Pope-inspired Rihanna outfit: Sacred or profane?
Fans went into a frenzy over Rihanna and their favorite celebrities decked in Catholic iconography, another mundane spectacle, a passing fantasy at the Met Gala 2018 as temporary as the fashion trends.
The annual event in New York, considered fashion’s fanciest night, was also expensive. Imagine the rich and famous, and only the high and mighty among them, forking out $30,000 (or 1,500,000) pesos for one entrance ticket and about $275,000 (or 14,000,000 pesos) for one table.
But they did. Cultural elite’s who’s who shelled out thousands of dollars to see Rihanna’s brilliance in the art of over-the-top dressing.
As expected, the Met Gala’s 2018 didn’t sit well with Catholics watching stars like Katy Perry dressed like an angel and Sarah Jessica Parker wearing an attention-grabbing golden headpiece of a nativity scene, among others.
Heaven-shaking protests cried out: It’s open blasphemy, a sick parody of sacred symbols, “a self-congratulatory event to cement America’s hedonistic worship of rich celebrities.”
British veteran journalist Piers Morgan wrote that the event “crossed a line and was openly, brazenly disrespectful” to the religion founded by Jesus Christ.
Who can forget the Catholic anger exploding like Pinatubo Volcano when scantily clad designers Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce, both devout Catholics (they claim), modeling for W Magazine in 2007, accompanying their sexually charged poses with jeweled Crosses, rosaries, and other religious imagery?
Try “Islamic imagination” with fashion goddesses sexualizing hijab and other Muslim iconography and clothing as they walk the red carpet – and see what happens.
Hedonism, egotism, and materialism
What is not right with using the papal-inspired couture?
While parading through the streets of Philadelphia in 2015, Pope Francis chuckled as he blessed a baby dressed as the pontiff himself.
After Rihanna, 30, known as the “Bad Girl,” wore an opulently bejeweled papal mitre with a matching collared robe over a miniskirt during the gala, critics called it “offensive, blasphemous, a sacrilegious cosplay.”
What’s blasphemous? The mini-pope was cute, and the Queen of MET Gala Rhianna in majestic papal robe was gorgeous (in-fashion, that is).
What’s the difference? The first event was the Catholic Pope’s visit to the USA and the second was themed “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.”
What’s offensive? The family of the mini-pope, just like Rhianna, said it was indeed “a religious experience.”
High fashion using Catholic iconography, say, with Madonna wearing rosaries in her “Like a Virgin” video or David Beckham modeling a Cross for Vanity Fair magazine is definitely an unholy alliance between the sacred and the profane that could inspire breathtaking sartorial innovation. It’s cool! But is it right? Is it appropriate?
It seems not at first glance. The elaborate spectacle of Catholic iconography in fashion design is certainly provocative: materiality vs. spirituality. Glamour. Vanity. In conflict with the sacrosanct. Narcissism. Conceit. Just the opposite of the sacred.
But I am reminded of the triple temptation of Jesus in the desert, namely: Hedonism (hunger/satisfaction); egotism (spectacular throw/might); and materialism (kingdoms/wealth). And our Blessed Lord rejected all of them (Gospel of Luke 4:1–13).
“I am the Pope. I am the Vatican.”
Madonna once complained: “My problem with the Catholic Church is that they have always separated sexuality and spirituality… They freak out when they see me dressed in corset with a crucifix hanging around my neck” (Voller, 1992).
The Catholic position is this: Sacred objects such as the mitre (headdress used in liturgical services), the Holy Rosary, the crucifix, and the nativity scene (on Sarah Jessica Parker’s head) are meant for divine worship and spiritual renewal. As such they are to be treated reverently.
Call me a killjoy (I am not), but what I believe is this: Catholic imagery is best not employed for profane, mundane, or inappropriate use leading to “fans crowning [Rihanna] as the New Pope,” as it were.
One Ms O , certainly a fan, twitted in awe: Rihanna’s aura literally says: “I am the Pope. I am the Vatican.” And other adoring fans twitted back: Let us worship her!
The sacred is consecrated to God and the profane is earthly and mundane. “Sacred” comes from Latin sacrare meaning “to set apart.” And in the Catholic ethos, the sacred belongs to the Living God, the eternal Absolute. Whereas the profane is temporal (in-fashion, out of fashion).
This is what we simply ask: A kind of respectful distance, mixed with awe, that Moses felt when told: “Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).
Jose Mario Bautista Maximiano is the author of The Church Can Handle the Truth (Claretian, 2017). Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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