Thursday 14 November 2019

Millennial Diary

Greta Gerwig as a nun at the Costume Institute Gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Picture: Getty
Greta Gerwig as a nun at the Costume Institute Gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Picture: Getty

Ciara O'Connor

Last week, Hollywood rocked up in its Sunday best for an extremely blasphemous night out.

The Costume Institute Gala at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is the biggest event on the fashion calendar. It's a fundraiser and celebration of the grand opening of its latest exhibition - which lends its theme to the evening. Previous themes have taken in everything from punk to China. This year's exhibition is Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.

Rihanna was dressed as a sexy pope, mitre and all. Greta Gerwig was a nun. Zendaya was Joan of Arc, while convent-educated Phoebe Waller-Bridge wore illustrations from The Joy of Sex. Obviously, Irish millennials were confused. Ours was a unique glee - a nation irrevocably shaped by Catholicism, slowly losing its religion, seeing it made ridiculous by some of the biggest names in the world. It just felt so deliciously naughty. But also, is that a twinge of something like... umbrage?

Sure enough, we were forced to confront the small part of us that felt a little bit uneasy at the sight of these slebs having a laugh at our upbringing. It's something so deeply engrained in the national psyche that it's near-impossible to extract and exorcise.

The event apparently had the blessing of the Vatican, which lent a number of exhibits to the museum. The Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, gave a statement at the press launch of the show saying he was in attendance to "thank God for beauty". Of all the questionable proclamations of the Catholic Church, this is perhaps one that we can all get behind: the coming together to celebrate the joyful mystery of Rihanna.

The controversial theme was explained away, "Because the Church and 'the Catholic imagination', are all about truth, goodness, and beauty…" And what exemplifies truth, goodness and beauty more perfectly than Kim Kardashian's golden bosom, adorned with crucifixes.

A few hardcore Christians kicked off and tried to make #ReligionIsNotYourCostume happen on Twitter. Didn't happen. It was pointed out that there'd be uproar if it was any other religion. But it couldn't have been any other religion. The more I thought about it, the more it became clear that Hollywood is fundamentally Catholic: its ostentatious wealth, secrets, hierarchy, troubled relationship with women and sex. And one thing that even the most ardent of detractors of the Catholic Church have to concede is that it's completely fabulous: the stained glass, the gold. It's the campest religion going - amaaaaazing scarves and the headpieces for the gods, girl. It's a perfect fit for fashion.

*******

It's fair to say the phrase 'broke the internet' is overused nowadays; Kim Kardashian's arse, Beyonce smashing stuff up with a baseball bat - frankly, it's amazing there's enough internet left intact for us to send bitchy tweets to Iarnrod Eireann's customer service team.

With all this in mind, and even with the utmost confidence in the structural integrity of the world wide web, I am left with no other vocabulary to describe the effect of Childish Gambino's new music video for This is America, which dropped last week. Childish Gambino broke the internet. The video surpassed 50m views in a couple of days. It's surreal and highly choreographed, featuring Gambino dancing through a warehouse, suddenly shooting people, dancing again with schoolchildren, scenes of chaos unfolding around him. It's dense with cultural and historical imagery, and there are many theories about what it all 'means'. The speculating and arguing hasn't died down.

Childish Gambino is not a typo, nor is it the street name of a new legal high - it's the alter-ego of Donald Glover, an American actor, comedian, writer, director, producer, singer, songwriter, rapper, and DJ. You know he's hot, because he's voicing Simba in the new live-action remake of The Lion King - alongside a host of black Hollywood royalty. As a master of multiple professions, he is obviously the last word in millennialism. Hired by kingmaker Tina Fey as a writer on 30 Rock at the age of 23 - Glover was described by her as embodying "his generation's belief that people can be whatever they want and change what it is they want, at any time". It seems he has now decided to be 2018's king of woke, the antidote to that other Donald, Trump. After Kanye's recent and fall from grace, Glover has been held up as the heir apparent - a taste-maker, a race commentator, a cultural authority - the joke #ThingsDonaldGloverCantDo started trending on Twitter. Because, it seems, there is nothing Donald Glover can't do. This is America has been seen as proof of a bona fide genius. Just watch the video.

*******

While everyone was losing their minds over Glover, Glossier got to work fracturing a small corner of the Irish millennial internet. The cult cosmetics brand announced that from Tuesday it will be shipping to Ireland. Millennial women have pined, burnt, perished for this news for what feels like a lifetime. Obviously the most dedicated of the Irish fash-pack will have been using Parcel Motel or AddressPal to get their fragrant hands on it since it launched in the UK last year; so this news is really only big for us entry-level basic bitches.

In terms of branding, Glossier is the millennial Apple. They are evil geniuses. And ludicrously successful. Their look is a subversion of 'Instagram make-up' - with five or six different products layered on the skin, contouring, 'baking', and multiple eyeshadow palettes with 10 or 15 different shades in each. The idea is to completely cover your existing features and create new ones through the magic of shading, highlighting and overlining. The transformations are dramatic and occasionally border on the unbelievable.

Glossier's shtick is to look like you, just a little better. The products are all minimally packaged in white and millennial pink sans serif font and designed to be applied with your fingers. Of course, it's all very emperor's new clothes-y. All this hype about make up that you can't even see. Glossier's flagship product is a toner called Solution - which inspires absolute confidence. It works fine. But that's not the point. Of course, it's all very troubling and I can't shake the feeling that we're all being taken for absolute mugs. But I love it. Take my money; make me cool.

Sunday Independent

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