“I saw you in that dress looking so beautiful,” goes the words to Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect,” which hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 when it was re-released as a duet with Beyoncé. “I don’t deserve this, darling.”
In yet another example that reality is a comedy programmed by higher beings, those exact words were sung during the Global Citizen Festival performance in South Africa where the disparity between Sheeran’s outfit and Beyoncé’s outfit caused an internet scandal. Beyoncé had swathed herself in ruffled magenta architecture worthy of a runway or a botanical garden. Sheeran slumped in a long-sleeve tee under a short-sleeve tee—that classic middle-schooler combo—plus jeans and running shoes that appeared loosely tied.
Twitter users then had the kind of fun that’s only ever had on Twitter—acidic, easily decontextualized, and touching on identity politics. “Ed Sheeran is a 27 year old man the fact we’ve enabled him to feel it’s ok to dress like this at all, let alone next to Beyoncé really boils my piss,” wrote Shon Faye in a message with tens of thousands of reactions. That the image of the two singers represented sexism—he gets to be a schlump and she doesn’t—seemed likely. “Ed and Beyoncé together look like roughly 75% of heterosexual couples,” said R. Eric Thomas in a glorious Elle rant. “How many Instagram Stories must I watch where the woman is wearing a full face and dressed to the nines in high fashion and the guy is wearing a potato sack that has ‘Supreme’ handwritten on it? While on a date at Nobu?!”
The counterargument: Wasn’t this just two pop stars living up to their highly specific branding? Wouldn’t it be weirder if Sheeran had come out in a tux, given how he almost always looks like he’s about to take out the trash on a 40-degree morning? Tweeted the writer Andrew LaSane, “Not saying there isn’t a double standard when it comes to men and women and how they’re expected to dress … But y’all really choosing Beyonce and Ed Sheeran as examples? The most extra and least extra musicians of our time? Chill out.”
What’s so interesting about the story of the undershirt and the orchid dress is that the two interpretations—gender and race on display vs. pop stars wearing their respective uniforms—overlap. Sheeran’s projected persona is that of the “regular guy,” and the fact that regular means being …
Source:: The Atlantic – Culture