An avalanche of similarly repugnant imagery poured forth on Monday night at the most gluttonous and opulent royal court spectacle of them all: the annual Met Gala held by long-time Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Town and Country has lamented that the once-elevated-and-dignified event has become quite gauche ever since it became overrun by cultural celebrities and nouveau riche tycoons -- “these days, the gala is a highly commercialized, celebrity-driven media circus that celebrates sensationalist preening by individuals who couldn’t be less interested in the museum.” Yet despite this degradation, the magazine nonetheless still regards the affair as “the fashion and society event of the year.” In 2014, Wintour complained that the event was insufficiently exclusive and raised the ticket prices to $25,000 per person in order to keep out the riff-raff who had been able to get in the prior year for the middling price of $15,000 per ticket. Tickets this year cost as much as $35,000 per person. It is, pronounced Wintour's Vogue this week, “the fashion world equivalent of the Oscars.”
While event organizers, in an act of noble self-sacrifice and social duty, sadly cancelled the gala in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wintour was determined this year not to let unpleasant matters like overflowing ICU wards, ongoing school closures, looming mass evictions, and pervasive mask mandates ruin the immense enjoyment bequeathed to the world's serfs as they watch their beloved bejeweled class pose in designer gowns. Following Pelosi and Obama's examples, a long list of America's most glittering stars bravely risked exposure to a deadly virus by appearing without masks, all to ensure that Americans would never again be deprived of such a richly gratifying moment for them. Co-chaired by Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Amanda Gorman, and Naomi Osaka, honorary chairs included Tom Ford, Instagram’s Adam Mosseri, and Wintour herself.
Much of the attention on Monday night was devoted to the appearance on the red carpet by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). The usual horde of embittered online nay-sayers and envious party-poopers tried implying that there was something incongruous about a socialist politician gleefully participating in the most vulgar tribute to capitalism and social inequality to emerge since the walled-off galas thrown by the French aristocracy at the Palace of Versailles. Some petty, resentful critics even suggested that AOC's latest star turn somehow illustrated what Shant Mesrobian has disparagingly described as “the Squad’s brand of highly educated, professional-class cultural leftism,” which "now offers elected officials a path to fame and pop culture status that circumvents much of the old, hand-dirtying business of politics,” pursuant to which "elected office itself has become merely a stepping stone to social media celebrity” and “maintaining a social media influencer empire rivals, or even surpasses, the priority of being a successful legislator."
Fortunately, many of AOC's most devoted socialist supporters stepped forth with passionate defenses of their leader. As they pointed out, AOC had painted onto the back of her pristine white gown — in perfectly proportioned and tastefully scrolled red ink highlighting the stunning virtues of the designer dress' silhouette -- a leftist phrase, Tax the Rich, that not only assaulted the Biden-supporting liberal celebrities in attendance but made them feel endangered in their own habitat, as if their wealth and privilege were being imperiled not from afar but from one of their own, from within. Far from being what AOC's dirty and petty critics tried to malign this as being — an attention-seeking, celebrity-building, branding opportunity in which AOC yet again lavished herself in the multi-pronged rewards of the very economic and cultural hierarchies she claims to despise and vows to combat -- she was actually engaged in a revolutionary and subversive act, injecting into aristocratic circles a beautifully artistic yet hostile message.
This was not, contrary to the grievances of her small-minded and jealous critics, AOC reveling in one of Louis XVI's court festivities. Instead, she was storming the Bastille: not with weapons or fire but with the graceful designer elegance of the insurgent Marxist renegade, which made her presence all the more deceptively disruptive. While it may have appeared that Vogue's perfectly-coiffed red-carpet correspondents and other Met luminaries were gushing with admiration and awe at her bold fashion statement, they were actually shaking with fear over what AOC had wrought. They were quivering with rage and fear, not swooning with delight as it appeared.
Besides, as AOC herself put it with her trademarked class consciousness, the very fact that she can attend the Met Gala while you cannot is proof of the potency of the left-wing movement she leads. Standing next to Aurora James, the designer of her dress, AOC revealed the underlying clandestine strategy of her subversive attendance: “We really started having a conversation about what it means to be a working class woman of color at the Met ... we can’t just play along, but we need to break the fourth wall.”
The Recount @therecount
@IAMFASHlON “We really started having a conversation about what it means to be a working class woman of color at the Met ... we can’t just play along, but we need to break the fourth wall.” — AOC at #MetGala
September 14th 2021
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In a separate exposition, AOC explained that her appearance at the Met Gala was such a watershed moment for working-class politics because it is vital that she not be confined to dreary poor and lower-middle class venues when spreading her fist-raising rebellion. Instead, she must endure the burden of carrying her cause to the world's richest and most privileged elite and the exclusive salons they occupy. Imagine being so unimaginative and myopic as to be unable to recognize and be grateful for AOC's inventive praxis.
The jealousy-driven attacks on AOC by her cultural inferiors were almost certainly driven by various forms of white supremacy, misogyny and colonialism, as AOC said of those who criticized her in 2018 for wearing an expensive designer dress (“women like me aren’t supposed to run for office”) as well as when she denounced the dismissive and condescending attitudes toward the Squad from Nancy Pelosi (“Nancy Pelosi has been ‘singling out’ freshman congresswomen of color”). Worse, Monday night's traumatic bullying of AOC obscured the far more important fact that, yet again, we saw elites prancing around in the middle of a pandemic maskless, while those paid hourly wages to serve them or desperately try to snap a photo of them were required to keep their pointless faces covered with cloth at all times.
Jennifer Hudson, maskless, attends The 2021 Met Gala, attended to by masked servants, on September 13, 2021 in New York City, as masked paparazzi look on (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
COVID rules are now so convoluted that liberals are able to defend their leaders’ actions while not even pretending to make sense from a scientific or rational perspective. Many defended Newsom and Obama's maskless partying on the ground that it was all “outdoors,” even though both were actually inside tents and people had been shamed for months for taking their kids to deserted beaches rather than keeping them locked away at home. Liberals argue that it is fine for elites at Obama's party and the Met Gala to remain maskless since they are vaccinated, even as they defend the CDC's new mask directives for vaccinated people based on the view that vaccinated people still dangerously transmit the Delta variant to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike. They will claim that it is fine for rich Democratic donors at Pelosi's party to sit on top of one other maskless because they are eating even though the video shows they have no food in front of them (they are waiting for the masked servants of color to bring their food) and even though shoveling food into one's open mouth does not actually create a wall of immunity against transmission of the virus from one's open-mouthed table neighbors. The Met Gala's red carpet is said to be “outdoors” even though it is surrounded by tent walls and other structures, and still leaving the question of why workers need to be masked in the same area.
But all of this stopped being about The Science™ long ago — ever since months of relentless messaging that it is our moral duty to Stay At Home unless we want to sociopathically kill Grandma was replaced overnight by dictates that we had a moral duty to leave our homes to attend densely packed street protests since the racism being protested was a more severe threat to the public health than the global COVID pandemic. One can locate in all of this jumbled and always-shifting rationale various forms of control, shaming, stigma and hierarchy, while The Science™ is nowhere to be found.
Maskless stars Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes attend the 2021 Met Gala while masked paparazzi look on, on September 13, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/GC Images)
Even with all of this deceit and manipulation, there is something uniquely disturbing — creepy even — about becoming accustomed to seeing political and cultural elites wallowing in luxury without masks, while those paid small wages to serve them in various ways are forced to keep cloth over their faces. It is a powerful symbol of the growing rot at the core of America's cultural and social balkanization: a maskless elite attended to by a permanently faceless servant class. The country's workers have long been faceless in a figurative sense, and now, thanks to extremely selective application of decisively unscientific COVID restrictions, that condition has become literal.