The themes of the Met Gala are inappropriate and reinforce stereotypes
In past years the Met Gala has come under fire for having themes that encourage cultural appropriation and sacrilegious costumes. Such themes and ensuing designs often reinforce negative and inaccurate stereotypes about cultures, people, or religions.
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The themes of the Met Gala are sometimes inappropriate and enforce erroneous and damaging stereotypes about the race, nation, or religion they are attempting to celebrate. In allowing open interpretations on others’ culture, the Met Gala opens the door to a plethora of distasteful appropriations that are broadcasted to the eager world-wide spectators. The first theme to come to mind for many with respect to cultural appropriation is likely 2015’s “China: Through the Looking Glass”. The theme was intended to celebrate how China has influenced Western fashion, but many critics argue that many outfits enforced incorrect and offensive stereotypes such as that of the “dragon lady”. Others were concerned with several Gala attendees’ choice to wear kimono-inspired gowns, which are traditionally Japanese. Another theme to come under fire recently is 2018’s theme, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”. Similar to 2015’s theme, “Heavenly Bodies” was intended to celebrate the rich Catholic history and culture of art and its interaction with fashion. However, many Catholics took issue with the theme and declared that their religion was not merely someone’s "costume". It is clear that some of the themes are problematic and wholly distasteful. The blatant appropriation of races and cultures without regard for its implications is ultimately harmful to society as historic and outdated stereotypes are upheld and reinforced.
While some themes for the Met Gala may be occasionally questionable, this is somewhat of a rarity and certainly not the norm. The theme of the Met Gala itself is not inherently distasteful. It is the job and challenge of the various designers to create ensembles that reflect the theme, while avoiding entrapping themselves in stereotypes or cliches. The themes are also not chosen without thought for cultural or societal implications. For example, for the Heavenly Bodies theme, the Met Gala board worked first to gain the Vatican's approval for the theme. In addition to giving approval, the Vatican also donated upwards of forty artifacts for the Costume Institute's exhibition.