I am displeased with the Met Gala’s “Punk: Chaos to Couture” theme, but I’m having a hard time pinpointing why. However, because I’m pretty sure I am not alone on this front, and because we have spotted other blogs putting up photos of Gary Oldman playing Sid Vicious without realizing that it’s Gary Oldman in costume, I think it is probably a good idea to examine why this theme is stupid and out of touch.
Full disclosure: I do not know much about punk. I dated a guy when I was 15 who was really into Minor Threat and Agnostic Front; other than that, the closest thing I got to listening to punk on a regular basis was my mix CD of Against Me! and The Misfits that my mom and I played on the way home from school each day. I wear a lot of makeup and have been dyeing my hair unnatural colors for over a decade and have a fair amount of body modifications, but I also love men who shop at Brooks Brothers and I regularly get mani/pedis (which I refer to as “mani/pedis”). To answer nobody’s question, no, I am not particularly cool, and no, I would not consider myself “punk” or any other genre of counterculture, mostly because I’m kind of boring in all actuality.
Nevertheless, I always had at least some vague idea of what “punk” was, as well as what it wasn’t. Despite my very limited knowledge and even more limited experience, I can say with fairly strong conviction that the Met Gala is not punk.
When major designers “take inspiration from” (i.e. copy, oftentimes) countercultures, however old and “dead” those countercultures may be, it’s typically rather late and tends to not be taken seriously. Lately, the counterculture all the trendiest trendmakers would like to absorb and reproduce with $3,000 price tags is punk. It has happened before, it will happen again, but it is nevertheless still rather obnoxious to see.
The adoption of punk elements into mainstream culture is nothing new, nor is it shocking (Miley Cyrus did it literally last week), but it is ridiculous in some instances. The Met Gala is an evening when rich, famous, attractive people spend thousands of dollars to look more rich, famous and attractive while hundreds of cameras take their photos, which will end up on the covers of magazines, on the front ends of blogs and in the pages of society trackers.
I have no qualms with this as a concept. Is it silly? Yes, but then, I think most things involving red carpet events are silly. (Seriously, it’s really different to watch a life feed of those things — you realize there’s loud cars on freeways nearby and ugly parking lots all around while these people silently stare into hoards of paparazzi while slowly posing. It’s really odd.) However, the themes are usually more…uh, appropriate? Applicable? Some examples:
- Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
- American Women: Fashioning A National Identity
- The Model As A Muse
- Poiret: King of Fashion
- The House Of Chanel
Many of these are eye roll-worthy, sure, but they all sort of fit in with the real theme: Look At How Important And Hot We All Are.
Punk doesn’t really fit into that, though as with many cultural waves, there was plenty of one-uppage and self-importance in punk, too. People tried to get ahead of one another, outdo each other and go further away from the mainstream by — all of which are activities regularly performed by celebrities, societally “significant” people and other folks who are likely to attend the Met Gala.
So why does punk seem like such a far cry from the Met Gala? Well, the ticket costs $25,000, for one thing. Being that I am presently $23,000 in debt due to student loans despite working full-time throughout the majority of college, I am ever-so-slightly resentful at the idea that any event ever should be $25k. Of course, it goes to a “good cause,” but let’s be honest: most of these guests wouldn’t pay that kind of money if the phrase “anybody who’s anybody will be there” wasn’t uttered in front of them at some vapid point in their lives.
To hear that “boutique owners and high-end vintage purveyors” are getting requests for stuff that is “on-theme but will still earn them an approving nod from Anna Wintour.” I have a feeling that neither Joan Jett nor Johnny Rotten would have, at any point, called a boutique on their way to a show to request an outfit that is “on-theme” but would still be given a gold star by the editor-in-chief of Vogue.
There was a decided disdain for the type of people who would be willing to spend the down payment of a house on one ticket to one event where everybody drinks $500 champagne and smiles giant, Veneered grins for cameras (insert jerking off hand motion here). There weren’t gossip mag paparazzi, there wasn’t bottle service and nobody wore Versace dresses held together by safety pins. They just wore safety pins. In their skin. (I don’t recommend this, but then, I also don’t recommend wearing Versace dresses held together by them, either.) The punk scene was created partially in opposition to that type of monetary showmanship; the Met Gala epitomizes it.
So will anybody be considered “truly punk” at the Met Gala? Doubtful, at best, but more likely a resounding “absolutely not.” Except Debbie Harry, who is apparently going with Tommy Hilfiger.
Oh, and for the record:
Photos: Sid & Nancy.