeding the beast, about the brand (whomever’s), and about growing it. About visibility and clicks. About later tonight gagging over pics of starletbots in restrooms usually reserved for the rest of us, being rich, feeling rich, and living rich. And about FOMO, but discreet FOMO because it’s 2020 and there is an election in November….
Whereas fashion is about expression and cultural reflection, as of late the Met Gala had become about (garish) branding – that is, until last year. Credit where credit is due, our communal fascination with the affair, indeed, has been of benefit, even essential, to the preservation and celebration of our culture but also of detriment. The excess of it all had been wearing as a bad look, and yet the cycle was only barreling forward, faster and more furious than ever. Had COVID-19 not spectacularly crashed the scene this season, it woulda been more of the same. I mean, so much money spent on lavish nights such as this one, for a few, to be coveted by others, when so many down the street and around the world go without. It’s downright barbaric and sorta very fucked up.
There may not have been a Met Gala this year, but I reckon it stopped being a ball long before 2019.
Good thing re-invention is in at the moment. It’s the new rage, and it’s not about the brand but about the life.