- Celebrities 'walked the walk' at the 2018 Annual Met Gala
- Some of the U.S.' 'wokest' stars appeared on the red carpet
- But more ought to question why they have been given the platform to be publicly 'woke'
- 'Wokeness' and celebrity-propagation don't seem to mix well
The day before America’s most beloved celebrities slow-walked past cameras at the Met’s Annual Gala, Childish Gambino dropped a heartstopping video.
“This is America,” Gambino states bluntly, behind rioters setting fires and attacking one another. Between ironically dancing with a faux-smile and gunning down a black choir, Gambino wants to remind us just how violent and schizophrenic America can be toward minority groups.
Strange then, to see celebrities dolled up in the most expensive outfits being showcased in one of the most segregated cities in the nation, showing off their status as visible brands.
In a time where being ‘woke’ is in, and there’s a race to the top for celebrities to prove that they are aware of just how divided and segregated America still is, those who stunted at the Met Gala have inadvertently shown the limits of their dedication to that type of thinking.
In fact, their outfits, harkening to Catholic, Renaissance aesthetics, looked a lot the kind of costumes worn by citizens of District 1 in The Hunger Games universe—a style meant to expose how out-of-touch they were with the rest of the nation.
For his part, Childish Gambino AKA Donald Glover wore an understated suit, made by Gucci.
(New York Times Fashion Instagram)
Art and design can be cool, fun and even revolutionary. Jeans were partially responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union.
But the outfits adorned on the Met’s red carpet resembled a kind of obscene rejection of ‘wokeness’ in place of a faithful tribute to all things shiny and expensive. The status of being a brand ambassador appears to have overridden the importance of using their public platforms to question power and pressure for equality.
This is nothing new either; celebrities’ choices of consumption should never be confused for revolutionary acts, since they are quite literally buying into and advertising a stratified system of branding and class difference.
Nonetheless, it was still disappointing to see the likes of Rihanna, Chadwick Boseman of Black Panther fame, Amal Clooney and even Donald Glover enacting a ritual of outlandish self-congratulatory worship before a fawning audience.
Still, it is not merely that they are celebrities and trusted public figures and that it is a crime to also be self-promoters. The real crime lies in entrusting these figures wholly in the first place to be simultaneously the public faces of the struggle for equality and also the most loyal to it.
Though some of the outfits at the Gala were undeniably dope (Looking at you, Migos tuxedos), their similarity to a Hunger Games-esque dystopia should not be lost on those, who have followed all the rules, and will still never be able to buy a Versace tunic or a Louis Vuitton dress.
Counter-intuitively enough, Kanye West has been more forthcoming about his alliance with the counter-revolution. After years of flirting with Republican politics and talking-up Trump as a friend, he came out on Twitter with a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat, telling followers that he and Trump share ‘dragon energy.’
The horror of such a spectacle lies not in the fact that Kanye picked ‘the wrong team’ and sided with the ‘bad guys.’ It is that he, a millionaire whose raps and beats and not his deeply moving thoughts or politics, gave him the platform that he is now using to promote Trumpism and disavow the history of slavery as a ‘choice’ for Black people.
People mistakenly entrusted him with that platform, giving an unreliable source the status of a reliable ally. It’s one thing to be upset that Kanye seemingly went back on ‘wokeness’ but it’s another to question why Kanye was entrusted with that platform.
The same is happening at the Met Gala, just more insidiously so. The celebrities are doing what they have done and will likely always do: perpetuate celebrity and reify their status as such in a highly publicized, ceremonial event. This happens at the Oscars, the Grammy's, the BAFTAs, film premieres and so on.
(Vogue Magazine's Instagram)
Kanye is openly counter-revolutionary and reactionary and thus an easy target for outrage.
Celebrities like Boseman are showing that black people too can be superheroes. This does much good for troubled America, giving millions of children who are otherwise culturally underrepresented, a figure towards which they can aspire.
Rihanna has become synonymous with the power of the single, independent female who won’t apologize for any aspect of her identity.
This isn’t a call for celebrities to be purists, or those who seek for a more equal world to outrightly reject anyone who seems to have slightly different priorities from them: it is self-evidently important that building coalitions with public figures and compromising with other movements helps a broader movement gel together.
This is simply to say that the celebrities cat-walking at the Gala should not be solely relied on; they should not induce a complacency in the face of terror and racial or class violence.
For a night, their District 1 colors showed. Though they may have dressed as angels and saints, celebrities are not our saviors.
Their outfits, terrifying and flashy, should be seen as aesthetic extensions of their power; fancy, deliberately inaccessible and ‘exclusive’ brand names included.
© 2000 - 2019 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)