Met Gala: Catholic Imagination Or Cultural Appropriation?

I love the Met Gala – I don’t understand fashion in the least, but I love it anyway. I love the drama that comes with it and also the opportunity to tear apart yet ANOTHER celebrity that doesn’t stick to the theme. And as this year’s theme was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” this was a perfect drama just waiting to play out.

This year as I was scrolling, I realised that people on the Internet were angry at something. Strange, right? That never happens. Anyway, there was a growing argument that the Met Gala theme for 2018 was a ‘cultural appropriation’ of the Catholic community, and some Christians took offense. It was argued that non-Catholics should not be wearing their religious symbols as they do not believe in it, or possibly might not even recognize its importance. Others took to Twitter to argue that if this was another religion – Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism – it would not be similarly used as a theme.


If the #metgala was themed after Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc. no one would hesitated call this cultural appropriation. My faith is not your fashion statement.

— Overly Excited (@Tay_Day3) May 8, 2018


If the met gala theme was based around any other religion, people would be crying cultural appropriation. Just sayin 

— Bāssá King Allen (@Debar_Graph) May 8, 2018



It is worth noting that this isn’t the first time that the Met Gala has come under fire for choosing a ‘cultural-appropriating’ theme with their 2015 entry of “China: Through the Looking Glass”. However the Pope did actually gave his blessings towards the Met Gala and also donated art towards the event.

Again, it should be noted that the ‘Catholic League’, which is a civil-rights organizations and fights for the anti-defamation of the Community, also did not feel the need to comment where they have in the past, commented in the past, calling Madonna a “witch” and questioning whether Nicki Minaj was “possessed”.

Comparing the outfits to ‘costumes’ is dismissing the value of what the Met Gala is all about. For a lot of us, it’s a cool night where we judge celebrities for their poor fashion choices but that is not only what it is. The intended purpose of the Met Gala is to celebrate art, debut the annual exhibition for the year, and most of all, to create a dialogue between fashion and art within the theme. We need to remember this, in the midst of all the fancy dresses.

There is weight under the argument that the outfits worn by celebrities cheapen the theme each year. It does reduce the theme to simple features, and often completely misses the history behind it. But some of the celebrities are Catholic, and understand the meaning behind what they’re wearing; if not, they’re more likely to be encouraged to learn about Catholicism thanks to the awareness raised. That is a real issue, and one that definitely deserves its own conversation. 

If the Met Gala was trying to create a dialogue between art and fashion, the Catholicism theme was a perfect choice. The religion has had a massive change in influencing art from nearly the beginning of time; nearly every ‘classic’ artwork, or the ones that would most likely be on display at the Met, will be in some way connected to Catholicism, or religion in general.

Opinions should always be heard and the Internet has its right to argue about anything under this blue sky that we live in (but is it actually green? Possibly one twitter user out there will think so), but we need to remember the context. This is an art exhibition with a dress code to tailor it to the theme - it’s quite literally celebrating the Catholic influence on art – and whilst these conversations remain important, we need to choose to have them when the situation calls for it.