When New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attended the Met Gala this Sunday wearing a dress that said “Tax the Rich” on the back, nothing came to mind so much as Woody Allen’s 1977 film “Annie Hall.”
It wasn’t the dress itself so much as her Instagram post about the dress, which started off with Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s famous phrase “the medium is the message.”
The medium is the message. pic.twitter.com/b4Ssr6HkYR
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 14, 2021
This was shockingly wrong on a number of levels, the first of which is that she doesn’t seem to get what the phrase meant. (It’s supposed to mean that the nature of the medium itself is the message, not the message it gets across; Ocasio-Cortez was implying the message was the message on the dress she wore to the Met Gala, not the dress itself.)
In the same way, AOC could have been arguing with Allen’s character, Alvy Singer, in one of the most famous parts of “Annie Hall.”
In the fourth-wall-shattering scene, Allen is ahead of a supercilious professor talking about, inter alia, McLuhan’s influence. Allen addresses the camera, asking the audience, “What do you do when you get stuck in a movie line with a guy like this behind you?”
The professor then confronts Allen, who is unimpressed.
“I mean, aren’t you ashamed to pontificate like that? And the funny part of it is, Marshall McLuhan, you don’t know anything about Marshall McLuhan’s work!” he continues.
The professor then tells him that he teaches a class at Columbia called TV, Media and Culture, which he says means his insights into McLuhan have “a great deal of validity.”
Allen, in response, produces McLuhan himself from behind a movie advertisement display.
“You know nothing of my work. … How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing,” McLuhan says.
The full scene, which includes the titular character and Allen talking about their sex life as well as some mildly objectionable content, is below. (Oh, and a hilarious remark about Henry James.) Viewer discretion is advised, though.
“Boy, if life were only like this,” Allen’s character says at the end of the scene.
McLuhan died in 1980 — so, alas, we’re 41 years too late to pull him out from behind a display at the Met Gala. However, if you give AOC long enough, she can do the work for you.
You might think it doesn’t take much talent to design a “Tax the Rich” dress, and you’d be right. However, as much as this could have been accomplished with a white dress from Target, a bit of red fabric and some sewing skills, you don’t get to design a Met Gala dress without the right profile or the right connections.
In the case of Aurora James, the woman who designed the dress, she had both.
According to the Daily Mail, James is the girlfriend of Benjamin Bronfman, a high-profile man in his own right. He once dated British rapper MIA, with whom he’s publicly battled over custody of their son.
But here’s the important issue: Bronfman is the heir to the Seagram’s family drinks fortune.
The designer of AOC’s “Tax the Rich” dress is dating a dude worth $100 million who’s a descendent of the Lehman Brothers ? They’re dabbing on us, y’all ? pic.twitter.com/AUvPyyNYfG
— Rap Game Edward Bernays (@Edward__Bernays) September 14, 2021
“Tax the Rich,” brought to you by Seagram’s. There goes that narrative.
In her Instagram post, Ocastio-Cortez described James “as a sustainably focused, Black woman immigrant designer who went from starting her dream [fashion company] at a flea market in Brooklyn to winning the [Council of Fashion Designers of America awards] against all odds — and then work together to kick open the doors at the Met.”
Started from the bottom, now she’s here — and she’s now all for taxing the very people she’s dating. Oh, and probably herself, too. Even if James doesn’t marry Bronfman, the windfall from this sort of thing is enough to get her noticed. And paid. As for paying the taxes? Don’t count on it.
And so, perhaps, the medium remains the message. Not in the way AOC meant — she knows nothing of McLuhan’s work, after all, and how she ever got to quote him and get taken seriously is totally amazing.
However, in an unintended manner, she proved McLuhan’s maxim. As a medium, dresses for the Met Gala tend to serve as an example of why the French revolutionaries carted society’s elite off in tumbrils.
They also tend to be thoroughly infested with hypocrisy. And, lo and behold, this one was.
Sometimes, life really is like what Woody Allen imagined.
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