My life is far removed from the realities of the New York Met Gala. Honestly, the event is beyond my comprehension. I’m not even sure what is the difference between a gala and a ball (Dress code? Passed hors d’oeuvres? Bieber wears his fancy sweatpants?) Currently, Netflix is streaming the documentary The First Monday in May. The documentary outlines all of the specifics that go into creating the fanciest night of the year. It is one part celebrity, one part fashion, one part cult fascination with Anna Wintour and one part charity. All the pieces are a necessary part of the puzzle that help a Kentuckian in Old Navy jeans understand a high fashion event in New York City.
One Part Celebrity:
In 2015, the theme of the gala was China: Through the Looking Glass. While the combination of Asian culture and Alice in Wonderland seems odd in the title, the collection’s goal is to show how Eastern Culture inspires the West. The show delicately toes the line between politics, stereotypes, respect and insults. Even the politics of which celebrities get invited and who sits where gets dicey. It is like one big game of wedding table seating chart chess. However, when the combination of celebrity and fashion combine, all of the turmoil is worth the transcendence that it creates.
The emphasis on transcendence, celebrity and fashion seems pretentious at first, but once the documentary shows spinning, slow-motion starlets, transcendence seems like the appropriate word choice. It’s lovely. No one, however, should miss the symbolism that as the celebrities enter the event space they are greeted by a huge Ming vase replica made of roses–beautiful, but so, so empty. The irony of that visual is transcending in a different way.
One Part Fashion:
The First Monday in May is quick to state that fashion is often dismissed as art because it is viewed as part of “the female domain.” The collection is undeniably art. Watching Andrew fuss with fluffing the train of a dress says something. It says the ideas are worth an intentional display. They are worth being fussed with. As they are prepareing the installations and all of the board members are vomitting out their opinions, someone says “seeing too much, is seeing nothing.” What’s implied is that seeing something, gives you a viewpoint or a idea that is new and meaningful to you. Good ideas should be presented clearly. This collection has a clear viewpoint and this collection speak volumes. The ideas are souveniers we get to keep forever.
One Part Cult Fascination:
Normal Americans know Anna Wintour as the inspiration for Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada. She is decisive, opinionated and awesome. Her opinions are as precise as the angle on Wintour’s signature haircut. As the documentary points out, if she were a man, she might be viewed differently. We will never know how she will be perceived in that alternate universe where she is known as “Mann-a” Wintour and frankly I don’t want to know. To me, she is perfect. She is known for merging low and high cultures together. For example, her constant accessory is a venti Starbucks cup. To her, Chanel suits can be paired with a Starbucks cup that can be purchased by any lowly person. She is an icon.
One Part Charity:
The ultimate goal of the ball is to raise money for the museum. The event can easily turn into a photo gallery of “who wore what.” The lofty ambitions of the gala get dragged into the gutter with all the mainstream celebrities. In the film, there is footage of Rihanna performing during the fundraiser. She sings “B**** better have my money.”
At the Met.
With fake machine gun noises.
Like “Brrap” “Brrap” “Brrap.”
It’s an odd choice for a China: Through the Looking Glass fundraiser. I truly hope China don’t adopt this “better have my money” philosophy as an anthem.
The whole event is this odd pairing. High Art and Low Culture. Chanel and Starbucks. Ming Vases and Justin Bieber. There is an element of hypocrisy that is laced throughout (i.e. spending lots of money to make tons of money.) As the celebrities enter the gorgeous walkway, The Rolling Stones’ “Undercover (Of The Night)” plays. Initially, the song is a jaunty tune. Jennifer Lawrence walks bow-legged up the stairs to avoid falling. Sarah Jessica Parker wears a questionable fashion accessory. It is all good fun. But, after a quick google search you realize that the song is about how all the young men have been “rounded up” and how you can smell the faint smell of “suicide.” It’s deceptively dark. It too is an odd pairing of whimsy and importance. “Undercover (Of The Night)” perfectly explains how this event is frivolous and necessary all at the same time.
Sometimes, December can be a season of artificial joy. Forced merriment, and the usage of the word “jolly” is at an all time high. Truthfully, when I powered up Netflix, I sought out the #1 culprit of this faux mirth–cheesy Christmas movies. I settled on Christmas Ranch. I hoped Christmas Ranch was about a woman who owns a failing hidden valley salad specialty diner. She didn’t. It was mainly about an angsty teen who uses horses to find the Christmas spirit. It was textbook artificial Christmas and it was too painful to watch. Instead, I settled on this documentary, which was an even better example of the Christmas spirit. There is so much joy to be found in watching people do what they love. There is so much joy when you get to share that love with other people. Anna Wintour is 2016’s Scrooge, who probably isn’t as evil as she has been made out to be. Back home in Kentucky, I feel like tiny Tim in my Old Navy jeans. I’ve witnessed the Christmas Spirit in an unexpected way and want to share it. God bless us, everyone!