The Met Gala is known as the fashion event of the year, where celebrities and the very rich don elaborate, interesting (or sometimes very bad) outfits. Whilst it’s all good fun to judge people’s outfits whilst splayed across your sofa in sweatpants, and the quality of memes we get from it every year is exceptional, it seems to be becoming an event where more and more attendees are using it as an opportunity to make political statements, rather than just fashion ones.
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Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did just that, wearing a fitted white gown which from the front looked very normal, but on the back was emblazoned with the words “Tax the Rich”. AOC is a politician who’s routinely called for wealth redistribution, and higher taxes on the very wealthy and big corporations, as well as supporting social justice in general.
She’s already come under fire for this act being “performative” or hypocritical, while others have praised her for adding a meaningful message to the event. Whatever people’s views, it’s clear that there is a “celebritisation” of politics- where the lines between celebrity and politics are becoming blurred.
So do young people think that’s a good or bad thing? We asked three young people what they think.
Sadia, 22 years old
“I woke up in the morning and it was the first thing I saw. I felt like it was another neo-liberal stunt. I think actions like this can make some people think raising awareness actually causes some kind of change, but in reality it doesn’t. She’s wearing a custom made dress to a classist event with a message on it, and then that’s the end of it. Nothing happens after that, no actual change occurs.
I don’t think rich people are going to care about the message either. They are not interested in helping us and we should not expect anything from them. I don’t think we should expect them to use their influence and create change. I’d prefer people, especially in America, to increase their class consciousness.
Ultimately we want to help educate the working class, so we can realise under capitalism we aren’t thriving. All of our combined efforts against class oppression is what will make change happen. Rich people aren’t going to help us, they aren’t going to tax themselves!
I think celebrities should just stay away from politics and talking about it. We expect activism from everyone at this point, but at the same time we aren’t recognizing that they uphold capitalist systems- a double edged sword.
I think the “tax the rich” statement was a way for her to steer the conversation or deflect it by getting people to talk about what’s on her dress rather than attending in the first place. I don’t mind that much that she went, but now having worn this dress there’s going to be a lot of dialogue about whether awareness raising of this sort is a good thing. She could have just gone without making such a statement and kept this sort of messaging for when she’s legislating or campaigning.”
Safia, 24 years old
“Reflecting on it now, I think AOC wearing the dress was a bit pointless. I don’t get what it will do. if you already have that opinion that the rich should be taxed you’ll be reaffirmed, but if you don’t the dress probably won’t change your mind. It’s not going to change the minds of wealthy people at the Met Gala.
I suppose a lot of people do watch the Met Gala and look at the outfits and maybe it creates a wider discussion. But I think it’s also a bit funny because I don’t know if she’s referring to the rich individuals at the Met Gala, normally when I listen to her she’s talking about taxing big corporations.
I personally don’t care for her being there, I’d rather that she wasn’t, and as a politician I don’t think it’s the right space for her. But at the same time, mingling with celebrities and being on the right side of popular opinion seems to be really important these days. Like Trump’s success was in part down to his celebrity status. Not everyone is thinking about reading all the policies of a politician before voting for them, they are thinking do I like or trust this person, based on their personality rather than policies themselves. AOC has done a good job of seeming very personable, perhaps it’s something she needs to do to be popular.
A good example is someone like Boris Johnson. People think they know him, and see him as someone who they know who does “funny” or entertaining things. If politicians enter and use the media that we already consume, it might make them seem more trustworthy, rather than watching them debate in the House of Commons which isn’t that exciting. AOC is very popular in a different way to Bernie Sanders is, and I wonder if her doing stuff like this is important to her staying relevant.”
Alex, 19 years old
“The dress was interesting, but I do think there is some hypocrisy in wearing a dress saying “Tax the Rich” at a very elite event to try and be anti-elite. I know she said she had borrowed it but I think it’s difficult to put an anti-elitist message in an elitist event and it seem genuine.
The act of wearing the dress itself is not shocking in any way, but I do wonder how much change wearing the dress will actually create. America is so divided, so people who agree with the statement will continue to agree and those that disagree with her will continue to as well. I don’t think this dress will change any of that.
I think there’s a problem with celebrity culture as a whole, but the fact that we chose to look up to individuals defined by looks, the arts or sports can be problematic. It’s not any single celebrity’s fault, but what about doctors or other people who really help the community? I do think politicians have every right to cross the line into celebrity though, it’s their choice. – I think it crosses boundaries so it’s a good thing. Politicians blurring into celebrity is not new, it’s been there for a long time, but I think social media has done a lot to encourage our fascination with celebrity.”
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