Details about the 2015 Costume Institute Gala have been released and boy will this be a precarious one. Jennifer Lawrence will co-chair the event, which is fun—keeping things young! Lawrence is joined by Anna Wintour, obviously, Gong Li, Marissa Mayer and Wendi Murdoch. At first glance, I'm happy with those names. Diversity in the building y'all! However, all my optimism comes to a screeching halt with the gala's theme: "Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East in Art, Film and Fashion."
The Met's Department of Asian Art is celebrating its 100th anniversary and the ball will partially take place in the Chinese Galleries. I'm excited by the idea of Chinese fashion designers getting some shine on a huge platform, but I have little to no faith that this won't turn into one big appropriation and cultural insensitivity parade.
Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton explains the story behind the theme to Women's Wear Daily:
"The basic idea is the influence of Chinese aesthetics on designers, but I also wanted to convey how costumes and decorative arts crystallize centuries of cultural interchanges between the East and the West. They speak to an ongoing fascination of enigmatic objects and motifs. They are infused with fantasy and nostalgia and romance, and what often is created is a virtual China, a mixing of these anachronistic styles, which results in this pastiche. What is interesting is how complicit China has been in forming those fantasies."
Eeesch. The fact that the core idea behind the theme is how Chinese aesthetics have influenced other designers is troubling because that influence is often culturally insensitive or downright racist. There is, of course, a way to honor other cultures without appropriating them, but many people Hollywood—or really, any world rooted in elitism—have already proven that they don't know how to do that very well.
Also, all this talk about the "East" is bullshit. Do they mean China or do they mean all of Asia? Obviously they just mean China, but boiling down an entire region to one just country—albeit a massive one— is dismissive.
Guys, I just see a whole lot of celebrities fucking this one up. The Met Gala has a theme every year and a lot of guests don't even bother addressing it, which is what I assume the smart ones will do in 2015. The other smart ones will likely honor the theme by wearing Chinese designers while resisting the urge to put chopsticks in their hair.
But I'm sure more than one person will roll up in a Japanese kimono and you already know someone is going to cite Mulan as their creative inspiration.
Then there will be those who make a living off of cultural appropriation. I would bet the whole farm that Katy Perry is going to do something stupid, again. Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Lily Allen worry me as well. And while I doubt she would ever be invited, we must keep Avril Lavigne as far away from this event as possible.
I simply do not trust the majority of Met Gala attendees to handle this theme with tact and respect, but I really do hope they prove me wrong. For the love of God please prove me wrong.
Image via AP.