Julia Roberts: No Met ball bubbly? There's always the bath

With New York’s glitziest fashion event in lockdown, people rose to the occasion on social media

The annual Met Gala would have taken place in New York last week, had it not been postponed indefinitely in March owing to the pandemic. The theme would have been About Time: Fashion and Duration, or “time itself”, according to Andrew Bolton, the curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s partner exhibition, which is ironic now that a morning can feel like a month, and a week can feel like a minute.

Ordinarily, it is one of my favourite celebrity bashes, sitting happily in the middle of a ridiculous/gorgeous Venn diagram, showing off high fashion so high that the people who point at Picassos and say “my five-year-old could have done that” will inevitably comment that “you couldn’t wear that down the shops”, as if the point of a ballgown in the shape of a chandelier were to make the trip to Tesco a bit more lively. (Having said that, you could definitely have used it to carry a few extra bags home.)

Julia Roberts poses over a full bubble bath
‘Here’s me...not going to the Met Ball tonight. #stayhome #yesyoustillhavetostayhome’: Julia Roberts. Photograph: Instagram/ @juliaroberts

In the run-up to this year’s postponed non-event, Billy Porter, the man responsible for every key red-carpet talking point from the past two years, challenged Vogue readers to recreate the most famous Met Gala looks at home. “It can be Rihanna, it can be Gaga, it can be... me,” he said. Given that Porter entered the 2019 Met Gala on a bed carried by six shirtless men, before showing off a pair of enormous golden wings, you could be him, but it would take a bit more than a creative way with some sticky back plastic and a few loo roll tubes.

Still, it is a testament to the imagination that lockdown seems to have unleashed that people tried it, and essentially succeeded. They certainly did far better than me on a “dress like a Simpsons character” round during a Zoom pub quiz recently. All I can say is that a swimming cap was ruined.

On the night the Met Gala was supposed to happen, Anna Wintour hosted a YouTube livestream. Florence Welch performed in front of some frankly covetable wallpaper. Potential guests posted their looks on Instagram. Katy Perry, of the chandelier dress fame, showed a Gaultier baby bump, in the style of the Madonna cone bra, with the caption “what would have been”. Amanda Seyfried posted her look while posing with a chicken, next to a chicken coop. My favourite was Julia Roberts, who posed precariously in a black and white gown over a full bubble bath, holding what appears to be a cup of tea, which is surely a night in barely bothering to masquerade as the desire for a night out. It felt perfectly appropriate.

Daniel Radcliffe, just as much a wizard as he always was

Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe: kicked off the Harry Potter reading. Photograph: Isabel Infantes/PA

On Tuesday, Harry Potter fans were surprised at the news that “amazing friends of the Wizarding World” would be taking it in turns to read a chapter of the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Stephen Fry, Eddie Redmayne and Noma Dumezweni all appeared in the announcement, but there was only one candidate to read the opening chapter, and it had to be Daniel Radcliffe, although this did offer the slightly unsettling spectacle of Harry Potter at 30, reading a book about Harry Potter at 11, as if he didn’t know anything about it. Perhaps it was best not to overthink it.

In another wonderful moment for fans of children’s literature, Andy Serkis conducted a live reading of The Hobbit on Friday from start to finish, to raise money for the charities NHS Charities Together and Best Beginnings.

I had been sceptical of audiobooks as an adult. I saw them as the stern-faced old-fashioned ancestor of that bright young upstart the podcast. But in lockdown I’ve been devouring them. I stare out of the window with my headphones on, marvelling at how experts can consider the increase in road usage to be “slightly worrying” when the road I look out on to has been back to pre-lockdown traffic levels for two weeks now.

Still, the stories can be soothing. Fiction read aloud has an effect that podcasts can’t always muster. It encourages a necessary depth of escapism, whether that’s Harry Potter or, in my case, The Testaments. And you know things are bad when that’s what you choose to listen to in order to switch off.

Charlie Brooker, please carry on predicting the future

Charlie Brooker
Charlie Brooker: apocalypse no. Photograph: Matt Holyoak/BBC/Netflix

‘At the moment, I don’t know what stomach there would be for stories about societies falling apart, so I’m not working away on one of those,” Charlie Brooker told the Radio Times last week, when asked about the possibility of a sixth season of Black Mirror.

Brooker may not have the appetite for apocalypse writing, but I’m not sure he’s right about viewers. As much as I can pass an evening at home crying along to Paul O’Grady’s For the Love of Dogs, there has been a huge appetite for watching or rewatching films such as Outbreak and Contagion, which are either funhouse mirrors or opportunities for the ultimate immersive viewing experience. BYO hazmat suit, although maybe mute the sound during the “don’t talk to anyone, don’t touch anyone, stay away from other people” bit.

Given that Black Mirror appears to have got ahead of several global events before they came to fruition, from the pig’s head political scandal to the election of a racist cartoon character, then perhaps Brooker could write an episode where hardworking scientists quickly and efficiently come up with an immediate vaccine for a deadly virus. Granted, it lacks drama, but he’d be doing us all a favour.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist

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Rebecca Nicholson

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