Muse Reporting on popular and fine arts

Indecent exposure

Entertainment | Amid growing concern over appropriation, the Met Gala usurps religious icons
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 5/11/18, 01:50 pm

The red carpet fashion at New York’s annual Met Gala usually raises eyebrows with avant garde edginess, but the religious imagery used in some of this year’s ensembles raised tempers, too.

The annual event, held Monday night, benefitted the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. This year’s Met Gala theme, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” came from the museum exhibit of the same name that features Catholic vestments and religious-themed fashion. Some of the outfits worn to the gala, like Rihanna’s jeweled mitre and minidress, incorporated exclusively Catholic artifacts. Others, such as Sarah Jessica Parker’s nativity scene headpiece, included symbols used by Protestant religions, as well. The scene evoked anger from Catholics and Protestants on Twitter and inspired the hashtag #MyReligionIsNotYourCostume.

“I’m not #Catholic but as a #Christian the #MetGala’s theme is extremely distasteful,” user @MarzKij00 wrote. “These symbols represent something sacred and they made it trashy.” Singer Jennifer Lopez wore a dress with a glitzy cross emblazoned on the chest, and actress Anne Hathaway put wooden skewers in her hair, recalling Jesus’ crown of thorns.

“Disgusted and offended as a Catholic that my religion was used for some superficial theatric,” Twitter user @ajstarheel wrote. Another user, @lexlove94, called the costumes “Religious appropriation. There’s honoring and celebrating and then there’s disrespect and mocking.”

Appropriation, especially the cultural kind, has become a black label on social media. Utah high schooler Keziah Daum caused a frenzy when photos of her wearing a Chinese qipao to prom went viral. Daum wanted something with a conservative neckline and found the red dress at a vintage clothing store in Salt Lake City, she told the Deseret News. She received thousands of comments accusing her of appropriating Chinese culture, but just as many supporting her choice of prom wear. One commenter wrote: “I am a Chinese, and I thank you for choosing our culture for your big day. Beautifully presented! I love it!” the Deseret News reported.

Social media users and even academics vary widely on what constitutes cultural appropriation. A non-Hispanic family serving chips and salsa at a barbecue probably isn’t. A white person dressing up in blackface for a minstrel show definitely is. But in other cases, like the Chinese prom dress, what’s belittling to one member of the culture can be empowering to another.

Catholic church leadership defended the Met Gala. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, attended the event and told Crux afterward not only did he find it unoffensive, but he also thought the public exposure was good for the Roman Catholic Church.

“I was really happy to have been there. If this helps people rediscover those roots, then, hallelujah, it’s a winner,” Dolan said.

The Apostle Paul, whose mission work spanned numerous ancient cultures, tells believers to participate in the traditions of others when invited, but not to make an idol of them nor engage in them in a way that would offend someone else’s conscience (1 Corinthians 10). Christians should also be quick to forgive, Paul said—good advice in an increasingly multicultural society where faux pas are inevitable (Colossians 3:13).

Associated Press/Photo by Frank Micelotta/Invision Associated Press/Photo by Frank Micelotta/Invision R. Kelly performs onstage at the BET Awards at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

A positive step from a fearsome policy

Spotify has removed singer R. Kelly’s music from its playlists and promotions, citing a new policy about hate content and hateful conduct. The music streaming service took the action after a report by The Washington Post earlier this week that compiled accusations against Kelly of abuse and dating underage girls. The claims go back decades. Spotify will keep Kelly’s music in its catalogue but not include it in any of the curated playlists it offers users. The streaming service recently adopted the policy of not allowing content that “promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics, including, race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability. … When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful (for example, violence against children and sexual violence), it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.” The streaming service’s move against Kelly comes after years of music industry executives turning a blind eye to the singer’s documented misbehavior. But watch for the policy also to turn into a two-edged sword to censor Christian music. In drafting the policy, Spotify said it partnered with groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which actively works to punish faith-based groups for holding Biblical views on sex and marriage. —L.L.

Associated Press/Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision Associated Press/Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision Actress Cate Blanchett poses for photographers at the Cannes Film Festival.

Yes we Cannes

Organizers of the Cannes Film Festival say they are working to promote women’s safety and equality at the event where Harvey Weinstein used to be a high-profile regular. The festival, which opened Tuesday, has established a hotline for sexual harassment victims. Cannes also committed to having more women on its selection committees and providing child care for mothers. Actress Cate Blanchett leads the Cannes jury this year and said Tuesday she wants to see lasting change in the movie industry, even though the #MeToo movement might not have a direct effect on this year’s competition. “There are several women in competition. But they’re not there because of their gender,” the Australian actress said. “They are there because of the quality of their work. We will assess them as filmmakers, as we should.” —L.L.

Now showing

The National Bible Bee is airing Tuesday evenings on Facebook Live. The 50-minute episodes show children reciting long Scripture passages from memory and answering questions about the Bible. Jason and David Benham, who lost their show on HGTV because of their faith, host the Bible Bee with former winner Hannah Leary. —L.L.

Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital assistant editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  • Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Sun, 05/13/2018 11:54 am

    We Christ-followers need to focus more on following Christ than complaining about ridiculous fashion statements. God can take care of Himself, thank you very much. Besides, maybe He orchestrated this in order to draw attention to Himself.  ("Poppycock," you say? Look at all the wierd ways in history and in your own life that He accomplishes His purposes!)

  • HenryC
    Posted: Mon, 05/14/2018 01:29 pm

    It is not appropriation that is the problem, it is misapporpriation and misuse that is the problem.

  • Bob C
    Posted: Tue, 05/15/2018 02:10 pm

    I agree that God is not offended. These symbols were created by humans to honor to God. The misuse age is more of a disrespect to the makers of symbols, than to God.  Perhaps God would wish for believers to reach out to these celebrities to understand their motivations and then share the Love of Jesus. They are obviously in desperate need of that love.