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Why Celebrity Culture Keeps Trying to Make Catholicism Sexy

The first Monday in May—at least in the world of Hollywood fandom—might as well be a national holiday: the Met Gala. This annual event is meant to showcase the best that the world of celebrity has to offer by way of extravagant costumes and a stunning red carpet for the masses to drool over. Hell, it even has its own nickname: Fashion Prom.

With previous themes like punk and the work of legendary avant garde designer Rei Kawakubo, you’d assume that the annual costume showcase hosted at a museum would lean heavily on the worlds of fashion and art to come up with themes, but some years the organizers take a detour through general history.

The 2018 theme went after a currently less-popular, though historically very fashion-forward look with “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” which essentially turned into a high fashion rendering of Madonna’s iconic 1980s looks. But in 2018, the year of someone’s lord, we’ve got to ask, why is celebrity culture still so obsessed with Catholicism?

Aside from the fact that a religion shouldn’t be anyone’s costume, the idea that the Hollywood elite should gain fashion inspiration from probably the most historically problematic hierarchy rooted in mass genocide, sexism, racism and homophobia should go the way of the colonialism the church was built on. It’s not a good look.

While some of the stars on the red carpet took the theme and ran with it in a cheeky way (Lena Waithe’s gloriously gay rainbow cape, we’re looking at you), most of the celebs just took inspiration from iconic Catholic art, like halos, golden chalices, Renaissance embroidery, bejeweled crowns and the like. But the very inspiration for this fashion comes from the Catholic Church’s vast coffers, which were obtained by exploiting masses of non-white people the church denigrated the world over in order to gain its endless wealth and power.

What started as a way to subvert the Church’s control by way of hypersexualizing giant crosses and opulent fabrics has become stale and dated.

And lest you think that the Church made its billions hundreds of years ago, think again—last year, the Catholic Church publicly apologized for the role it played in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. And a few weeks ago, the Canadian government petitioned the Vatican to apologize for its building of “residential schools” in that country, a system of forced assimilation and kidnapping that still affects Indigenous families today. The Church refused and continues to refuse the request.

Besides conquests for wealth and human control, the Catholic Church also actively works to stop women from obtaining legal and safe abortions in countries around the world—including our own. In fact, the Church’s last pope (Benedict) decreed that war was less evil than abortion. Yep, that’s right. The Catholic Church believes that a potentially life-saving medical intervention designed specifically to help women is more damaging to humanity than war. And let’s not get started on the Vatican’s rampant and deadly homophobia.

What started as a way to subvert the Church’s control by way of hypersexualizing giant crosses and opulent fabrics has become stale and dated fashion-wise. And while the Church continues to uphold traditions that are quite harmful and even life-endangering for people around the world, the looks have become tired and done to death. Just plot the course from Madge’s then-shocking “Like a Prayer” looks to Gaga’s overdone “Judas”).

Of course, the Met Gala, just like any other superficial celebrity event, isn’t meant to change the world, but the continuing fetishization of a violent legacy shows that American celebrities will continue to sell the romanticized ideals of grandeur that the Catholic Church created and upheld throughout the world, regardless of the real cost to human lives. But go ahead, take that genocide and make it fashion.

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