Why Was This Met Gala Different From the Rest? (Hint: It Has Nothing to Do with Fashion) | Savoir Flair
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Why Was This Met Gala Different From the Rest? (Hint: It Has Nothing to Do with Fashion)
article PRO-PALESTINIAN PROTESTS ERUPT OUTSIDE OF THE MET GALA | GETTY IMAGES
by Grace Gordon 6-minute read May 9, 2024

Are we entering a post-celebrity society?

article @COLUMBIABDS

This week saw the annual “Superbowl of Fashion,” a.k.a. the Met Gala, return for the 50th time since it was first conceived in 1973. But this time, things were very different. This time, the Met Gala coincided with Israel’s first day of assault on Rafah, the last remaining refuge in the Gaza Strip, the place where Israel has continually demanded the innocent civilians of Gaza to evacuate to. In fact, it seems that Israel had intentionally corralled the remaining population in one tiny, suffocating, blockaded area so that it would make annihilation easier. Because that’s what Israel is doing: annihilating the Palestinian people.

If you were on social media on the First Monday in May, you no doubt bore witness to an endless stream of catastrophic suffering juxtaposed against images and videos of billionaires and celebrities in gowns attending a gala affair. “It’s giving The Capitol in Hunger Games,” one X user observed. 

LIONSGATE

Previous Met Galas have also occurred during other devastating geopolitical events. Last year’s Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty gala unfolded as Sudan faced a horrifying outbreak of civil war, 2022’s In America: An Anthology of Fashion gala happened against the backdrop of the US Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, 2021’s In America: A Lexicon of Fashion gala transpired as the Taliban overtook Afghanistan, 2020’s event was skipped because of a global pandemic, and 2019’s Camp: Notes on Fashion took place as Robert Mueller prepared to testify before Congress about the corruption of the Trump administration. You can return to any year and find something terrible happening in the world, but nothing has ever been as bleak as the current genocide we are seeing in Palestine.

Not only was this year’s Met Gala staged against a dystopian scene of unceasing human suffering, but it also happened as peaceful Pro-Palestinian student protests swept the globe. An extension of those protests reached near the Met Gala on the day of the event, with thousands taking to the streets at a peak moment of media visibility to demand justice for Palestine. 

These worldwide protests have been met with police violence, as blind and deaf administrations refused to hear the student's reasonable demands for divestment. Everywhere you look on social media, it’s police brutality, torture, slaying, bombings, unjust violence, and innocent bodies being blown apart. That the Met Gala appeared tone-deaf by comparison is the understatement of the year. 

Millions around the world have marched in protest against the genocide of the Palestinian people, while the UN and world governments have, at best, sat idly by and, at worst, funded the genocide and supplied its weapons. It truly is the stuff of Hunger Games, writ large. But, this week, a new form of protest has appeared on social media. With the accompanying hashtag #Blockout2024, huge numbers of users are urging others to “divest” celebrities of their power by not just unfollowing them but fully blocking them and their businesses so that they can no longer make ad revenue. 

article @THECITIZENRAJA

What set all of this in motion? A popular TikTok user, @haleyybaylee, stoked ire by appearing at the Met Gala dressed as Marie Antoinette and declaring to the camera, “Let them eat cake.” The moment has backfired on her tremendously. One user on TikTok, @ladyfromtheoutside, addressed the matter by creating a movement she dubbed a “digital guillotine” or “digitine.” Her video was addressed directly to @haleyybaylee. “We gave them their platforms. It’s time to take it back — take our views away, our likes, our comments, our money, by blocking them on all digital media and platforms. And I think the first person we should all focus on is Haley here,” she said. She concluded by "sentencing [Haley] to the digitine."

Other users have started creating daily block lists, targeting specific celebrities, and urging their followers to disengage with them en masse. Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Hailey Bieber, Drake, Tom Brady, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, and other mega-celebrities who have remained silent on Palestine are popular targets, but the movement is growing by the minute. Like Marie Antoinette, whose excessive spending plunged the French economy into despair, causing mass starvation (to which she famously responded, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!), there is no hiding from the coming mob.

Ironically, the Met Gala’s theme, The Garden of Time, spoke directly to this movement. Based on a short story by J.G. Ballard, the theme picks up on nuances like class inequality, the death of the aristocracy, and the ensuing inevitability of social unrest. In the short story, the wealthy Count Axel and his wife live in a grand Palladian villa surrounded by an enormous terrace and garden. As Count Axel strolls his estate one evening, he spies in the distance a “vast confused throng of people, men and women, interspersed with a few soldiers in ragged uniforms, pressing forward in a disorganized tide.” They are the proletariat, coming for the bourgeoisie living high above them in the villa. In order to stave off the angry horde, the Count and his wife pluck “time flowers” from their garden, which reverse time for a few days or a few hours, depending on how developed the buds of the flower are. But they do not have an infinite supply of flowers. Eventually, the flowers run out and the Count and his wife must face the inevitable. The mob reaches the villa and destroys everything in sight.

The celebrities who are the target of the #Blockout2024 movement are the ones who have remained silent in the face of genocide and whose enormous followings on social media — often numbering in the hundreds of millions — are exploited for their wallets whenever the celebrities have a new show or movie or brand to hawk. "We pay celebrity's salaries," one user on TikTok pointed out, "and we can stop whenever we want." As dissent in the world populace grows, as governments and world leaders continue to condone and fund a horrific genocide, as Palestinians are starving, ravaged, and murdered by a maniacal ethnostate, people are beginning to fight back with the few means they have at their disposal. What's amazing is that the movement coalesced in a matter of hours and is racing with such speed it's hard to keep up. No wonder America is trying so desperately to shut down TikTok.

For decades, society’s celebrity obsession has led to the slowing of consequences. We forgive them for their ignorance, their cruelty, and their narcissism so long as they entertain us. But what happens when a moment of reckoning arrives? One that demands that they speak up or forever lose their power? That moment of reckoning is upon us. The genocide of the Palestinian people has stripped celebrities of their perceived invincibility; they can no longer avoid the consequences of inaction. They can no longer swan around at $75,000-a-ticket events for fashion exhibitions and bear no consequences. They can no longer distract us with pretty dresses, films, clothing lines, and beauty brands. The world is on fire right now. Being silent is not an option. In an attention economy, the most effective way to send a message to out-of-touch celebrities is to take away the thing they want the most: our attention. 

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