Last night the Met Gala celebrated a return to the Gilded Age at the same time that we realized abortion rights may be heading back to the same era.
On the first Monday in May, people all over the world flocked to their laptops and phones, donning their finest sweatpants to log onto Twitter and freely judge celebrities at the world’s most exclusive costume party.
But in the middle of the 2022 Met Gala red carpet entrances, a leaked draft opinion obtained by Politico revealed that conservative justices on the Supreme Court were pushing to end Roe v. Wade's legal framework — which would end federal legalization of abortion, as well as years of work toward women’s right to bodily autonomy.
For those tuned in online, social media timelines quickly devolved into a mess of sparkling evening gowns and alarming political news. “This #RoeVWade news dropping during this Gilded Age themed Met Gala is pretty dystopian,” as one person summed up.
Many were quick to point out the irony of this year’s Met Gala theme, “gilded glamour,” which was intended to celebrate the history of American fashion — particularly the Gilded Age of 1870 to 1900, marked by industrialization and a dramatically ballooning gap between the rich and poor (sound familiar?).
The theme had drawn backlash even before Monday, as people accused host and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour of insensitivity during a historic refugee crisis, confusing public health guidelines, terrifying climate change news, and billionaires buying Twitter instead of using their money to solve world hunger.
“Gilded glamour at a time of war, let them eat cake,” fashion blogger Bryanboy wrote.
Online, the outfits were largely considered misses rather than hits, and some joked about how the Supreme Court was the only one to adhere to Wintour’s theme. “Back to the gilded age we go!!!! They took it too seriously. Kylie Jenner needs to take notes,” one person posted on TikTok. “looks like the supreme court understood the assignment,” wrote another.
Ironically, the beginning of the Gilded Age marked the beginning of the criminalization of abortion. The Catholic Church first condemned abortion in 1869.
Some also poked fun at the attendees’ explanation of their outfits, particularly actor Riz Ahmed’s viral homage to the workers of the Gilded Age, where he donned a Cartier necklace and custom suit as “a bit of a love letter to those blue-collar workers,” as he told GQ on Monday.
“Dunno why people pretend like the Met Gala doesn’t have the same goddamn theme every year, it’s just slight variations on ‘Let Them Eat Cake,’” one pointed out on Twitter.
Particularly for those tuning in at home, watching the night’s events through an online lens was a wild mix of opulence and horror.
Some had mixed politics into their Met outfits from the start, such as Hillary Clinton wearing the names of historically significant American women embroidered on her gown, and Sarah Jessica Parker in a dress honoring the White House’s first Black designer, but scrolling through photos of celebrities dripping in diamonds in between responses to Roe’s potential rollback, became a topic of conversation among spectators.
“The timeline is just absolutely fucking unhinged,” as one user said.
Many also joked about how inherently American the events felt.
While the decision for Roe’s fate is not yet final, it was a fascinating Monday night to be online — one that really was on theme.