Have you read the news this morning? Not just the latest tech news, or the news about Andrew Jackson being, in fact, dead at the time of the Civil War, but the news about the Met Gala and the rules that were broken there?
If not, here’s what you need to know: Kylie Jenner, the 19-year-old ruler of a vast cosmetics empire and the youngest of the Kardashian clan, broke the Met Gala’s “no selfie” rule.
She did so by taking a photo of friends, family, Brie Larson (who stumbled in by accident), and, surprisingly, a smiling Frank Ocean. More specifically, she did so by pointing a phone camera into a mirror — the traditional definition of a selfie and, at the Met Gala, the traditional definition of terrible behavior.
To add insult to whoever this injures, she referred to the bathroom selfie as an “annual” event — openly admitting that she is not a first-time offender and she has a tradition of disrespect for the rule.
And she wasn’t alone: her big sister Kim Kardashian West posted a Snapchat Story riddled with selfies of her posing with many of the night’s biggest names, including Rihanna and Donatella Versace. Mindy Kaling shared a photo with Aziz Ansari and Riz Ahmed to both Twitter and Instagram. It happens every year, so it’s clear the rule is not being enforced. But why does it exist, and who would even want to enforce it?
Can you imagine being the security guard who suggests to Madonna that she cannot have a photo of herself with Kanye West at an event where tickets cost $30,000 per person? “Oh excuse me Madonna, no photos of your own face, thank you.” I don’t want to say that sentence and I can’t imagine who does.
In 2015, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour banned social media of any kind from the event (the rule now applies to selfies only) and refused to say why. It’s possible that the policy is meant to ensure that official photographers can get a good price for the photos they take at the event. But if a fair shake for Getty were the reason, it would have been easy for Wintour to say so.
Instead, the ban is popularly understood as a way of discouraging the trickling of information from inside the exclusive event out into the world of the embarrassing masses. That was easy enough to accomplish for most of the gala’s 70-year history — were celebs going to make photocopies of Polaroids and strew them around the street? No.
The rise of social media changed the game. The Met Gala red carpet is a major annual event on Twitter, a fun opportunity for anyone with an interest in celebrity, fashion, or bizarre party themes to live tweet about the best and weirdest ways those three things come together. But once the celebs duck inside, that’s supposed to be the end of the show for you and me.
It’s also possible Wintour is just operating on the generic assumption that selfies are tasteless. Another major fashion event, the Cannes Film Festival, tried to eliminate red carpet selfies on these grounds two years ago. Director Thierry Frémaux took the shame angle, announcing to attendees, “you never look as ugly as you do in a selfie.” It’s an interesting argument, predicated on the idea that most people don’t know anything about their own faces.
Kylie and Kim, as just one counterpoint, know their faces very well, and are great at turning them into art without the assistance of a professional. So if the rule is for their own protection from bad pictures, it’s even dumber than I thought. It’s not my number one personal philanthropic cause, but, in my opinion, anyone should be able to take a photo of themselves at any time because... who cares?
Thank you to Kylie and all the other celebs who risked absolutely no consequences to let me inside their fancy party via Instagram.