The Met Gala is always a trick as a blogger, because you generally must set some of your normal aesthetic guidelines aside and view each ensemble through the lens of the theme. This year’s “China: Through The Looking Glass” framework is particularly challenging because it requires great care, tiptoeing through what is likely to be a minefield. The line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation is blurry at best, so even when intentions are good, execution can let down the soul of the art. The exhibit’s artistic director described this as an important time in the world’s evolution for cross-cultural conversation, and the display itself is being framed as a sort of East-meets-West discussion of the “perception” of China through art and fashion; the word in quotes suggests to me they are well aware of the potential offenses and are hoping to caveat them into non-controversy.
Ergo, I think we’ll all be fumbling a bit through discussion of this year’s gala, because we’re weighing so many different factors. Is a garment objectively beautiful, or objectively unflattering or unattractive? Is it in keeping with the theme? Is it trying to be, but slacking — or trying too hard, and veering offensive? Where do intention and ignorance collide? Sometimes it’s obvious, but others, it’s hard to know what someone from another culture will see as stepping too close to, or over, the line. If we just all agree to come at this with sterling intentions of our own, and open minds to whatever dialogue it sparks, then I think we’ll be fine.
However, we can all agree on one thing:
And that is: By ANY measure, this is a tortured hodge-podge — a slash to the fugular vein, which is leaking muddled ideas all over the rug. Me? I would have punted on the theme. Or worn a large coat.